Tuesday, January 7, 2003:FAA announced a tentative agreement in principle to extend the existing contract with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, signed in 1998, for two years to September 2005. (See June 15, 1998; December 9, 2003.)
Wednesday, January 8, 2003:Air Midwest Flight 5481, a Beechcraft 1900D operating as US Airways Express Flight 5481, crashed into an airport hangar and burst into flames 37 seconds after taking off from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. All 19 passengers and two pilots aboard were killed in the accident, one person on the ground received minor injuries. February 26, 2004, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the airplane’s loss of pitch control during takeoff. The findings also suggested that this loss of pitch control probably resulted from a combination of an incorrect rigging of the elevator control system together with a weight distribution that caused the airplane’s center of gravity to shift dangerously far aft. (See January 27, 2003.)
Thursday, January 23, 2003:FAA announced it had completed deployment of the Weather and Radar Processor (WARP) at all 20 air route traffic control centers. WARP allowed air traffic controllers to view highly accurate and timely weather information on the same display that showed aircraft position data. (See May 2002.)
Monday, January 27, 2003:FAA issued an emergency AD requiring operators to perform prescribed elevator system checks on Raytheon Beechcraft Models 1900, 1900C and D aircraft by January 31. The actions were aimed at preventing an accident similar to the January 8 crash of Air Midwest Flight 5481. In addition, FAA ordered commuter airlines to begin weighing some passengers out of concerns of possible overloading of passengers and baggage. The program covered planes registered in the U.S. and carrying 10 to 19 passengers. The 30-day sample of passenger and baggage weights was designed to determine whether FAA’s assumptions at the time about passenger and baggage weights were valid.
In general, the agency had assumed that an average adult would weigh 180 pounds in summer and 185 pounds in winter, and travel with 20 pounds of carry-on luggage. Each child aged two to twelve was assumed to weigh 80 pounds. (See January 8, 2003.)
Tuesday, February 4, 2003:Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), member of the House Transportation aviation subcommittee, expressed concerns that cost overruns on the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) would compromise other agency programs. Tauscher, responding to a GAO report released on February 3, criticized FAA’s management of the program in these terms: “After seven years and $1.2 billion, only one major airport has new technology.” She considered STARS to be poorly managed. The GAO report was similar in content to a recent Department of Transportation Inspector General report. Tauscher warned the FAA: “This continued lackadaisical management is simply unacceptable.” Tauscher said the agency had spent $1.2 billion on STARS since 1996, and estimated it would take at least $153 million over five years to deploy the system. GAO pointed out that inaccuracies in the baseline data received by FAA did not reflect the current status of the contract and recommended changes in STARS management. (See September 20, 2002; June 9, 2003.)
Wednesday, February 5, 2003:FAA awarded contracts to ITT Industries, Inc., and Harris Corporation valued at $16 and $21 million, respectively, over a 20-month period for the initial phase of Next Generation Air/Ground Communications (NEXCOM). By integrating data link with digital voice, NEXCOM would make more efficient use of the available frequency spectrum, and accommodate additional air traffic control sectors and new runways to support continued industry growth. The existing air/ground communications system had been used for air traffic control for more than 50 years. (See July 15, 2002; March 18, 2004.)
Monday, February 10, 2003:FAA expanded the restricted airspace over Washington, DC. It now covered a 30-mile radius from each of the region’s three major airports – Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington International, and Dulles International. (See October 28, 2002; July 26, 2007.)
Thursday, May 1, 2003:FAA awarded a Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) contract to Honeywell International, Inc. A satellite navigation landing system, LAAS would enable pilots to guide planes safely into busy airports in bad weather. It also would significantly increase the accuracy, availability, continuity and integrity of the information received from the global positioning system (GPS) constellation of satellites to enhance the safety and efficiency of air travel. The contract was to unfold in three phases. The first phase, valued at $16.7 million, provided for the software and hardware design of the category I LAAS. Phases 2 and 3 contract options, which totaled an additional $340 million, landing provided a level of service in poor weather conditions down to a ceiling of 200 feet and visibility of one-half mile. (See August 13, 1999.)
Thursday, May 1, 2003:Effective this date, FAA revised the applicability of certain collision avoidance system requirements for airplanes. The rules previously in place were based on passenger seating configuration and, therefore, excluded all-cargo airplanes. Intended to reduce the risk of a mid-air collision involving a cargo airplane, this final rule would use airplane weight and performance characteristics as the basis for collision avoidance system requirements.
Friday, May 30, 2003:The engineered materials arresting system installed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport successfully stopped a Gemini Cargo McDonnell Douglas MD-11F aircraft that overran the runway. (See May 8, 1999; January 22, 2005.)
Monday, June 9, 2003:FAA commissioned the first Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) at a large, busy airport – Philadelphia International Airport. Under a joint FAA and DoD program, STARS would eventually replace computers and displays at more than 300 air traffic control facilities nationwide. In addition to Philadelphia, other FAA deployments scheduled for 2003-2004 included: Portland, Oregon; Boston, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Port Columbus, Ohio; San Antonio, Texas; and Seattle/Tacoma, Washington. (See February 4, 2003.)
Tuesday, June 10, 2003:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced the selection of Russell G. Chew as the FAA’s first Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer (COO). (See April 5, 2000; December 7, 2000; November 18, 2003; February 23, 2007.)
Monday, June 30, 2003:The Department of Transportation Inspector General outlined cost and timetable overruns in most of FAA’s major acquisition programs. The IG raised red flags about large programs such as En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), a program it considered to be a high-risk effort and one of the largest, most expensive, software intensive, and complex acquisitions FAA has undertaken. (See March 29, 2002; September 30, 2007.)
June 2003:FAA issued the Human Factors Design Standard, a compilation of human factors practices and principles integral to the procurement, design, development, and testing of FAA systems, facilities, and equipment. The guide, which superceded the 1996 Human Factors Design Guide, provided a single easy-to-use source of human factors design criteria, oriented to the needs of the FAA mission and systems.
Thursday, July 10, 2003:FAA commissioned Wide Area Augmentation System, technology designed to improve the accuracy, availability, and integrity of global positioning system (GPS) to provide a navigation and landing system that could deliver precision guidance to aircraft at thousands of airports and airstrips lacking precision landing capability. (See April 10, 2001; March 24, 2006.)
Monday, July 21, 2003:Effective this date, FAA amended the airworthiness standards applicable to the lower deck service compartments of transport category airplanes. The change required that two-way voice communication systems between lower deck service compartments and the flightdeck remain available following loss of the normal electrical power generating system. It also clarified the requirements for seats installed in the lower deck service compartment. While adoption of the amendment would not affect then current industry design practices, it would eliminate regulatory differences between the airworthiness standards of the U.S. and requirements of the Joint Aviation Authorities.
Friday, July 25, 2003:FAA released a plan to develop air traffic procedures that would employ Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and area navigation (RNAV), coupled with onboard technology, to help pilots to navigate to any point in the world. The RNP Roadmap identified steps and milestones that would transition the U.S. airspace system from reliance on airways running over ground-based navigation aids to a point-to-point navigation concept that would take maximum advantage of advanced automation capabilities aboard aircraft. The plan, which would be updated regularly, was to be divided into three implementation timeframes:
- Near-Term (2003-2006). FAA and industry would implement a first set of RNP and RNAV procedures in all phases of flight. The agency also would continue to develop criteria and guidance for more advanced RNP/RNAV operations.
- Mid-Term (2007-2012). RNAV would become the primary means of navigation in U.S. airspace. Additional RNP procedures would be made available as more aircraft were equipped with advanced technologies. FAA would begin to remove some ground- based navigation aids, routes and procedures from service starting in 2010.
- Far-Term (2013-2020). Based on previous demonstration of RNP/RNAV benefits, the U.S. aircraft fleet would continue to advance its capabilities. By 2020, operators would use RNP and RNAV procedures operationally in all areas. A minimal operational network of ground-based navigation aids would remain in place. (See December 31, 2002; December 20, 2005.)