FAA History: 2003

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.)
Wednesday, July 30, 2003:FAA dropped an ATR42-300 regional transport airplane 50 feet to the concrete below as part of its efforts to collect the empirical data needed to set crashworthiness standards for commuter aircraft. Data collected from this and previous tests at the William J. Hughes Technical Center would help researchers to assess the impact response characteristics of the airframe structure, seats, overhead stowage bins, fuel tanks, and the potential for occupant injury.
Thursday, July 31, 2003:FAA began issuing new, security-enhanced airman certificates to the nation’s 650,000 active pilots. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey unveiled the new certificate before hundreds of aviation enthusiasts at the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture. The new credit card-sized certificates were made from high quality composite media card stock and incorporated new security features, such as a hologram of the FAA seal. They replaced the existing paper airman certificates which were easily damaged.
Monday, August 18, 2003:Effective this date, FAA amended flight data recorder regulations by expanding the recording specifications of certain data parameters for specified airplanes, and by adding aircraft models to the lists of aircraft excepted from the 1997 regulations. In addition, this rule corrected specifications in an operating rule appendix that were inadvertently omitted in previous actions. These changes were necessary to allow the continued operation of certain aircraft that could not meet the existing recorder criteria without incurring a cost-prohibitive retrofit. (See January 8, 2000; February 24, 2005.)
Tuesday, September 2, 2003:Effective this date, FAA adopted upgraded flammability standards for thermal and acoustic insulation materials used in transport category airplanes. The standards included new flammability tests and criteria that addressed flame propagation and entry of an external fire into the airplane. The standards previously in place did not realistically address situations in which thermal or acoustic insulation materials might have contributed to the propagation of a fire. (See September 8, 2000; April 1, 2005.)
Thursday, September 4, 2003:Runway 16R/34L opened at Denver International Airport and runway 8/26 opened at Miami International Airport.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003:During FY 2003, which ended on this date, FAA issued its first annual strategic plan, Flight Plan 2004-2008. The new plan laid out four goals and described FAA’s strategies for achieving those goals. The Flight Plan was aligned with the Department of Transportation strategic plan and linked to FAA’s budget requests. Every staff office and line of business was required to develop a plan that linked directly to the flight plan. (See November 8, 2004.)
Tuesday, October 14, 2003:NEWSThe 9/11 Commission issues it first subpoena, to the FAA. The Commission found that the FAA had withheld documentation from it. The subpoena’s issue was the result of a request from John Farmer, leader of the Commission’s team investigating the day of the attacks. Farmer addressed the full Commission, saying: “My team and I have lost confidence in the FAA. We do not believe we have time to take any more chances on the possibility that they will act on good faith.” (NOTE: the Commission was set up on 11/27/02, and issued its Report on 7/22/04.)
Wednesday, October 15, 2003:The White House commission established to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks issued a subpoena to obtain needed documents from FAA. In May, the commission had requested all documents relating to FAA’s tracking of the hijacked airliners and communications with the North American Aerospace Defense Command. FAA had provided 40 boxes containing 150,000 pages of information in September, but during subsequent interviews, the commission had learned that some materials had not been included. FAA officials responded that their failure to turn over all documents had been caused in part by internal procedures used to search for material. (See July 22, 2004.)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003:FAA announced the nationwide deployment of the first all-digital airport radar system. The Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR-11) replaced older-generation analog radars nearing the end of their service life. The replacement technology provided improved digital aircraft and weather input needed by FAA’s new air traffic control automation systems, such as the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS). The first ASR-11 went operational in March at the Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Naval Air Station, and was providing radar data to STARS at the Philadelphia International Airport. The new radars grew out of a joint FAA/DoD program. FAA planned to procure a total of 112 ASR-11s, with scheduled deployment completed in 2009. FAA had procured 25 systems since the contract was awarded in December 1996.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003:FAA issued a new rule reducing the minimum vertical separation between aircraft from the current 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet for all aircraft flying between 29,000 feet and 41,000 feet. RVSM implementation would significantly increase the routes and altitudes available and thus allow more efficient routings that would save time and fuel. FAA planned to implement Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) procedures on January 20, 2005, to give airlines and other aircraft operator’s time to install the more accurate altimeters and autopilot systems needed to ensure the highest level of safety. The long-awaited rule – FAA initiated the process with a notice of proposed rulemaking in May 2002 – detailed equipment requirements, including dual altimeters and a more advanced autopilot system. Aircraft equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance system version II (TCAS II) had to be updated with new software, compatible with RVSM operations. (See May 10, 2002; November 26, 2003.) October 31, 2003: KIAH
November 5, 2003:FAA announced U.S. certification of an innovative diesel aircraft engine that used automotive parts and ran on jet fuel. Administrator Marion Blakey made the announcement before the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 4-cylinder, 135 hp TAE 125-01 was developed by German-based Thielert Aircraft Engines (TAE), an auto racing engine and global automotive parts manufacturer.
Monday, November 10, 2003:FAA proposed first-time regulations for extended aircraft operations (ETOPS), which would allow consumers to take advantage of new, more direct routes and more frequent trips on existing routes. If adopted, ETOPS rules would cover scheduled air carriers (Part 121) and charter operators (Part 135) and carry the full legal authority of a federal aviation regulation. Currently, carriers and operators complied voluntarily with FAA advisory circulars that governed ETOPS. (See February 15, 2007.)
Monday, November 17, 2003:Effective this date, FAA updated and revised the regulations governing operations of aircraft in fractional ownership programs. The final rule defined fractional ownership programs and their various participants, allocated responsibility and authority for safety of flight operations for purposes of compliance with the regulations, and ensured that fractional ownership program aircraft operations would maintain a high level of safety. These regulations provided a level of safety for fractional ownership programs equivalent to regulations that apply to on-demand operators. (See February 23, 2000.)
Tuesday, November 18, 2003:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced initial details of FAA’s new Air Traffic Organization (ATO) business structure. ATO would consolidate the FAA’s air traffic services, research and acquisitions, and free flight program activities into a smaller, more efficient organization with a strict focus on providing the best service for the best value to the aviation industry and the traveling public. The establishment of the ATO was first recommended by the 1997 National Civil Aviation Review Commission, chaired by Mineta. In April 2000, Congress enacted the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century that mandated establishing the position of a Chief Operating Office (COO) to oversee the air traffic control system. Executive Order 13180 (as amended June 4, 2002) officially created the ATO with the COO as its head. (See June 10, 2003; February 8, 2004.)
Thursday, November 20, 2003:FAA announced that 86 percent of workers belonging to the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) had approved a new, five-year collective bargaining agreement between the union and the FAA.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003:Effective this date, an FAA rule allowed RVSM flights in the airspace over the contiguous 48 States of the United States, the District of Columbia, Alaska, that portion of the Gulf of Mexico where FAA provided air traffic services, the San Juan Flight Information Region (FIR), and the airspace between Florida and the San Juan FIR. The RVSM program would permit 1,000-foot vertical separation at certain altitudes between aircraft that meet stringent altimeter and autopilot performance requirements. The rule required any aircraft equipped with TCAS II and flown in Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) airspace to incorporate a version of TCAS II software that was compatible with RVSM operations. (See October 22, 2003; January 20, 2005.)
Tuesday, December 9, 2003:FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) signed a two-year contract extension that expanded pay-for-performance to include air traffic controllers and provided potential savings of several million dollars. The contract extension increased the number of agency employees whose pay was tied partly to performance from 37 percent to 75 percent. The pay for performance compensation system for over 15,000 air traffic controllers was based on safety and capacity targets set forth in FAA’s strategic Flight Plan. The targets included reducing operational errors and runway incursions and increasing on-time performance and arrival efficiency rates. FAA and the union also agreed that, when a provision binding FAA to maintain a fixed number of controllers each year expired at the end of September, the agency could adjust staffing levels based on actual workload. This contract action was initiated following direction from Congress and the Department of Transportation Inspector General to exert greater cost control over air traffic control operations. The current contract was ratified in 1998. FAA expected to begin negotiations on a new agreement with NATCA in early 2005. (See January 7, 2003; July 13, 2005.)
Friday, December 12, 2003:President George W. Bush signed the Vision 100 – Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (Public Law 108-176). The Act abolished the air traffic services subcommittee of the federal aviation management advisory council and created, separate from the council, an Air Traffic Services Committee (ATSC). The ATSC was given substantial governmental authority, including the power to approve the FAA’s strategic plan for the air traffic control system, to approve certain large procurements, to appoint and determine the pay of the FAA chief operating officer, to dictate major FAA reorganizations, and to control FAA cost accounting and financial management structure. The legislation also endorsed the concept of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and directed Department of Transportation to create a Joint Planning and Development Office to facilitate the process. The legislation also provided funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) from FY 2004 through FY 2007. The act also changed the basic requirements and guidelines under which FAA implemented AIP, including numerous provisions to assist smaller airports and to streamline the environmental review of airport projects. (See January 27, 2004.)
Thursday, December 25, 2003:Runway 17L/35R opened at Orlando International Airport.
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.