Tuesday, January 5, 1999:FAA announced it would revise the implementation schedule for the Wide Area Augmentation System to allow more time to complete development of a critical software safety package that would monitor, correct, and verify the performance of the system. FAA rescheduled the original July 1999 commissioning date for phase 1 of WAAS to September 2000. (See December 9, 1998; January 29, 1999; April 6-9, 1999.)
Thursday, January 7, 1999:FAA announced the selection of Vint Hill Farms Station, a former military intelligence base in Fauquier County, Virginia, as the site for a $93 million consolidated air-traffic control facility. FAA officials said the move would put controllers handling planes approaching, Dulles International, Reagan National, and Baltimore-Washington International airports, and Andrews Air Force Base under one roof to improve air safety and streamline costs. (See October 28, 1998; March 6, 2000.)
Monday, January 11, 1999:FAA issued final airworthiness directives calling for operators to limit the payloads of Boeing 727 aircraft. The orders placed restrictions on 727s converted from passenger to all-cargo operations until the floor structures were reinforced or they were re-qualified to carry higher payloads. FAA expressed concern that converted aircraft had design features, including under-strength cargo floors, did not meet FAA certification safety requirements for cargo carriers. The ADs required operators either to reduce payloads to 3,000 pounds per container or to adhere to interim operational limitations that would permit them to carry individual containers of up to 4,800 pounds. Operators had 90 days from the effective date to make the appropriate revisions to the airplane flight manuals, supplements to them, and airplane weight and balance supplements. If individual operators failed to complete modifications within 28 months, their allowed payloads would be permanently reduced to 3,000 per container.
Wednesday, January 13, 1999:FAA proposed mandatory tests for potential cracks in valves in some 737 rudder power control units (PCUs). The NPRM entailed an airworthiness directive that would apply to all Boeing 737-100 through -500 series aircraft. This AD was proposed in response to the PCU supplier’s discovery of cracks in a component of a valve assembly. In addition, cracks had been found by operators before they installed valves in their aircraft. The proposed rule would order operators to perform tests on their PCUs to detect cracks in a joint in the servo valve that regulates the intake of hydraulic fluid to the PCU. Analysis had shown that a single crack in one leg of the component was not in itself an unsafe condition. A crack in both legs, however, could have caused the component to break apart and jam the valve assembly. If a crack were found during the test process, the AD required the operator to replace the defective valve with a modified valve. (See March 14, 1997; May 3, 1999.)
Wednesday, January 20, 1999:Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey dedicated a new, first-of-its-kind air traffic control system, the Display System Replacement, at the air route traffic control center in Auburn, Washington. The DSR replaced equipment that had been in service for 20 to 30 years with upgraded displays, and computer hardware and software. (See March 14, 1997; July 14, 2000.)
Thursday, January 28, 1999:FAA ordered inspections of wiring and insulation in the cockpit and cabin on the entire U.S. commercial fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-11s. The Airworthiness Directive was under development even prior to the January 11 recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board on MD-11 wiring. It also followed discussions with the Canadian Transportation Safety Board and NTSB, which resulted in a December 22, 1998, Canadian Transportation Safety Board safety advisory letter suggesting a closer look at the wiring in the MD-11 fleet. Several MD-11s were examined as part of the Swissair accident investigation. Based on the wiring discrepancies found, the directive required U.S. operators to perform the inspections, and make any necessary repairs, within 60 days and report findings to the FAA. (See December 9, 1998; April 20, 1999.)
Friday, January 29, 1999:FAA announced findings that, with some anticipated improvements, an augmented global positioning system (GPS) could serve safely and reliably as the only navigation system installed in aircraft and the only navigation system provided by the FAA. The findings were taken from an independent assessment of GPS capabilities conducted by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for the FAA, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the Air Transport Association. Features of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), both under development, were expected to provide the improved accuracy, integrity, and availability of the GPS signal referred to in the findings. (See June 3, 1998; January 5, 1999; April 2, 1999; April 6-9, 1999.)
Wednesday, February 3, 1999:Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater announced that the Clinton Administration would propose legislation to promote competition at large airline hubs dominated by one airline. The draft legislation would state that before they could raise passenger fees, the operators of such facilities would be required to explain how they intended to promote competition. The bill would also include a proposal to charge fees for use of the air traffic systems and would require a “performance based organization” to be created to provide for air traffic control within FAA. Aspects of these proposals proved controversial and ran into stiff opposition in Congress and in portions of the aviation community. (See April 5, 2000.)
Tuesday, February 9, 1999: Working in partnership with the aviation industry, FAA announced it had reached an agreement with pilots and airlines regarding procedures affecting the conduct of land and hold short operations (LAHSO). The agreement dealt with runway surface and weather minima, training, visual aids, landing distance, and rejected landings. Highlights included:
- Air carriers would conduct LAHSO only on dry runways until such time as the manufacturers had provided actual demonstrated landing distance figures on wet runways for the aircraft in question.
- FAA would issue a flight standards handbook bulletin specifying that before an air carrier could conduct LAHSO, it must provide a pilot training program for the LAHSO procedure.
- Use of LAHSO would not be authorized on a runway lacking electronic or visual vertical guidance (i.e., an improved LAHSO lighting configuration).
- For each type of aircraft with LAHSO, the runway landing length would be the greater of the simultaneous operations on intersecting runway category length or FAA approved aircraft flight manual distance plus 1000 feet.
- To ensure that the appropriate level of safety was maintained, only LAHSO configurations which did not require a rejected landing instruction, or for which a rejected landing instruction was published, were to be used by air carrier aircraft. (See July 14, 2000.)