FAA History: 2004

Wednesday, January 21, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced a new order intended to reduce flight congestion and passenger inconvenience at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Under terms of the order signed by FAA administrator Marion Blakey, both American and United agreed to reduce their operations during the peak hours between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. by five percent. The reduction of 62 scheduled flights, which took effect in early March and lasted for six months, returned scheduled O’Hare operations to October 2003 levels, the last month prior to significant delays. (See April 21, 2004.)
Tuesday, January 27, 2004:Secretary Mineta announced plans for a new, next generation air transportation system with expanded capacity to relieve congestion, prevent gridlock, and secure America’s place as global leader in aviation’s second century. An inter-agency plan, NextGen would offer a cleaner, quieter system based on 21st-century technology, seamless security, and added capacity to relieve congestion. (See December 12, 2003; December 15, 2004.)
Wednesday, January 28, 2004:FAA Administrator Marion Blakey dedicated a new FAA Center of Excellence, the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction. (See September 23, 1997; August 18, 2010.)
Friday, January 30, 2004:FAA Administrator Marion Blakey submitted a final proposal for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) multi-unit contract, along with the union’s objections, to Congress seeking help in resolving the issue. The NATCA contract represented about 1,900 employees – mostly administrative personnel in budget, regional accounting and logistics, regional airports, plus some engineers and nurses. Over the previous several months, there had been attempts on both sides to seek outside help to break the impasse, but when those failed, the next step for FAA – according to procedures established in the agency’s personnel reform legislation dating from the mid-1990s – was to submit its recommendations to Congress for action within 60 days. If the legislators failed to respond within that time, FAA could implement its own proposal. (See July 10, 2005.)
Sunday, February 8, 2004:FAA’s new ATO officially began operations. The fundamental realignment gave the ATO responsibility for providing air traffic services, research and acquisition, as well as for the free flight organizations. The change came after a decades long attempt by previous administrations, Congress, and FAA
aiR-Note:Four years later, an FAA safety crisis peaked at the 4/3/08 Congressional Hearing where air safety whistleblowers Boutris and Peters described how the new ‘customer-service’ focus caused FAA managers to override their safety work and allow Southwest Airlines to conduct thousands of flights with cracked-fuselage planes. In time, it was revealed that FAA had ‘over-ridden’ safety concerns as a ‘customer-service’ for nearly all major U.S. airlines.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004:FAA published a final rule in the Federal Register modifying 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 158 to change the amount and the basis for compensation to air carriers collecting, handling, and remitting Passenger Facility Charges.
Sunday, February 29, 2004:Effective this date, FAA revised its regulations for landing under instrument flight rules to allow aircraft to operate below certain specified altitudes during instrument approach procedures, even when the airport environment was not visible using natural vision, if the pilot used certain FAA-certified enhanced flight vision systems.
Sunday, February 29, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta visited Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to introduce a new air traffic control technology and reiterate the Administration’s commitment to improvements aimed at reducing airspace congestion nationwide. The airport was the first to receive ASDE-X, a new radar that provided complete, up-to-the-minute map of all airport operations that controllers used to spot potential collisions and ensure aviation safety on the ground. (See October 24, 2000; August 8, 2007.)
Tuesday, March 2, 2004:A new FAA-developed tool to predict in-flight icing became operational. Using the web-based forecast icing tool, aviation meteorologists and airline dispatchers could warn pilots about icing hazards up to twelve hours in advance.
Thursday, March 18, 2004:FAA canceled the Next Generation Air/Ground Communications (NEXCOM) rapid prototype development contracts with ITT Industries and Harris Corp. FAA previously canceled a full-scale NEXCOM development contract that had not yet been awarded. FAA said it canceled the contracts because there was disagreement on global standards. FAA and EUROCONTROL agreed in 2003 to study what the next generation air traffic control voice communication system should be. (See February 5, 2003.)
Wednesday, March 24, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced a series of steps aimed at reducing potential gridlock and delays during the up-coming peak travel periods of spring and summer. The steps included the creation of new air traffic express lanes, within many of the nation’s most heavily congested routes. The measures were developed earlier in the month at a three-day conference called “Growth without Gridlock.” Hosted by FAA, the conference brought together more than 60 participants from major and regional airlines, business aviation, pilot organizations, and industry associations to develop a common strategy to reduce system delays.
Thursday, March 25, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced the establishment of an office to provide independent safety oversight of the Air Traffic Organization. The office’s primary responsibility was to ensure the safety of changes to air traffic standards and procedures. The creation of the new Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service, based within FAA regulation and certification organization, followed a recommendation of the 1997 National Civil Aviation Review Commission chaired by Secretary Mineta. On November 1, 2001, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) required that its member states, including the U.S., set up independent oversight of air traffic operations. Canada, Great Britain, and Germany were among the ICAO states transitioning to similar systems.
Thursday, April 1, 2004:FAA issued the world’s first license for a sub-orbital manned rocket flight. The license was issued to Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, headed by aviation record-holder Burt Rutan, for a sequence of sub-orbital flights spanning a one-year period. The FAA sub-orbital space flight license was required for U.S. contenders in the X-Prize competition, a high-stakes international race ultimately to launch a manned, reusable private vehicle into space and return it safely to Earth. The X- Prize foundation would award $10 million to the first company or organization to launch a vehicle capable of carrying three people to a height of 100 kilometers (62.5 miles), return them safely to Earth, and repeat the flight with the same vehicle within two weeks. April 23, FAA announced it had issued a second license for a manned sub-orbital rocket flight to XCOR Aerospace Inc. of Mojave, California, which sought to develop a passenger carrying space vehicle for adventure travelers in the future. June 21, SpaceShipOne reached a record altitude of 328,491 feet (approximately 62 miles), making pilot Mike Melville the first civilian to fly a spaceship out of the atmosphere. September 29, 2004, Melville successfully reached suborbital space for a second time. October 4, Brian Binnie successfully flew the second orbital flight in the prescribed timeframe. The X-Prize foundation awarded its $10 million prize to Scaled Composites for being the first company to launch a vehicle capable of carrying three people to a height of 100 kilometers (62.5 miles), return them safely to Earth, and repeat the flight with the same vehicle within two weeks. (See April 3, 2002; July 2, 2004.)
Tuesday, April 6, 2004:FAA, in partnership with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and U.S. aviation manufacturers and suppliers, launched the U.S.-China Aviation Cooperation Program to expand relations and cooperation with Chinese counterparts. (See June 22, 2007.)
Wednesday, April 21, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced plans by United and American Airlines to reduce their daily schedules by another 2.5 percent starting in early June, making this the second time the airlines had trimmed their schedules to help reduce congestion at O’Hare. Both airlines rescheduled the majority of targeted flights to slower times of the day, but each also canceled some operations. (See January 21, 2004; August 4, 2004.)
Friday, April 30, 2004:President George W. Bush signed legislation into law renaming the two downtown office buildings that housed FAA after the inventors of powered, sustained, controlled flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright. The measure, approved by Congress earlier in the year, renamed the agency’s Federal Building 10-A at 800 Independence Ave., SW, the Orville Wright Federal Building, and Federal Building 10-B at 600 Independence Ave., SW, as the Wilbur Wright Federal Building. July 8, FAA headquarters buildings were officially renamed the Orville and Wilbur Wright buildings.
Monday, May 24, 2004:FAA dedicated a new, state-of-the-art airport traffic control tower at Sea-Tac International Airport. At 233 feet high, the new tower was more than twice the height of the old tower, built in 1949.
May 2004:FAA released a screening information request (SIR) for the Automated Flight Service Station public-private competition under OMB’s A-76 recommendations to improve government efficiency and cost savings through commercialization of certain government operations. Per the announcement, potential service providers would be required to submit technical proposals in August 2004 and cost proposals in September 2004. The agency planned to award the contract by March 17, 2005. (See February 1, 2005.)
Wednesday, June 9, 2004:ATCNEWSWhile the Nation was focused on the funeral of President Reagan, the Capitol was evacuated due to the failure of air traffic controllers to properly coordinate information. The flight carrying the Governor of Kentucky and his party had an equipment problem. Details of the transponder failure were not properly coordinated, and when the target approached Washington, the Capitol Police initiated an evacuation of the U.S. Capitol.
Thursday, June 24, 2004:Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta released Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System: An Analysis of Airport and Metropolitan Area Demand and Operational Capacity in the Future, predicting which airports and communities would need to expand their capacity by the year 2020. The capacity study was the first of its kind to look at current air travel patterns, economic and population trends, current air service, and current capacity. The associated report revealed that 23 of the nation’s fastest growing airports needed to add capacity to accommodate air traffic growth over the next two decades.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004:FAA announced a $13.5 million contract award to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) to upgrade the automated system used to ensure the most efficient flow of the nation’s air traffic. Under the traffic flow management modernization contract, CSC would design an advanced computer platform that used air traffic data from across the country to predict when the numbers of flights might exceed available routes and capacity. FAA would use this information both to run special programs designed to reduce delays due to severe weather and congestion and to help airlines to provide more accurate flight departure and arrival information to their passengers.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004:The Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center began using Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP). The new system allowed controllers to reduce separation between aircraft on oceanic routes, and gave pilots greater flexibility to choose their own routes. Oakland was the first of three en route centers handling oceanic operations to use ATOP. (See May 24, 2001; June 23, 2005.)
Friday, July 2, 2004:FAA announced it had issued a license to create, at the Mojave Airport in California, the first inland commercial space launch site, and the fifth licensed commercial spaceport, in the U.S. With this announcement, East Kern Airport District could operate the Mojave site in support of suborbital reusable launch vehicle missions. (See April 1, 2004; December 23, 2004.)
Thursday, July 8, 2004:ATCNEWSLinda Schuessler, FAA’s VP for System Operations Services, appeared before the House subcommittee on Aviation to explain FAA’s failures that resulted in the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol on June 9, 2004 – the day of President Ronald Reagan’s state funeral. [testimony]
Thursday, July 22, 2004:In its final report, the commission established to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks criticized FAA’s response and preparedness. The commission, however, acknowledged that agency employees adapted quickly to the crisis. (See October 15, 2003.)
Friday, July 30, 2004:FAA extended the date – from December 6, 2004 to December 16, 2008 – for operators to comply with special maintenance program requirements for transport airplane fuel tank systems. The action was intended to allow operators enough time to incorporate revisions into their maintenance programs, after having learned of required fuel tank systems maintenance programs from those who hold design approval. (See November 23, 2002; November 14, 2005.)
Wednesday, August 4, 2004:FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the carriers serving O’Hare Airport that, if a voluntary approach to reducing their schedules at O’Hare did not work, FAA would use its statutory authority to impose a solution. The agency advised that relaxing schedules would help ease the congestion and reduce delays that started at O’Hare and then rippled throughout the system. (See April 21, 2004; August 18, 2004.)
Thursday, August 5, 2004:Runway 6L/24R opened at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced that domestic airlines serving O’Hare had agreed to a voluntary limit of 88 scheduled arrivals per hour between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. The new limit on scheduled arrivals during peak hours, effective November 1, brought schedules more in line with O’Hare’s capacity and was expected to cut the amount of time lost due to delays by 20 percent. The agreement, the result of talks directed by Secretary Mineta and chaired by FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, was expected to cut delay times by imposing a limit on new flights that airlines planned to add in November. United and American Airlines, which were then operating 86 percent of flights at O’Hare, offered the largest reductions. United agreed to reduce 20 arrivals while American canceled 17 incoming flights scheduled between noon and 8:00 p.m. Other airlines with fewer operations also agreed to reduce or change schedules to cut delays. (See August 4, 2004.)
Wednesday, September 1, 2004:Effective this date, FAA began certifying sport pilots and their aircraft. The rule encompassed manufacture, certification, operation, and maintenance of light-sport aircraft that weighed less than 1,320 pounds (1,430 pounds for aircraft intended for operation on water) and were heavier and faster than ultralight vehicles. The rule included airplanes, gliders, balloons, powered parachutes, weight-shift-control aircraft, and gyroplanes. (See February 5, 2002.)
September 22-23, 2004:FAA Administrator Marion Blakey hosted the first FAA international safety forum for government and industry leaders to improve communication and provide solutions to improving aviation safety worldwide. The program became the first in a series of annual meetings.
Friday, September 24, 2004:FAA and EUROCONTROL signed a memorandum of cooperation to increase joint air traffic management and research efforts to improve safety, capacity, and standards of air traffic operations between North America and Europe.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004:The President signed into law the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Hurricane Disaster Assistance Act, 2005 (Public Law 108-324) as part of the FY 2005 Military Construction Appropriations Act.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004:FAA started using a new landing procedure, known as the simultaneous offset instrument approach, to help cut delays at San Francisco International Airport. Taking advantage of an advanced radar system that was nearly five times faster than conventional airport radar, this procedure allowed up to a 25 percent increase in the number of arrivals during overcast conditions. Because air traffic controllers could get a much more precise fix on approaching aircraft, the change enabled two arriving planes to fly above and then through the clouds at different angles without compromising the safe separation standards required during overcast conditions. Once the aircraft moved under the cloud deck, the planes were to fly a visual, parallel approach to the airport’s two runways.
Monday, November 8, 2004:The Association for Strategic Planning, a California-based professional association dedicated to advancing strategic thought, development, and practice awarded the FAA Flight Plan 2004-2008 its 2004 Richard Goodman Strategic Planning Award for continuing excellence in stimulating innovation in the planning process. (See September 30, 2003.)
Wednesday, December 15, 2004:Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta unveiled the Integrated Plan for the Next Generation Air Transportation System. This a long-term strategic business plan that laid out goals, objectives, and requirements in eight specific areas: airport infrastructure development; security; the air traffic system; information technology; safety management; environmental stewardship; weather forecasting; and global collaboration. The development of innovative public-private partnerships was a key component to the entire effort. Under the direction of Secretary Mineta and an executive-level policy committee, and with 2025 in mind, six government agencies and representatives from the private sector worked to direct and coordinate research, identify and resolve critical policy issues, and invest in necessary infrastructure and technology. A Joint Planning and Development Office would coordinate the transformation effort. In 2003, Congress established a charter to create NextGen by the year 2025 and established a multi-agency committee to carry out the plan to include the Department of Transportation, FAA, NASA, Departments of Transportation and its Federal Aviation Administration, the National Defense, Commerce, and Homeland Security, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (See January 27, 2004; July 18, 2006.)
Thursday, December 16, 2004:FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced a revised presidential policy on the global positioning system (GPS). The new policy strengthened interagency management of GPS, with a National Executive Committee co-chaired by the Deputy Secretaries of Defense and Transportation. In terms of civil aviation, the policy made it clear that the U.S. remained firmly committed to provide a robust GPS signal free of direct user chargers. The policy directed the Departments of Defense and Transportation to ensure that GPS civil services exceed or at least be equivalent to services provided by the European Galileo system.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004:FAA released its “10-Year Strategy for the Air Traffic Controller Workforce,” a staffing plan that called for hiring 12,500 controllers over ten years to cover projected total retirement and non-retirement controller losses. The level of hiring reflected the required lead time for training and maintained the appropriate ratio between developmental and fully certified controllers. The plan also outlined the expedited training actions FAA would initiate to ensure there were enough recruits in the pipeline to replace the more than 11,000 controllers expected to leave the agency between 2005 and 2014. (See August 24, 2006.)
Thursday, December 23, 2004:President George W. Bush signed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-492). The legislation gave FAA authority to regulate manned suborbital flight. (See July 2, 2004; February 11, 2005.)
Wednesday, December 29, 2004:Effective this date, the FAA and Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) banned cargo shipments of non-rechargeable lithium batteries aboard passenger flights, saying these batteries posed a fire hazard when transported in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft. Airline passengers were allowed to carry on board and use, or pack in checked bags, personal computers and other consumer products that contain lithium batteries. The ban applied to all U.S.-carrier flights and those of foreign carriers into and out of the United States. (See October 8, 2010.)
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.