Monday, January 14, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters proposed a new national policy that would make it easier for overcrowded airports to add capacity and reduce delays by encouraging airlines to spread their flights more evenly throughout the day. Under the proposal, the Department of Transportation encouraged congested airports in New York and across the country to move away from the decades-old practice of charging aircraft landing fees based on the weight of the plane and begin charging fees based on the time of the day. As a result, airports would be able to spread traffic more evenly throughout the day – allowing them to serve more passengers and reduce delays. The proposed policy changes would be open to public comment for 45 days before being finalized. Changes to FAA’s Policy on Airport Rates and Charges would also allow airport operators to include the cost of projects designed to expand capacity in the new landing fees. Currently, airports could only include those costs after the projects had been completed. (See December 19, 2007; March 10, 2008.)
Thursday, January 24, 2008:FAA announced that, as a result of the runway safety summit held in August 2007, FAA and industry had made significant accomplishments in achieving the goals of their runway safety plan. As of this date, 71 of the targeted 75 medium and large airports had completed upgrades to airport painted markings. The remaining four were expected to have their markings upgraded well in advance of the June 2008 deadline. Sixty-two small airports had also upgraded their markings, 121 airports planned to complete the work by the end of the year, 25 airports planned to enhance markings in 2009, and 22 airports had expressed interest, but had not yet provided a target completion date. FAA proposed extending the enhanced taxiway centerline requirement at all certificated airports. FAA published a draft change to Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5340- 1J, Standards for Airport Markings, in late December 2007. Comments were due by February 26, 2008. In addition, FAA completed a runway safety review of 20 airports based on runway incursion data and wrong runway departure data. FAA also issued a draft change to AC 150/5210-20, Ground Vehicle Operations on Airports, in late December 2007. Public comments were due by February 26, 2008. (See August 15, 2007; January 15, 2009.
Monday, January 28, 2008:FAA finalized a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) that created new pilot training, experience, and operating requirements to increase the safety of the widely used Mitsubishi MU-2B airplane. The final rule mandated a comprehensive standardized pilot training program for the aircraft. The regulation required use of a standardized cockpit checklist and the latest revision of the airplane flight manual. MU-2B operators also must have a working autopilot onboard except in certain limited circumstances. Owners and operators had one year to comply with the SFAR.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008:FAA announced plans to deploy new air traffic tower simulators to 19 locations around the country to help train new air traffic controllers in an interactive operational environment that provided realistic scenarios. The new simulators would be deployed over the next 18 months at the following towers: John F. Kennedy (NY); Los Angeles; Oakland (CA); Washington Reagan National; Dallas Fort-Worth; Atlanta; Denver; Philadelphia; Cincinnati; Cleveland; San Antonio; Memphis (TN); Honolulu; Orlando (FL); Charlotte (NC); Minneapolis; Boston; and Newport News (VA). FAA planned to install an additional six simulators at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.
Thursday, February 7, 2008:The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a confirmation hearing for acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell to become the FAA administrator. After the hearing, New Jersey’s two democratic senators, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez, placed a hold on the nomination, preventing it from going to the Senate floor for a vote. Both said they had concerns about safety and traffic issues with FAA. Both senators were also unhappy with FAA changes to the New York area airspace, saying the changes added to noise pollution. Sturgell had been acting FAA Administrator since Marion Blakey’s term expired. Bush nominated Sturgell to be her replacement October 23. (See September 13, 2007; January 16, 2009.)
Thursday, February 14, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced an Open Skies agreement between the United States and Australia that eliminated restrictions on air services for the carriers of both countries. Under the agreement, U.S. and Australian airlines could select routes and destinations based on consumer demand, without limitations on the number of flights that could fly between the two countries. The agreement also removed restrictions on capacity and pricing, and provided opportunities for cooperative marketing arrangements, including code-sharing, between participating carriers. With this agreement, Australia became the 90th U.S. Open-Skies partner. The United States signed its first open skies agreement with The Netherlands on October 14, 1992. (See February 29, 1996; March 13, 2008.)
Friday, February 15, 2008:In an effort to streamline the job application process for air traffic controllers, FAA announced establishment of consolidated screening and testing centers to provide one stop shopping for prospective new employees. The first center was set up at the regional FAA office in New York in January 2009. (See March 7, 2007; September 9, 2008.)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008:FAA announced plans to install runway status lights at Los Angeles International Airport. Using a series of red lights embedded in the pavement, the system would warn pilots if it were unsafe to cross over or enter a runway. Under an agreement between FAA and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), pilots would begin testing runway status lights in early 2009. LAWA would fund the system at an estimated cost of $6 million. FAA would install, test, evaluate and maintain the system. (See October 16, 2008.)
Thursday, February 28, 2008:President Bush signed into law legislation extending FAA authorization and the existing aviation excise taxes through June 30, 2008. The legislation, H.R.5270, also renewed FAA’s airports contract spending authority, which had expired at the end of 2007, freeing up Airport Improvement Program dollars. The president signed the legislation one day before the agency’s authorization was due to expire. (See February 14, 2007.)
Thursday, March 6, 2008:FAA initiated an action to collect a $10.2 million civil penalty from Southwest Airlines for operating 46 airplanes without performing mandatory inspections for fuselage fatigue cracking. Subsequently, the airline found that six of the 46 airplanes had fatigue cracks. From June 18, 2006 to March 14, 2007, FAA alleged that Southwest Airlines operated 46 Boeing 737 airplanes on 59,791 flights while failing to comply with a September 8, 2004, airworthiness directive that required repetitive inspections of certain fuselage areas to detect fatigue cracking. FAA alleged that after Southwest Airlines discovered it had failed to accomplish the required repetitive inspections, between March 15, 2007 and March 23, 2007, it continued to operate those same 46 airplanes on an additional 1,451 flights. The amount of the civil penalty reflected the serious nature of those deliberate violations. Southwest Airlines had 30 days from receipt of FAA’s civil penalty letter to respond to the agency. (See March 18, 2008.)
Friday, March 7, 2008:The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced that the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Team of public and private sector groups had been selected as the recipient of the 2007 Robert J. Collier Trophy. The team included the FAA, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association, Cargo Airline Association, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, ITT Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, NASA, MITRE Corporation, UPS, ACSS, among others. NAA formally presented the Collier Trophy on June 12. The Collier Trophy is awarded annually for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America. (See October 2, 2007; November 24, 2008.)
Monday, March 10, 2008:FAA mandated significant upgrades to aircraft cockpit voice and flight data recorders – improvements that would enable investigators to retrieve more data from accidents and incidents requiring investigation. Under the final rule, which affected manufacturers and operators of airplanes and helicopters with 10 or more seats, all voice recorders had to capture the last two hours of cockpit audio instead of the current 15 to 30 minutes. The new rule also required an independent backup power source for the voice recorders to allow continued recording for nine to eleven minutes if all aircraft power sources were lost or interrupted. Voice recorders were required to use solid state technology instead of magnetic tape, a medium shown to be vulnerable to damage and loss of reliability. Airplanes (but not helicopters) operating under Parts 121, 125, or 135 of FAA regulations had to retrofit some equipment by April 7, 2012. The rule also mandated these enhancements on all newly built aircraft and helicopters after April 7, 2010. (See September 26, 2007; October 2, 2007; April 5, 2010.)
Monday, March 10, 2008:Airlines serving Newark Liberty Airport agreed to temporarily cap and spread flights for two years at a level that would allow 30 more flights per day than during the previous summer. The cap, which would apply to both domestic and international flights, would allow an average of 83 flights per hour during peak periods and would go into effect in early May. (See January 14, 2008; April 16, 2008.
Monday, March 10, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced that the Department would move key elements of NextGen – the new satellite-based aviation system designed to enhance efficiency and minimize delays across the nation – from design to delivery in 2008. She said Florida would serve as the test-bed for the new system beginning the summer of 2008, with the introduction of NextGen at Daytona Beach. A new descent technique would also help to save fuel, and reduce noise and emissions in Miami. In addition, Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADSB) technology would help increase the capacity of airspace along Florida’s Gulf Coast by allowing planes to fly more closely together without compromising safety. (See September 26, 2007; May 8, 2008.)
Thursday, March 13, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced the United States and Croatia had concluded an Open Skies agreement that would establish free trade in aviation services between the two countries. Under the new agreement, airlines from both countries would be allowed to select routes and destinations based on consumer demand, without limitations on the number of U.S. or Croatian carriers that could fly between the two countries or the number of flights they could operate. The agreement contained no restrictions on capacity and pricing, and provided opportunities for cooperative marketing arrangements, including code-sharing, between U.S. and Croatian carriers. The agreement offered U.S. cargo carriers special benefits by allowing them to carry air cargo between Croatia and third countries without requiring a stop in the United States. Croatia became the 91st U.S. Open Skies partner. The United States drafted similar agreements with Kenya on May 30, 2008; Laos on October 3, 2008; Armenia on October 7, 2008; and Japan on December 11, 2009. (See February 14, 2008; April 23, 2010.)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008:FAA directed federal aviation inspectors to reconfirm that commercial carriers operating within the United States had complied with all airworthiness directives (ADs). By March 28, 2008, inspectors had to complete review of ten ADs per fleet. In total, they completed a review of ten percent of the directives applicable to a fleet. (See March 6, 2008; April 2, 2008.)
Monday, March 31, 2008:FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) signed an agreement to create an Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) designed to foster a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for the open reporting of safety of flight concerns by FAA employees. Under the ATSAP, all parties would have access to safety information that might not otherwise be obtainable. This information would be analyzed and used to develop skill enhancement or system corrective action to help solve safety issues. The agreement would be in place for 18 months and would begin at several targeted facilities. If both parties determined the program successful after a comprehensive review and evaluation, they would make it a continuing program. (See September 22, 2010.)
Wednesday, April 2, 2008:FAA acting Administrator Robert Sturgell announced that a safety audit had found U.S. air carriers in compliance with 99 percent of the nearly 2,400 airworthiness directives (ADs) sampled by safety inspectors between March 13 and March 28, 2008. Sturgell also announced plans to (1) enable inspectors to raise their concerns quickly and at a higher level; (2) toughen ethical standards for inspectors to prevent conflicts of interest; (3) enhance airline safety by improving the clarity and coordination of directives issued by FAA to air carriers; (4) require reporting of voluntary disclosures to be made by senior airline officials; and (5) speed up the expansion of our comprehensive aviation safety database. The announced actions included:
- Developing a Safety Issues Reporting System (SIRS) to be implemented by April 30, 2008, which would provide employees an additional mechanism to raise safety concerns if they felt they were not receiving the necessary response from supervisory and management personnel.
- Initiating, by June 30, a rulemaking project to address ethics policies that would enhance inspector post-employment restrictions.
- Working with manufacturers and air carriers to develop a system to improve the clarity of ADs to ensure effective implementation by the industry.
- Requiring senior airline officials submit reports detailing compliance deviations under the Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program.
- Accelerating the expansion of the Aviation Safety and Analysis Sharing Program.
- (See March 18, 2008; September 22, 2010.)
Tuesday, April 8, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced the selection of Marie Kennington-Gardiner as director of the New York Integration Office, created as part of a coordinated effort to address chronic aviation delays in the New York region. As the newly appointed aviation “czar,” Kennington-Gardiner would coordinate regional airspace issues and all projects and initiatives addressing problems of congestion and delays in New York. (See December 19, 2007.)
Tuesday, April 8, 2008:FAA announced it had transitioned to a new telecommunications network that would increase network reliability and save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade. The FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) network replaced the legacy telecommunications network known as the Leased Interfacility National Airspace System Communications (LINCS). (See November 2, 1993; December 8, 2009.)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008:The Department of Transportation finalized changes to its so-called bumping rule, which doubled the limit on compensation airlines had to pay passengers involuntarily bumped from their flight. Under the new rule, fliers who were involuntarily bumped would receive up to $400 if rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time or four hours for international flights, and up to $800 if they were not rerouted within that timeframe. The new rule covered flights operated with aircraft seating 30 people or more; the previous rule covered flights with 60 seats or more. In addition, Secretary Peters announced new air traffic measures designed to help cut summer delays. The first involved new and greater flexibility for aircraft to use alternative routes in the sky to avoid severe weather. FAA would also open a second westbound route for aircraft, akin to adding another interstate highway lane in the sky. Peters said improving the passenger experience was central to the Department’s efforts and that she wanted to hear directly from travelers about how they were affected by problems in the air travel industry. She launched a series of Aviation Consumer Forums to hear from consumers and help educate air travelers about their rights and responsibilities. The first Department-hosted forum was scheduled for April 17 in Miami, to be followed by public meetings in Chicago and San Francisco.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008:Under a supplemental rulemaking, the Department of Transportation proposed two market-based options to ease congestion at New York’s LaGuardia Airport that would require a limited number of flights operated by the airlines in a given day, known as slots, to be made available through an auction process. Under the first option, all air carriers would be given up to 20 slots a day for the 10 year life of the rule. Meanwhile, over the next five years, 8 percent of the additional slots currently used by an airline would be made available to any carrier via an auction. An additional 2 percent of the slots would be retired to help cut the record delays at the airport. Proceeds from the auction would be invested in new congestion reduction and capacity improvement initiatives in the New York region. The second option also gave airlines permanent access to up to 20 slots a day for a 10 year period. Beyond those flights, 20 percent of the slots currently used by the airlines would be made available over the next five years to all airlines through an auction. Under this option, the carriers would retain the net proceeds of the auction. (See March 10, 2008; May 18, 2008.)
Friday, April 18, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced measures to improve FAA safety inspection program and minimize travel disruptions caused when airlines abruptly ground aircraft. She created an external review team and tasked them with developing recommendations within 120 days on how FAA could do a better job safeguarding the skies. Team members included J. Randolph Babbitt, William McCabe, Malcolm Sparrow, Ambassador Edward Stimpson, and Carl Vogt. Peters also said FAA would begin implementing a new program to track the inspections and alert key personnel whenever a safety inspection was overdue. FAA would begin requiring senior level officials within the agency’s field offices to be accountable for accepting voluntary safety disclosures from airlines and for revising ethics rules to require a cooling-off period before FAA inspectors could work for an airline they oversaw or interacted with while employed at the agency. In addition, FAA would establish a new National Safety Inspection Review team to conduct focused and comprehensive safety reviews. (See April 2, 2008; September 5, 2008.)
Monday, May 5, 2008:FAA issued an advisory circular (AC 120-96) highlighting the best practices for use by helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) operators in establishing their control centers and training their specialists. (See November 14, 2008.)
Wednesday, May 7, 2008:The Department of Transportation issued a new rule giving people with disabilities additional protections against discrimination when they traveled by air. The rule strengthened the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1990 and extended it to foreign airlines operating a flight that began or ended in the United States. It applied to U.S. air carrier operations worldwide. The new rule also made it easier for passengers to use medical oxygen during flights by requiring airlines to allow the use in the passenger cabin of portable oxygen concentrators that met applicable safety, security, and hazardous materials requirements for safe use aboard aircraft. The Department sought public comment through a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) about whether airlines should be required to provide medical oxygen to passengers upon request. The SNPRM also addressed subjects such as accessibility of airline web sites, automated ticketing kiosks, and in flight entertainment systems. The rule provided greater accommodations for passengers with hearing impairments by requiring airlines to include easy-to-read captions for the hearing-impaired in its safety and informational videos. In addition, airlines had to provide the same information to hearing- and vision-impaired passengers that it provided to other passengers in airport terminals or on the aircraft – such as information on boarding, flight delays, schedule changes, weather conditions at the flight’s destination, connecting gate assignments, checking and claiming of baggage, and emergencies. The rule did not specify how carriers should make this information available to passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. The new rule would be effective in one year to give carriers enough time to implement its provisions.
Thursday, May 8, 2008:FAA announced it had created a new position within the Air Traffic Organization. The new senior vice president for NextGen and Operations Planning, Victoria Cox, managed the organizations she previously managed as the vice president for Operations Planning, as well as the Joint Planning and Development Office. (See October 1, 2007; October 3, 2008.)
Sunday, May 18, 2008:FAA proposed to temporarily limit scheduled flight operations at Newark Liberty International Airport to ease persistent congestion and delays during peak operating hours and to accommodate the projected increase in flight delays during the summer. After evaluating the written comments submitted to the public docket, FAA issued a final order, which took effect on June 20, 2008. (See April 16, 2008; August 5, 2008.)
Thursday, May 29, 2008:Three Iraqi nationals became Baghdad’s first tower-certified air traffic controllers after completing months of rigorous instruction based on international aviation safety standards and overseen by a FAA-led team. At a ceremony on May 29, the Director General of Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority Sabeeh Al Shebany and Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters presented the controllers with their certifications at Baghdad International Airport’s air traffic control facilities.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008:FAA dedicated a new 228-foot-tall airport traffic control tower at the Huntsville International Airport. The facility had become operational at 6 a.m., Sunday, May 4. The $18.5 million tower complex was located one mile south of the previous facility in a gated, fenced complex between the parallel runways. The project consisted of the control tower and a 10,500-square foot base building and included a generator building and parking. The new 800 square foot TRACON more than doubled the size of the old TRACON.
Monday, June 16, 2008:Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell announced the elimination of flight caps at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He said O’Hare had been designated as an International Air Transport Association (IATA) Level 2 airport, a designation that required air carriers to continue providing their schedules six months in advance. In 2004, FAA capped arrivals at O’Hare at 88 during most hours of the day to reduce congestion at the world’s second-busiest airport. (See August 18, 2004; October 30, 2008.)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008:FAA transitioned the traffic flow management system from the Department of Transportation’s John. A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, to its William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ. FAA dedicated the system, which predicts, detects, and handles airspace congestion problems, on August 7, 2008.
Thursday, June 26, 2008:The air traffic control tower at St. Louis Downtown Airport, located in Cahokia, IL, began operations.
Monday, June 30, 2008:Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell and Antonio Tajani, European Commissioner for Transport, European Commission, signed a safety agreement to further enhance safety cooperation. The agreement:
- Provided for reciprocal acceptance of safety findings in aircraft design and manufacturing, continued airworthiness, and repair station oversight;
- Broadened the scope of potential future United States acceptance of European aeronautical products from all member states of the European Union, beyond the current 14 that have individual agreements with the United States;
- Promoted safety and harmonization by providing for regulatory cooperation, particularly in rulemaking, and safety data exchange; and
- Established a bilateral oversight board to manage implementation of the agreement, consult on urgent matters, and provide a forum for discussion of approaches to safety issues.
- The agreement would take effect upon an exchange of diplomatic notes, after each party to the agreement had completed ratification procedures and final arrangements regarding fees and charges.
Friday, July 18, 2008:The engineered materials arresting system installed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, IL, successfully stopped a Mexicana Airlines Airbus A320 aircraft that overran the runway. (See July 17, 2006; January 19, 2010.)
Monday, July 21, 2008:FAA issued a final rule that specified within two years all new transport category aircraft must include technology designed to significantly reduce the risk of center fuel tank fires. In addition, passenger aircraft built after 1991 must be retrofitted with technology designed to keep center fuel tanks from catching fire. The rule did not direct the adoption of specific inerting technology, but established a performance-based set of requirements that set acceptable flammability exposure values in tanks most prone to explosion or required the installation of an ignition mitigation means in an affected fuel tank. The cost of installing the new technology would range from $92,000 to $311,000 per aircraft, depending on its size. The U.S. aircraft to be retrofitted included approximately 2,730 aircraft belonging to the A320 family of 900 airplanes, 50 A330s, 965 Boeing 737s, 60 Boeing 747s, 475 Boeing 757s, 150 Boeing 767s and 130 Boeing 777s. (See December 10, 2007.)
Tuesday, August 5, 2008:Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced plans to hold an auction for the right to operate a single roundtrip flight at Newark Liberty Airport under a five-year lease. Eos Airlines, which had two slots, had filed for bankruptcy leaving FAA with control of the slots. The winner of the auction would be able to operate at Newark daily, arriving at 5:00 to 5:30 pm every day but Monday and Saturday, when the arrival would be from 12:00 to 12:30 pm, and departing daily from 7:30 to 8:00 pm. The funds generated from the auction would be used to reduce delays and enhance capacity at New York-area airports. The terms and conditions of the lease and details of the auction process were made available on FAA’s procurement web site for public comment until August 18. After taking into consideration all comments on both the lease and the auction process, a final notice and invitation to bid would be published August 25 and the auction would take place on September 3. (See May 18, 2008; October 9, 2008.)
Monday, August 25, 2008:The U.S. aviation system received a score of 91 out of 100 in a safety audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency that oversaw international civil aviation. The U.S. score, which was well above the global average of 56, reflected U.S. compliance with over 9,500 international safety standards. FAA led U.S. preparations for the audit, which also included the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The team of ICAO auditors conducted a comprehensive audit of all aspects of civil aviation in the United States, including aircraft operations and airworthiness, accident investigation, navigation services, airports, personnel licensing, and legislation and regulations. ICAO established the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program in 1995 at the urging of the United States. (See July 30, 2010.)
Friday, September 5, 2008:FAA inspectors found an overall compliance rate of 98 percent in more than 5,600 audits of airworthiness directives at U.S. air carriers, acting Administrator Robert Sturgell announced. Alleged noncompliance in the audits fell into five categories: instances where the air carrier could not show compliance with the AD; cases where additional records were needed to prove compliance; cases where the air carrier did the work, but had to apply for an alternate means of compliance approval; situations where the AD work was not done, but the airplane was not flying; and other minor discrepancies not involving ADs. All noncompliance issues were corrected before the airplanes flew again, and FAA was investigating to determine if enforcement actions were warranted. Sturgell also provided a progress report on the safety initiatives announced in April 2008:
- Safety Issues Reporting System — Complete
- Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program Approvals — Complete
- Ethics Policy Enhancement — In progress; proposed rule expected next summer
- Aviation Safety and Analysis Sharing Program expansion — In progress
- Independent Review Team — Complete; with Secretary Peters for review
- Airworthiness Directive Review — In progress
- (See April 18, 2008; September 10, 2008.)