FAA History: 1999

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.)
Wednesday, March 3, 1999:In an airworthiness directive to go into effect March 18, FAA ordered operators of certain Boeing 737-100, -200, -300, -400 and -500 aircraft to inspect and correct any chafing of float switch wiring found in the center fuel tank. The float switch, powered by direct current, automatically closed the fueling valve to prevent the fuel tank from being overfilled. Chafed wiring associated with this device, however, could have provided an ignition source inside the tank. The agency required that each aircraft’s float switch be removed or deactivated and inspected for evidence of chafing – such as electrical arcing or worn insulation – either within 30 days of the AD effective date, or before the aircraft could accumulate 30,000 total flight hours. Under the terms of the AD, operators might install protective Teflon sleeving and wiring, allowing reuse of the float switch, or they might install a new float switch with the necessary Teflon sleeved wiring. Alternatively, operators might deactivate the float switch and paint a “caution” sign adjacent to the aircraft-fueling panel to indicate a mandatory reduction of the maximum fuel capacity with associated modified fueling procedures to minimize the possibility of fuel spills. (See December 3, 1998, October 28, 1999.)
Monday, March 8, 1999:FAA released the National Airspace System plan, version 4.0. The update extended the agency’s modernization strategy through 2015.
Thursday, March 11, 1999:Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey dedicated the newest FAA air traffic control computer system in a ceremony at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center. They dedicated the Host and Oceanic Computer System Replacement, known as HOCSR, a key component of the NAS infrastructure modernization program and FAA’s Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance effort. The new system was more than four times faster and orders of magnitude more reliable than its predecessor – while occupying only an eighth of the floor space of the system it replaced. The New York Center’s HOCSR, the first in the nation, went online February 24. (See September 30, 1999).
Monday, March 15, 1999:FAA announced it had issued a launch license to a Boeing-led international consortium to conduct a first-of-its-kind demonstration space launch, targeted for March 2, from a sea-going platform in the mid-Pacific. The 40 percent Boeing-owned partnership would use a Ukrainian-built Zenit booster rocket and a Russian-built upper stage in the demonstration. The launch platform, a converted self-propelled oil drilling platform, would be accompanied to the launch site by an assembly and command ship designed and built by Kvaerner Maritime of Norway, another partner in the undertaking. (See September 24, 1998; April 21, 1999.)
Wednesday, March 31, 1999:FAA announced plans to purchase more than 150 additional security devices for the nation’s airports, continuing to implement a recommendation by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. The purchase of 21 FAA-certified explosives detection systems and 135 trace explosives detection devices added to the multi-year deployment of innovative security equipment. Purchases to date included 95 FAA-certified explosives detection systems, 20 automated dual-energy X-ray machines, two quadrapole resonance devices, and 462 trace explosives detection devices. The trace explosives detectors were being deployed primarily at airport security checkpoints for screening carry-on bags. The other machines were bulk explosives detectors used to examine checked baggage. (See November 23, 1998; April 15, 1999.)
Thursday, April 1, 1999:President Clinton signed Public Law 106-6, Interim Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act.
Friday, April 2, 1999:FAA announced an agreement to join with Raytheon Systems, and Honeywell Inc. in the development of the Local Area Augmentation System. Raytheon and Honeywell would provide funding for the development, and FAA would provide the LAAS specifications and expertise on development and certification. (See January 29, 1999; August 13, 1999.)
April 6-9, 1999:Raytheon completed the first of three major system integration milestones for WAAS. Called stability build, the test showed the ability of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to provide augmentation to the U.S. global positioning system (GPS) system. During the test, the system operated continuously for 72 hours using WAAS ground and space components. In monitoring the test, Raytheon and FAA examined data from several locations, including Denver, Oklahoma City, and Dayton. The next system integration milestone, the Full Functionality Build, would be followed by the performance build, the final software build designed to show that the system was ready to enter formal system testing. (See January 5, 1999; August 24, 2000.)
Monday, April 12, 1999:FAA commissioned the National Airport Pavement Test Facility. (See April 1, 1997.)
Thursday, April 15, 1999:FAA proposed a rule to strengthen security of checked baggage in the domestic aviation system. The proposal would require airlines to apply additional security to the checked baggage of some passengers. The rule directed the use of automated screening procedures, but provided options for airlines that choose to apply additional security to all passengers. The Computer Assisted Passenger Screening program (CAPS) would replace manual programs. CAPS used data from existing airline reservation systems to select baggage randomly or through preprogrammed criteria. The proposed rule would require CAPS for scheduled operations on any aircraft with 61 seats or more. (See March 31, 1999; November 2, 1999.)
Tuesday, April 20, 1999:FAA ordered operators of 45 McDonnell Douglas MD-11s registered in the U.S. to verify the installation of a wire harness support bracket and clamp in the lower center cargo compartment. A missing bracket and clamp could have caused a wire bundle to contact the insulation blanket and rub against the fuselage frame, producing a possible fire source. The Emergency Airworthiness Directive affected MD-11s equipped with a 72-inch cargo door. MD-11s with a 104-inch cargo door had a different wire bundle configuration. Operators of the affected aircraft were required to perform inspections, verify the installation of the bracket and clamp, and repair any damaged wires within five days. All findings had to be reported to the FAA within ten days after completion of the inspections. (See January 28, 1999; September 29, 1999.)
Wednesday, April 21, 1999:Following industry review of applicable safety guidelines, FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for reusable launch vehicle and reentry licensing regulation and continued to work with industry to develop a regulatory program to address public safety issues. (See March 15, 1999; June 21, 1999.)
Monday, April 26, 1999:FAA ordered operators to inspect for and correct possible fatigue cracks in the aft pressure bulkheads located near the tails of certain Boeing 737 aircraft. Stemming from reports of fatigue cracks on these components in some Boeing 737-200 models, the airworthiness directive applied to Boeing 737-100 through -500 aircraft. In some cases, to comply with the AD, operators had to perform a low-frequency eddy current inspection from the rear of the pressure bulkhead. In other instances, visual inspections from the front of the bulkhead were deemed sufficient.
Monday, April 26, 1999:FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) jointly announced a revised implementation plan for the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) . The plan focused on developing the full STARS as soon as possible while simultaneously meeting short-term requirements for controller displays at a small number of FAA facilities. Under the revised plan, the first STARS would go into the terminal radar control (TRACON) facilities in Syracuse, New York, and El Paso, Texas. Initially, these sites would receive the early display configuration of STARS. In parallel, development would continue on the full STARS, which would include a new computer system. Once STARS had the capability to handle the needs of higher-level facilities, it would be deployed throughout the country. (See October 30, 1997; August 3, 1999.)
Monday, May 3, 1999:FAA, responding to pressure from federal safety officials, announced that it would require a major upgrade of aircraft flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders to provide better information after accidents. In particular, the FAA would require new on-board sensors to determine movements of the Boeing 737 rudder, which had been listed as the probable cause of two crashes. Administrator Jane Garvey revealed these plans during a panel discussion at a National Transportation Safety Board symposium on flight recorders in which NTSB Chairman Jim Hall had criticized the FAA for not responding quickly enough to his agency’s recommendations. (See August 18, 1997; January 13, 1999; January 8, 2000; September 14, 2000.)
Thursday, May 6, 1999:FAA announced that it had reached an agreement with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to tighten the rules for its liaison and familiarization training program. This program authorized agency employees to sit in the cockpit during commercial flights, listen to air traffic control communications, and observe pilot procedures. The program was intended to promote better understanding of the pressures facing flight crews.
Saturday, May 8, 1999:The engineered materials arresting system installed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport successfully stopped a Saab 340 commuter aircraft that overran the runway. (See August 21, 1998; May 30, 2003.)
Saturday, May 22, 1999:FAA ordered inspections on more than 1,000 Boeing 727 jetliners registered in the United States. A FAA spokesman said that the emergency airworthiness directive was sent after mechanics found severe wear on wires and holes in the tubing on two 727 cargo jets. Signs of electric sparking around the wires also were discovered. “This condition, if not corrected, could result in ignition of fuel vapors in a fuel tank, and a fuel tank explosion,” read the FAA’s telegram to 727 operators. May 24, FAA ordered operators of Boeing 727 aircraft to inspect, and if necessary replace, electrical wires running through fuel tanks. The agency previously announced it would follow its May 22 order for Boeing 727 fuel tank leak checks with a more comprehensive order for wiring inspections. The airworthiness directive required that operators remove and inspect wire bundles carried in conduits (tubes) through 727 fuel tanks. If chafing were found, the wires had to be replaced. The AD also required that all the wires be wrapped with an additional protective layer of Teflon. This had to be done immediately if the Teflon wrapping was available, otherwise at the next scheduled maintenance check. (See August 16, 2001.)
Monday, May 24, 1999:FAA released to industry a new computer tool designed to reduce the disk failure rate in turbine-powered jet engines. The computer tool complemented the actions announced earlier by FAA Administrator Jane Garvey that required enhanced inspections of engine fan disks to detect cracks that were potential precursors to uncontained disk failures. The disk design and life management tool, called “design assessment of reliability with inspection,” allowed engine manufacturers to improve disk structural integrity. Engine manufacturers could run the code, along with their other design systems, on a computer workstation, to comply with the FAA’s a planned advisory circular on disk life management.
Friday, May 28, 1999:FAA and Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), representing approximately 7,600 employees, announced they had agreed to resume negotiations with the help of a mediator. (See January 11, 2000.)
Thursday, June 3, 1999:A twin-engine McDonnell Douglas MD-80 carrying 139 passengers and six crew members, crashed at Little Rock National Airport as violent thunderstorms and winds swept through the region. Survivors said the plane swerved out of control almost immediately after making contact, slid off the end of the 7,200-foot runway at a high speed, and crashed into a steel tower. (See October 23, 2001.)
Monday, June 14, 1999:The media reported that some FAA lawyers planned to join a union. When Congress released FAA from many civil service rules, it had said that unionized workers could bargain with management over salaries. It also had given FAA the option of lowering salaries of unorganized workers via a core compensation plan. Air traffic controllers, who already were unionized, were the first FAA employees to bargain for salaries.
Wednesday, June 16, 1999:FAA proposed to revise and strengthen federal rules for maintenance performed at domestic and foreign repair stations. The proposed new regulation would ensure that certified repair stations were held responsible for all maintenance work that was outsourced to contractors.
Monday, June 21, 1999:Effective this date, FAA amended its commercial space transportation licensing regulations. The changes provided applicants and licensees greater specificity and clarity regarding the scope of a license, and codified and amended licensing requirements and criteria. (See April 21, 1999; November 9, 1999.)
Saturday, July 10, 1999:FAA and an industry group conducted the first large-scale test of Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B), a technology designed to enhance safety by giving pilots and air traffic controllers more information about aircraft locations. Done in partnership with the Cargo Airline Association (CAA), the Wilmington, Ohio, tests evaluated how well ADS-B could help pilots be more aware of aircraft in their vicinity. Using an aircraft’s global positioning system (GPS) sensor, ADS-B equipment would send very accurate position information, along with speed and identification data, to other similarly equipped planes and ADS-B ground receiving stations. During the test, participating flight crews monitored aircraft in their area using a special cockpit display. Air traffic control facilities received combined radar and ADS-B target information for evaluation. Ground receiving stations in Wilmington and Louisville, Kentucky, provided coverage throughout the 500-square-mile test area. Approximately 25 planes participated. This ADS-B operational evaluation was the first in a series of tests planned for the next three years under the FAA’s Safe Flight-21 program. (See October 26-28, 2000.)
Tuesday, July 13, 1999:Former FAA Administrator Donald Engen died in the crash of a glider fitted with a small motor. A distinguished U.S. Navy and test pilot who retired as a vice admiral, Engen was 75.
Thursday, July 15, 1999:FAA announced a new streamlined administrative action process to deal with violations that did not warrant serious legal enforcement action or pose a serious threat to aviation safety. This new way to resolve minor violations officially commenced on August 30. Using the new process, an inspector would discuss the problem with the alleged violator, fill out a data entry form with all pertinent information, return to the office to check the person’s history, enter the information in a database, and mail an automated warning notice to the individual. This person would still have an opportunity to provide additional information for the FAA’s consideration. Previously, all administrative actions had involved a burdensome process that often entailed multiple letters of investigation and extensive files. (See December 21, 1998.)
Friday, July 16, 1999:John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were killed when their small aircraft crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Kennedy, a relatively inexperienced pilot, was flying the Piper Saratoga, a moderately complex plane that he bought the previous April. He took off without incident just after 8:30 p.m. from Essex County Airport in Fairfield, New Jersey. July 6, 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the crash and stated the probable cause of the accident was “The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation. Factors in the accident were haze and the dark night.”
Tuesday, August 3, 1999:The early display capability, or EDC, version of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) entered its operational test and evaluation. The tests were scheduled to run through October 4. If STARS passed this series of tests, it would enter an initial operational capability phase at El Paso, Texas, in December 1999 and at Syracuse in January 2000. (See April 26, 1999; December 20, 1999.)
Wednesday, August 4, 1999: Due to provisions in legislation passed the previous year by the Congress, Monte Belger returned to his position as FAA associate administrator for air traffic services. The legislation, called the Vacancies Reform Act, was designed to limit the amount of time an executive in any federal agency might act in a position requiring Presidential appointment and confirmation by the Senate. The FAA Administrator had no plans to name another executive as acting deputy pending nomination by the White House of a candidate for the position. Monte Belger, however, still continued to perform significant management functions, because, under agency procedures, in the absence of a confirmed candidate, the associate administrator for air traffic services assumed the deputy administrator’s duties. The air traffic services organization continued to be managed by Steve Brown, as deputy associate administrator. (See February 1, 1997; November 8, 1999.)
Thursday, August 5, 1999:An agreement by major U.S. airlines to assess the safety of their foreign partners represented a major step in a long-term trend toward exporting U.S. aviation safety standards around the globe. The assessments took place as part of a growing worldwide arrangement among airlines called “code sharing,” in which U.S. airlines shared flight numbers with foreign airlines. (See December 5-7, 1999.)
Wednesday, August 11, 1999:FAA Administrator Jane Garvey ordered operators of 699 aircraft to replace insulation blankets covered with metalized Mylar within four years. FAA also strongly encouraged operators to accomplish the insulation replacement during the earliest practical maintenance check. The announcement followed eight months of extensive testing in support of the development of a new test standard for aircraft insulation. (See October 14, 1998; May 25, 2000.)
Thursday, August 12, 1999:FAA agreed to take a series of steps to reduce air traffic control delays. In particular, FAA would strengthen the decision-making authority of its Command Center, allowing the Herndon, Virginia, facility to assert more authority over large portions of a network of air traffic control centers around the country.
Friday, August 13, 1999:FAA, UPS, and ATA conducted flight tests of the FAA prototype Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) system at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center. Researchers studied the benefits of integrating a pseudolite into the existing LAAS prototype. A pseudolite is a ground component, installed at an airport that appears to an aircraft’s navigation system to be the equivalent of a global positioning system (GPS) satellite. (See April 2, 1999; May 1, 2003.)
Wednesday, September 29, 1999:FAA banned installation of in-flight entertainment systems on all McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft registered in the U.S. An agency review concluded that incompatibilities between the electrical power switching technologies of the entertainment systems and the design concept of the MD-11 airplane limited a flight crew’s ability to respond to a smoke or fumes emergency. (See April 20, 1999.)
Thursday, September 30, 1999:With the installation at the Honolulu Air Route Traffic Control Center, FAA completed installation of Host and Oceanic Computer System Replacement (HOCSR) systems at all 23 of its air traffic and oceanic centers. The availability of HOCSR completed the network that would provide the main computer and processor that produced and processed information on aircraft movements throughout domestic and oceanic airspace. The improved technology was more than four times faster and more reliable than its predecessor, while occupying only an eighth of the floor space of the systems it replaced. (See March 11, 1999.)
Thursday, September 30, 1999:FAA announced it had chosen Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management to continue development and deployment of the User Request Evaluation Tool (URET). Also called a conflict probe, the URET software gives controllers a strategic 20-minute look ahead to detect potential conflicts when considering pilots’ requests for altitude and route changes. The system would be deployed and available to controllers in late 2001 and through 2002. (See April 16, 1998; December 2001.)
Wednesday, October 6, 1999:FAA selected the Societe Internationale Telecommunications Aeronautiques to provide standing data link communications services (the Future Air Navigation System, also known as FANS) to the Oakland, New York, and Alaska Air Route Traffic Control Centers. Previously, the FAA paid for data link communications services on a per message basis.
Saturday, October 9, 1999:President Clinton signed the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2000. At the signing, however, he noted that he was “concerned about the funding level provided in the bill for FAA operations and capital programs. For example, the bill provides $144 million less than my request for FAA operations. This reduction will slow hiring for safety and security positions and postpone implementation of needed efficiency and management improvements. The bill also constrains funding for the modernization of the air traffic control system, including needed modernization and improvement of the Global Positioning System. These reductions may increase air travel delays and ill-position the FAA to meet the growing challenges of the future.”
Tuesday, October 26, 1999:A Learjet, without a pilot in control, flew for almost four hours from Orlando, Florida, to a swampy grassland in South Dakota. The Learjet was shadowed by USAF and Air National Guard jet fighters, whose pilots reported that the aircraft’s windows were frosted over, suggesting that it had lost pressurization. USAF pilots also reported that the Learjet meandered from as low as 22,000 feet to as high as 51,000 feet, but never strayed from a northwest heading. Pentagon officials said the military began its pursuit of the aircraft at 10:08 a.m., when two Air Force F-16 fighters from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on a routine training mission were asked by FAA to intercept it. The F-16s did not reach the Learjet, but an USAF F-15 fighter from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida got within sight of the aircraft and stayed with it from 11:09 a.m. to 11:44 a.m., when the military fighter was diverted to St. Louis for fuel. Fifteen minutes later, four Air National Guard F-16s and a KC-135 tanker from Tulsa were ordered to try to catch up with the Learjet, but got only within 100 miles. Two other Air National Guard F-16s from Fargo, North Dakota, intercepted the Learjet at 12:54 p.m., reporting that the aircraft’s windows were fogged with ice and that no flight control movement could be seen. At 1:14 p.m., the F-16s reported that the Learjet was beginning to spiral toward the ground. Professional golfer Payne Stewart was killed in the crash.
Thursday, October 28, 1999:Building on information gathered since the in-flight explosion of TWA Flight 800 three years before, FAA proposed a mandatory design review of fuel tanks on more than 90 percent of U.S. commercial aircraft fleet. One of the largest such orders ever contemplated, the proposal covered a total of about 6,000 aircraft – applying to all commercial aircraft, whether driven by jet power or propellers, that carry 30 or more passengers. The impact of the FAA proposal, if adopted, was expected to be felt worldwide. (See March 3, 1999; February 22, 2000.)
Sunday, October 31, 1999:Egypt Air Flight 900 crashed and killed all 217 onboard. The voice and data recorders from the aircraft revealed that, just before the tragedy, one of the pilots, apparently alone in the cockpit, turned off the autopilot and then uttered a short prayer. The cockpit voice recorder tape also contained sounds similar to a door opening and closing more than once, sources said. This evidence led investigators to question whether one of the pilots left the cockpit, which would have given the other pilot the opportunity to take some action that could have led to the crash. (See March 21, 2002.)
Tuesday, November 2, 1999:FAA announced it had awarded a contract worth up to $75 million to L-3 Communications to purchase up to 60 of its explosives detection systems. L-3 Communications was the second manufacturer to offer a system that met the FAA’s rigorous certification standards. Under the contract, FAA could purchase up to 60 eXaminer 3DX 6000 explosives detection systems over three years. (See April 15, 1999; December 21, 1999.)
Monday, November 8, 1999:President Clinton announced his intention to nominate Monte Belger to be FAA deputy administrator. He submitted Belger’s name to the Senate for confirmation on November 10. (See August 4, 2000; August 2, 2002.)
Tuesday, November 9, 1999:FAA announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA concerning the future of space transportation research activities, especially the development of reusable launch vehicle technology. (See June 21, 1999; October 19, 2000.)
Friday, December 3, 1999:Runway 8/26 opened at Philadelphia International Airport.
December 5-7, 1999:Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater hosted the Aviation in the 21st Century–Beyond Open Skies “ministerial” in the same hotel where, fifty-five years before, the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation produced recommendations for practices and procedures that had thereafter guided world aviation. This new ministerial, attended by more than 900 persons from ninety-three nations, explored challenges and opportunities in the aviation system of the 21st century. On the last day of the conference, Slater announced FAA would require airlines to conduct safety assessments of their foreign airline partners. U.S. agencies, would not, however, directly assess the safety of any foreign airline, even if U.S. passengers were flying that carrier on a code-share ticket. (See August 5, 1999.)
Wednesday, December 8, 1999:FAA issued an AD ordering inspection of backup generators on Boeing 777-200 and -300 airplanes and requiring their operators to replace, within 14 days, any found to have sheared shafts.
Sunday, December 19, 1999:FAA informed U.S. carriers that reserve rest requirements for pilots must be fully implemented. The decision to no longer offer exceptions to the policy was welcomed by the Air Line Pilots Association, who said that U.S. carriers have known about the requirement since June 1998 and had no excuse for asking for further extensions. A spokesperson for the union also said that it would be unfair to airlines already implementing the reserve rest requirement, as well as the public, if nonconforming airlines were granted exceptions. The reserve rest rule stipulated that airlines must give pilots who are on reserve duty at least nine hours rest before placing them on reserve or “on call” status.
Monday, December 20, 1999:FAA started controlling arriving and departing air traffic in El Paso, Texas, with the new Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) air traffic controller workstations. This was the first component to become operational as part of a phased strategy to deploy this state-of-the-art, full-service system nationwide. Controllers and technicians at this West Texas TRACON successfully integrated the new workstations, featuring high-resolution color monitors, with the existing automation system. (See August 3, 1999; January 12, 2000.)
Tuesday, December 21, 1999:Security at the nation’s airports was tightened in response to the arrest, the previous week, of a man allegedly trying to smuggle explosives into the United States. FAA announced it would make more use of devices that check airline passengers for trace amounts of explosives. Also, more bomb-sniffing dogs and uniformed police would begin patrolling airports, both inside and outside. The measures came amid concern about the possibility of acts of terrorism in the United States and abroad during the holidays. (See November 2, 1999; January 5, 2000.)
Tuesday, December 21, 1999:FAA made the Surface Movement Advisor (SMA) available to the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, and Teterboro airports ten days ahead of schedule. SMA would provide aircraft arrival information to airline ramp towers and operation centers. The scope of this information included aircraft identification and position in terminal airspace, details that could be used to compute estimated time to touchdown in order to better manage gates and other ground operations. Staff at Northwest Airlines additionally estimated that the enhanced situational awareness they received through SMA allowed them to avoid three to five costly diversions per week at Detroit Metropolitan airport.
Friday, December 31, 1999:The U.S. air traffic control system successfully rolled over to January 1, 2000, with no disruptions to service.
Primary Sources:
Dated items along the left margin of the FAA History Pages were compiled from the series of FAA’s ‘Historical Chronology’ PDF files. For a list and links to uploaded copies of these PDF files, see aiReform’s ‘FAA History’ main page (link above).
Additional content has been compiled from Wikipedia and other sources; these items are presented along the right margin, and include significant accidents, Whistleblower case actions, various news items, ATC technology developments, links to related material, comments, etc. Further content will be added at a later date.