FAA History: 2006

Tuesday, January 3, 2006:The Federal Service Impasse Panel ruled that contract negotiations between FAA and its systems technicians would begin on February 6 and continue through July 21. The contract between FAA and the Professional Airways Systems Specialists expired in July 2005, but no new negotiations had begun because the agency and the union could not agree on a timetable. (See March 30, 2006.)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006:FAA withdrew a rule that would ease Part 121 oxygen requirements after the National Transportation Safety Board warned the rule was based on faulty data and could jeopardize safety. In November 2005, FAA had raised the altitude, to flight level 350, at which a pilot must put on an oxygen mask when the other pilot left the control station. With the rescinding of this less rigorous requirement, pilots left alone at the controls were still required to use their masks at altitudes above flight level 250.
Monday, January 23, 2006:NEWSDoT Inspector General Kenneth Mead sent a letter to President Bush, declaring his resignation, to be effective on 2/11/2006. Mead had served as DoT-IG for more than eight years. His predecessor was Mary Schiavo, who resigned abruptly in July 1996, out of frustration for how FAA was failing to handle the ValuJet crash – and, her resignation was just a week before the TWA800 crash at Long Island. In the wake of Schiavo’s resignation, Joyce Fleischman served as the Acting DoT-IG. Mead, who came from GAO, was nominated by President Clinton on 3/19/1997.
Monday, January 30, 2006:ATCFAA announced that an international financial and accounting services firm validated the agency’s calculation that the average 2005 air traffic controller compensation package exceeded $166,000. Other independently validated figures revealed that, between 1998 and 2005, controller compensation had increased by 75 percent and the wage gap between controllers and all other FAA employees had doubled. Cost data used to reach these wage determinations were also independently shown to be consistent with the agency’s accounting system and its audited financial statements. FAA had begun contract negotiations with the union on July 13, 2005. The existing contract had expired on September 30, 2005, but an evergreen clause had allowed the original contract to remain in place so long as talks were ongoing. (See November 28, 2005; April 3, 2006.)
Wednesday, March 1, 2006:Effective this date, U.S. parties interested in transmitting certain types of financial interests (or prospective interests) to the international aircraft registry had to file a completed FAA entry point filing form (International Registry, AC Form 8050-135) with FAA. Upon receipt of the completed form, FAA would issue a unique authorization code. With the establishment of the new international aircraft registry, it was no longer sufficient for U.S. aircraft buyers or sellers to conduct searches and file documents only with FAA; they now also had to conduct searches and register interests in aircraft and high-value engines at the new international registry.
Friday, March 10, 2006:The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) challenged FAA in federal court over the legality of the agency’s changes to its drug- and alcohol-testing regulations. ARSA filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit, claiming the updated testing regulations represented an “unnecessary burden that provides no aviation safety-related benefits.” The court filing argued that FAA violated several federal statutes, including the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act. Two repair stations and a non-certified maintenance provider joined the filing.
Friday, March 24, 2006:FAA announced that, within a year, use of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) would be extended to 200 feet above an airport’s surface. WAAS, a satellite-based navigation system, was designed to improve the accuracy, availability and integrity of signals from global positioning system (GPS) satellites. WAAS was expected, eventually, to enable the agency to remove a portion of its existing ground-based navigation infrastructure, and thus reduce operational costs, while still improving capacity and safety. Originally commissioned in July 2003, WAAS was initially approved to provide vertical guidance down to 350 feet. Localizer performance with vertical guidance procedures down to 250 feet was later developed to take advantage of the increased performance provided by WAAS. (See July 11, 2003; October 19, 2007.)
Thursday, March 30, 2006:PASS accepted FAA’s contract proposal. However, the union’s bargaining team made it clear to FAA that, although it did not think the agency’s offer was fair or reasonable, it would leave the decision to its voting members. August 3, FAA system specialists voted to reject the agency’s contract offer and called for the agency to return to the bargaining table. The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) union said its members rejected the contract by a margin of 98 percent. The rejection was anticipated because PASS had recommended that its members vote against the contract offer. Because PASS nominally accepted the FAA proposal as a tentative agreement, FAA had to await the conclusion of the voting process before taking any other action. (See January 3, 2006.)
March 2006:A U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission judge ruled that controllers fired by President Reagan after the 1981 strike could proceed with a class action suit against FAA. Specifically, they could argue that age discrimination had prevented their rehiring. In the suit, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) said FAA had not hired any PATCO controllers since 1999. Other discriminatory practices listed by PATCO included the use of separate applicant pools, and hiring quotas for PATCO members.
Monday, April 3, 2006:FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) exchanged their final contract proposals. April 6, FAA declared that, as it had reached an impasse with the controllers union after nine months of contract talks, only congressional action could prevent the agency from imposing its latest contract offer without union agreement. April 25, FAA officially ended contract negotiations with NATCA. June 5, FAA announced it would begin imposing its preferred contract terms on the controller work force. Under existing statutory rulings, the agency could impose its contract terms if Congress failed to overturn the agency’s proposal within a 60-day window. FAA had sent its contract proposal to Congress in April and the deadline for congressional action was June 4. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said that, although the previous contract was officially terminated as of the previous day before, the work and pay rules of that contract would remain in effect while the new rules were phased in. She also commented in a letter to employees that this transition process could take several months. (See November 28, 2005; August 2007.)
Thursday, April 13, 2006:Runway 11/29 opened at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006:Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport commissioned its fifth runway and dedicated its new 396 foot air traffic control tower.
May 20, 2006:Runway 10/28 opened at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Wednesday, June 7, 2006:FAA posted an announcement in the Federal Register that all Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 121, 135 and 91(K) operators would be issued a new operations specification (Ops Spec) or management specification (MSpec) requiring completion of a new en route landing distance assessment for all their turbojet aircraft. This calculation was to take into consideration runway conditions and allow a full-stop landing, on a given runway, with at least a 15-percent safety margin beyond the actual landing distance – according to the conditions existing at the time of arrival, and with deceleration means and other conditions appropriate to the and airplane being used. The calculation was to be staged as close to the time of arrival as practicable. Previous regulations had only mandated that calculations such as these be made prior to the departure of the aircraft.
Monday, June 26, 2006:FAA instituted a new Air Traffic Organization service center unit. Three service centers replaced the nine service area offices within en route, terminal, and technical operations. Each of the service centers was made up of five functional groups: administrative services, business services, safety assurance, system support, and planning and requirements. A sixth group, engineering services, was a shared resource and remained in place in the existing locations. (See December 5, 2005.)
June 2006:FAA delayed until January 1, 2007, proposed changes in aircraft registration policies that would have severely limited the ability of aircraft owners to request “priority service” in connection with declarations of international flights. Citing an increasingly heavy workload and the observation that many operators routinely requested priority service even if it was really not needed, officials at FAA’s aircraft registration organization sought to limit priority handling for international flights to one request per aircraft in any three-month period.
Friday, July 7, 2006:Effective this date, Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta resigned his post. (See January 25, 2001; October 24, 2006.)
aiR-Note:And what was the REASON for this resignation?
Thursday, July 13, 2006:FAA announced plans to phase in a new program designed to reduce the number of flight delays and bring an estimated $900 million in cost savings to the airlines and the flying public. The airspace flow program was designed to allow air traffic controllers to delay only those flights that were expected to encounter extremely bad weather. As a result, the program was expected to minimize the crippling effects of the sudden thunderstorms that frequently affected the nation’s airspace system during the summer travel season. On a single severe weather day in this high peak season, thousands of flights often have been delayed, diverted or canceled, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers and resulting in millions of dollars in operating losses for carriers.
Monday, July 17, 2006:The engineered materials arresting system installed at Greenville Downtown Airport, Greenville, SC, successfully stopped a Mystere Falcon 900 aircraft that overran the runway. (See January 22, 2005; July 18, 2008).
Tuesday, July 18, 2006:FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that secured enhanced cooperation toward building a more efficient and seamless air traffic system between Europe and the United States. The MOU focused on building administrative bridges between the United States’ NextGen and the Commission’s Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) airspace modernization programs. In addition to annual meetings and regular, informal communications between FAA and the Commission, the MOU formalized pre-existing exchanges for facilitating enhanced understanding of these international programs. The memorandum acknowledged the importance of participation by both European and U.S. industry in each other’s air traffic modernization efforts. (See July 18, 2006; May 16, 2007; June 18, 2010.)
Thursday, July 27, 2006:Eclipse Aviation won FAA provisional certification for the Eclipse 500 very light jet. (See April 2007.)
July 2006:FAA’s performance-based operations aviation rulemaking committee, a government and industry group, released the second version of the “Roadmap for Performance-Based Navigation.” The first road map, released in 2003, covered concepts and principles, but included very few details. The revised version spelled out how FAA planned to proceed in the near-term (2006-10), mid-term (2011-15), and far-term (2016-25), and outlined dates for mandates on the types of equipment that would be needed by the airlines, business aircraft, and general aviation operators. The near-term period focused on the investment aircraft operators had already made in avionics and FAA spending on satellite-based navigation. It included the wide-scale rollout of RNAV procedures, including the instrument departures and arrivals commissioned at airports such as Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International and Dallas-Fort Worth International. (See December 20, 2005; August 6, 2007; March 2007.)
Thursday, August 24, 2006:FAA released an updated air traffic controller workforce plan designed to address the anticipated retirement and replacement of air traffic controllers over the coming decade. The revised document outlined the agency’s plans to hire more than 11,800 new air traffic controllers over the next ten years. The plan was the first update to A Plan for the Future: The Federal Aviation Administration’s “10-year Strategy for the Air Traffic Control Workforce,” which FAA released in December 2004. The revised plan was based on updated traffic forecasts, experience with productivity increases, actual retirements, and improved mathematical models. As part of the revised plan, FAA planned to hire 930 controllers by the end of fiscal year 2006. The plan also addressed the broader need to hire more than 11,800 controllers over the next ten years based on the latest attrition and traffic growth modeling. It outlined how FAA would bring on new controllers using a schedule designed to provide adequate training lead-time and to address changing air traffic demands over the coming decade. In addition to the hiring schedule, the plan addressed steps the agency was taking to improve the training process for new controllers. (See December 21, 2004; March 7, 2007.)
Friday, August 25, 2006:FAA and U.S. Air Force Space Command issued new, common federal launch safety standards designed to create consistent, integrated space launch rules for the nation. The rule strengthened public safety by harmonizing launch procedures that identified potential problems early and by implementing a formal system of safety checks and balances. The new FAA regulations governed commercial launch operations at federal and non-federal launch sites. (See December 29, 2005; December 15, 2006.)
Sunday, August 27, 2006:Comair Flight 5191 crashed at the Lexington Blue Grass Airport; 48 of the 49 people on board died in the crash. In pre-dawn darkness, the crew had turned the aircraft onto a 3,500-ft. inoperative VFR-day Runway 26 instead of the 7,000-ft. departure Runway 22, a 40-degree heading difference. The aircraft had run out of concrete during the takeoff roll and crashed into a perimeter fence.
Monday, September 25, 2006:A report issued by the Department of Transportation Inspector General outlined a host of problems with FAA’s “RESULTS” contracting program, but acknowledged that FAA had moved quickly to shut the program down. The audit was launched at the request of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tom Coburn (R, Oklahoma) after a whistleblower highlighted examples of waste and abuse. One of three such contracting programs used by FAA, RESULTS provided a list of 142 pre-qualified vendors to which the agency could award support contracts. Since its inception, the program had awarded more than 114 contracts with a potential value of $543 million. The whistleblower uncovered abuse in one contract. The Office of the Inspector General widened its investigation to cover the entire program. The investigation found that because of inadequate program controls, labor costs were much higher than in other FAA contracting efforts. In addition, RESULTS contracts were awarded without sufficient competition or price analysis, and inadequate oversight of contract performance contributed to further cost overruns.
September 2006:FAA approved the first child safety harness that could be used on commercial aircraft. The harness, manufactured by AmSafe Aviation, incorporated belt and shoulder harnesses secured by straps around the seat back and attachments to existing lap belts. The harness was an alternative to hard-shelled child seats that were the only other child restraint parents could carry onto aircraft. (See September 26, 2005.)
September 2006:FAA issued full type certification to the Cessna’s entry-level Citation Mustang, making it the first very light jet to achieve that goal.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006:Mary Peters was sworn in as the 15th Secretary of Transportation. (See July 7, 2006.)
Monday, October 30, 2006:FAA completed the deployment of the User Request Evaluation Tool (URET) at all 20 air route traffic control centers. URET was a conflict-detection tool that automatically detected and advised air traffic controllers of predicted conflicts between aircraft or between aircraft and other operational elements within the NAS. This strategic planning tool allowed controllers to create alternative conflict-free flight routings and to manage better the changing air traffic or weather conditions. (See May 6, 2002.)
Thursday, November 23, 2006:Runway 14/32 opened at General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport.
Thursday, December 14, 2006:FAA announced that it had issued a type certificate for the doubledecker Airbus A380 jet during a ceremony in Toulouse, France. Airbus applied to FAA for certification of the aircraft on August 12, 1998. The A380’s size and complexity required FAA to extend its normal five year certification period for a large airliner to seven years to ensure the required standards of safety.
aiR-Note:Is there a more truthful explanation than this? Possibly, was the extended delay ‘political’, to give Boeing an advantage over Airbus?
Friday, December 15, 2006:FAA issued final regulations for crew and spaceflight participants. The new regulations require a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) operator to inform space tourists, in writing, about the safety record of the vehicle they would fly in, and compare that record with those of other manned space vehicles. After being given time to ask questions about the risks of flight, passengers will have to provide written consent prior to the flight. Each passenger must receive safety training on how to respond to emergency situations – which include cabin depressurization, fire, smoke, and emergency egress. (See August 25, 2006; April 6, 2007.)
aiR-Note:Would the Public be better served if an agency other than FAA was responsible for spaceflight regulations?
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.