FAA History: 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012:FAA’s Air Traffic Organization reorganized to simplify management and reporting structures. The changes included a simplified reporting structure under the chief operating officer and his deputy and clarified lines of responsibility and accountability. Safety functions and technical training became part of the new ATO Safety and Technical Training organization. A new Program Management Organization pulled together key acquisition programs into one office. ATO consolidated most nontechnical operational support under Management Services and realigned technical operational mission support under Mission Support Services. (See September 23, 2011.)
Wednesday, January 18, 2012:FAA broke ground for a new $16.4 million, state-of-the-art airport traffic control tower at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. When complete, the new facility will include a 117-foot-tall air traffic control tower topped by a 525-square-foot tower cab. A 7,200-square-foot single-story base building will house training rooms, administrative offices, and equipment rooms. FAA planned to commission the new tower in the spring of 2014. It will replace the existing tower, commissioned in 1970.
Monday, January 23, 2012:Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta helped break ground for a $791 million runway expansion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The project will extend, shift and lengthen Runway 9R/27L from 5,276 feet to 8,000 feet, giving the airport two parallel runways that will increase the airport’s capacity from 84 to 107 flights per hour.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012:New regulations went into effect requiring airlines and ticket agents to include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares and to disclose baggage fees to consumers. The new provisions, part of the airline consumer rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation in April 2011, included requirements allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after making a reservation, if they made it one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date. In addition, airlines had to notify passengers of flight delays of over 30 minutes, as well as flight cancellations and diversions, and they were prohibited from increasing the price of passenger tickets after purchase. (See November 14, 2011; July 24, 2012.)
Monday, January 30, 2012:FAA issued five new orders for ATO’s operational service units – En Route, Terminal, and System Operations that embodied the core principles of the Safety Management System (SMS). SMS integrated safety-related operational processes, procedures, policies and programs, and provided the framework for the ATO to anticipate potential sources of risk so it could act before they can jeopardize safety. (See November 5, 2010.)
Tuesday, February 7, 2012:FAA and airport officials at the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport in Broomfield, CO, dedicated the airport’s new control tower. The $23 million tower replaced one built in 1966.
Friday, February 10, 2012:An Airbus A320 test aircraft made the world’s first four-dimensional, or 4D, trajectory flight as part of a Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) initiative. SESAR, founded by the European Commission, Eurocontrol, Airbus, Honeywell, Indra, NORACON, and Thales, reported that during flight from Toulouse, France, to Stockholm, Sweden, the relevant air navigation service providers and airports successfully exchanged the trajectory information containing current and predicted position.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012:President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 – a four-year reauthorization bill. The law included provisions for:
  • Advancing NextGen – established deadlines for adopting existing NextGen navigation and surveillance technology and mandates development of precision navigational procedures at the nation’s 35 busiest airports by 2015.
  • Enhancing Runway Safety – directed FAA to develop and implement a plan to improve runway safety by reducing the number and severity of runway incursions and requires a plan to develop and install a system to alert pilots and controllers of potential runway incursions.
  • Making Laser Attacks on Aircraft a Federal Crime – made shining a laser pointer at an aircraft a federal crime.
  • Applying Flight and Duty Time Limits to Tail-End Ferry and Maintenance Flights – counted flight segments to reposition aircraft that may be added to the end of a pilot’s duty day toward flight-time limits by including Part 91 flights in flight-time limits under FAR 121.
  • Improving Safety of Lithium Battery Shipments by Air – gave the Department of Transportation the ability to regulate the air transport of lithium metal and lithium ion batteries more stringently than the International Civil Aviation Organization technical instructions.
  • Continuing to Authorize Transpacific Alternate Airports – kept the alternate airfield open on Midway Island, as well as airports in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau.
  • Strengthening Voluntary Aviation Safety Data Protections – enhanced protections for data collected by the Aviation Safety Action Program, the Flight Operations Quality Assurance Program, Line Operation Safety Audits, and Safety Management Systems and voluntarily submitted to FAA by mandating that the data cannot be released to the public unless it is completely de-identified.
  • Studying Feasibility of Installing Flight Deck Doors or Alternatives on All-Cargo Aircraft – took action toward the goal of enhancing all-cargo safety and security by funding studies on the feasibility of adding hardened cockpit doors or alternatives to all-cargo aircraft.
  • Opposing EU Environmental Trading Scheme for Commercial Aviation – made clear Congress’s opinion that the European Union should not extend its emissions-trading proposal to international civil aviation operations without working through the International Civil Aviation Organization.
  • Supporting Critical Aviation Safety Research – directed GAO to study the effectiveness of FAA’s oversight of the use of new technologies to prevent or reduce danger from smoke in the cockpit. Supported weather research on icing, volcanic ash, and wake vortices. Continued authorization for research and development in areas of fire safety, airworthiness, aircraft catastrophic failure prevention, human factors, aeromedical, unmanned aircraft systems, Safety Management Systems, atmospheric hazards, airspace management, propulsion and fuel systems, and alternative jet fuel.
  • Expanding IRA Rollover Options for Airline Employees During Bankruptcy – expanded choices for qualified airline employees who receive payments during airline bankruptcies to allow the funds to be considered an IRA rollover contribution. (See July 23, 2011.)
Tuesday, February 14, 2012:The Federal Communications Commission revoked the conditional approval it gave LightSquared after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said there was no practical way to mitigate the potential GPS interference.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012:FAA contract controllers began controlling aircraft from the Punta Gorda (FL) Airport’s first air traffic control tower. A grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Charlotte County Airport Authority funded the $4 million tower.
Monday, February 27, 2012:FAA proposed raising the qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. Consistent with a mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (see August 1, 2010), the proposed rule would require first officers – also known as co-pilots – to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours of pilot flight time.
Previously, first officers had to hold a commercial pilot certificate, which required 250 hours of flight time. The proposal also would require first officers to have an aircraft type rating, which would involve additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly. Other highlights of the proposed rule included:
  • A requirement for a pilot to have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a pilot in air carrier operations that require an ATP prior to serving as a captain for a U.S. airline.
  • Enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multiengine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.
  • An allowance for pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time, but who have an aviation degree or military pilot experience, to obtain a “restricted privileges” ATP certificate. These pilots could serve only as a first officer, not as a captain. Former military pilots with 750 hours of flight time would be able to apply for an ATP certificate with restricted privileges. Graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program would be able to obtain an ATP with 1,000 hours of flight time, only if they also obtained a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating from a pilot school affiliated with the university or college. (See December 21, 2011.)
Tuesday, March 6, 2012:FAA and the A6 alliance of European air avigation service providers signed a joint statement to work toward an interoperable aviation system. Representatives agreed to create a forum to enhance collaboration on the deployment and implementation of NextGen and the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research, or SESAR, initiative. (See June 18, 2010.)
Wednesday, March 7, 2012:FAA requested public input on the agency’s selection process for six unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test sites, as mandated by Congress under the National Defense Authorization Act and the 2012 FAA reauthorization bill. Specifically, the request for comment asked for input on several important questions, such as public versus private management of the sites, research activities and capabilities of the test areas, the requirements for test site operators, and the geographic and climate factors that should influence site selection.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012:FAA and NATCA announced an extension of the NATCA contract for another four years. The contract was enacted in 2009 and was to expire on October 1. The extension, which did not require a vote of the union’s members, prolonged the agreement to July 1, 2016. (See August 13, 2009.)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012:The Little Rock (AR) Municipal Airport Commission voted to rename the Little Rock National Airport the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field.
Friday, March 23, 2012:Manufacturer Terrafugia flew the first production prototype of its flying car, Transition, from its base in Plattsburgh, NY. The company successfully conducted tests of initial drive and conversion to an aircraft of its two-seat light sport aircraft – designed as a street legal aircraft that can be driven safely on the highway. During the eight-minute flight the aircraft reached an altitude of 1,400 feet. The proof-of-concept Transition took to the skies in 2009 and completed 28 flights. (See June 2010.)
Tuesday, March 27, 2012:President Barack Obama nominated acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to be FAA Administrator for a five-year term. Huerta had been confirmed as the agency’s deputy administrator in June 2010. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing for Huerta on June 21. The hearing, however, was suspended because Senators needed to cast ballots on a bill. The Committee met on July 31and unanimously voted to send the nomination to the full Senate for a vote. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), however, placed a hold on the nomination until after the presidential elections. He lifted the hold once the elections were over. The U.S. Senate confirmed Huerta for a five-year term as FAA Administrator on January 1, 2013. (See December 5, 2011.)
Wednesday, April 4, 2012:FAA announced release of its seventh annual update to the controller workforce plan, which outlined the agency’s strategies to maintain controller staffing levels at air traffic control facilities across the country for the next decade. According to the plan, the FAA had hired more than 7,500 new air traffic controllers in the last five years, and currently employed more controllers than in 2000, even though air traffic has declined 23 percent in the past decade. The FAA planned to hire 6,200 more controllers during the next five years to keep pace with forecast retirements and traffic growth. In the last five years, 3,151 controllers had retired. (See March 7, 2007.)
Monday, April 30, 2012:Delta Airlines announced it had agreed to purchase the ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer, PA, for $150 million. Delta expected to decrease annual fuel expenses by $300 million once the refinery was retrofitted and reopened. Delta was the first airline to run its own refinery.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012:FAA, state, and local officials dedicated a new air traffic control tower at the Abilene (TX) Regional Airport. The 145 foot tower, which replaced the tower commissioned in 1951, cost $9.24 million and included a nearly 400 square foot cab and 9,900 square feet for offices and training and break rooms.
Thursday, May 10, 2012:FAA announced a contract award to ITT Exelis and GE Naverus to help accelerate the development of satellite-based procedures that would allow aircraft to fly more directly to their destinations. Under the $2.77 million contract, ITT Exelis, the prime contractor, and GE Naverus, the sub-contractor, would develop Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approach procedures into five airports: Ted Stevens Anchorage International, James M. Cox Dayton International, Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (Kansas City), General Mitchell International (Milwaukee) and Syracuse Hancock International. (See March 2007.)
Monday, May 14, 2012:FAA announced interim rules that allowed public safety agencies to fly drones weighing as much as 25 pounds without applying for special approval needed under previous regulations. The rule required agencies to show they could operate a drone before getting a FAA permit. Drones had to fly within 400 feet of the ground, remain in sight of the operator, and stay clear of airports. FAA also streamlined its approval process for the special certificates it required for other agencies to fly drones and for flying larger drones. The new application process expedited approvals for time-sensitive emergency missions and included a procedure allowing for applicant appeals if they were denied a permit. (See June 9, 2010.)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012:The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched and, on May 25, became the first U.S. commercial space rocket to dock at the International Space Station. The SpaceX mission, considered to be the first test of NASA’s plan to outsource space missions to privately funded companies, was designed to prove to NASA that the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule could successfully haul cargo, and eventually astronauts, for the space agency. The Dragon capsule returned to earth on May 31. (See November 22, 2010.)
Thursday, May 24, 2012:Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the appointment of the four members of a new committee to advise him on measures to protect the rights of air travelers. The committee members included Lisa Madigan, Illinois attorney general, who chaired the committee; David A. Berg, senior vice president at Airlines for America; Deborah Ale-Flint, director of aviation at Oakland International Airport; and Charles Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Obama on February 14, mandated the establishment of this committee. The law required the Secretary of Transportation to appoint to the committee four members with one representative each of air carriers, airport operators, state or local governments, and nonprofit public interest groups with expertise in consumer protection. According to the law, the committee would terminate on September 30, 2015.
Thursday, June 7, 2012:FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation issued the first experimental permit to allow for rocket-powered testing of a spaceship designed to carry humans. The permit, issued to Mojave, CA-based aerospace development company Scaled Composites, LLC, permitted the firm to begin powered test flights of its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, using its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. The firm was developing and testing the spaceship for Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson, which planned to offer space flights to paying customers in the future. (See December 21, 2008.)
Thursday, June 14, 2012:FAA decommissioned the four-decades-old HOST computer system at the Seattle and Salt Lake City ARTCCs and replaced the system with the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system. ERAM reached its operational readiness date (ORD) at Salt Lake City on March 27 and at Seattle on April 14. ORD signified the commissioning of a new system into the NAS. (See June 18, 2009.)
Monday, June 18, 2012:FAA and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. In addition, the agreement addressed proper protocols for implementation, financial obligations, liability, free exchange of data and information, and other administrative obligations between FAA and NASA. (See November 9, 1999.)
Friday, June 22, 2012:A fire at FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center forced the evacuation of 1,600 people working at the complex. The fire made some traffic flow systems unavailable. Operations resumed at the Center the following Monday, although 230 employees working the Center’s main administrative building had to be relocated. FAA subsequently estimated the fire caused $2.2 million in damages to the facility.
Friday, June 29, 2012:Controllers began work at a temporary tower at East Hampton (NY) Airport. The air traffic controllers directed planes into and out of the general aviation airport between 7 am and 11 pm daily through October. The Town of East Hampton hoped controlled airspace during the busy summer season would mitigate aviation noise, in particular helicopter noise, in the area. The seasonal tower closed at the end of October.
Monday, July 9, 2012:Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta joined federal and local officials in breaking ground for a new air traffic control tower at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) . When completed in late 2015, the new tower will be 221 feet tall with a 650 square-foot controller work area. The project will include a three-story, 44,000 square-foot base building, which will house administrative offices, computer equipment, a backup generator and secure corridors that will allow passengers to transit between terminals without permitting access to the tower. The current tower, which FAA commissioned in 1984, was 190 feet tall and had a 525 square-foot controller work area. Under a partnership with the airport, FAA will pay up to $69.5 million toward the project’s $102 million cost and the airport will pay the additional costs as well as supervise the design and construction work.
Friday, July 13, 2012:FAA proposed a $13.57 million civil penalty against The Boeing Company, the second-largest fine in the agency’s history, for missing a deadline to submit service instructions that would enable airlines to further reduce the risk of fuel tank explosions on more than 380 Boeing jetliners. (See March 2, 2009.)
Wednesday, July 18, 2012:DOT’s Inspector General (IG) testified before the House Subcommittee on Aviation regarding FAA’s Contract Tower Program. Established in 1982, the program oversaw 250 contract towers providing air traffic control services to airports nationwide. The IG testified that contract towers continued to provide safe air traffic services. Those towers had a lower number and rate of reported safety incidents and Agency-identified deficiencies when compared with similar FAA towers. The IG found that the average contract tower cost roughly $1.5 million less to operate annually than a comparable FAA tower, largely due to lower staffing and salary levels. However, the IG noted that FAA could improve its oversight of the program by implementing a voluntary safety incident reporting program at contract towers, reviewing labor hours worked to ensure contract compliance, and implementing processes to regularly evaluate contract towers as required by Congress. (See February 2, 1994.)
Tuesday, July 24, 2012:Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in favor of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Spirit Airlines, Inc. v. United States Department of Transportation. Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air, and Southwest Airlines challenged portions of the Department of Transportation’s April 2011 air passenger consumer protection rule requiring airlines and ticket agents to include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares, hold reservations without payment or penalty for 24 hours after the reservation was made, and prohibit post purchase baggage price increases after the initial ticket sale. The court ruled it reasonable for DOT to require airlines to add government fees and taxes to the base fare and disclose those as a total price, prominently displayed to prevent confusion over the total cost of their travel. Further, the court concluded that the rule properly regulated airline cancellation policies because existing airline cancellation and refund practices were deceptive and unfair, and that the regulation was allowed under DOT’s statute that targeted unfair and deceptive practices. Finally, the court ruled that it was reasonable for DOT to conclude that increasing the prices for baggage after the purchase of a ticket amounted to an unfair consumer practice. (See January 24, 2012.)
Friday, August 3, 2012:President Obama signed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which expanded the rights of general aviation pilots facing potential penalties from FAA. The bill required FAA to give a pilot under investigation all relevant evidence at least 30 days before a decision to proceed with an enforcement action. FAA also had to provide the pilot access to flight service and tower communications pertinent to the enforcement action.
Monday, August 6, 2012:FAA ATO COO David Grizzle announced Teri Bristol would replace Deputy COO Rick Ducharme upon his retirement on August 31. At the time of the announcement Bristol served as the vice president of ATO’s Technical Operations organization.
Thursday, August 9, 2012:FAA published a notice in the Federal Register asking for comments on its plans to decommission the last of the direction finders (DF) in the U.S. – 29 in Alaska. The agency had decommissioned DFs outside of Alaska in 2007. In the notice, FAA said use of DFs for pilot orientation “has become almost nonexistent.” The Alaska Flight Service Information Area Groups (AFSIAG) had documented eight flight assists involving lost or disoriented pilots over the past eight years. Of those instances, use of DF equipment for flight assists was documented just three times. There have been no documented flight assists with DFs since 2008.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012:FAA issued a “Does Not Exceed (DNE)” determination for the proposed construction of 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. A FAA study determined the proposed construction of the 130 wind turbines, individually and as a group, would have no effect on aeronautical operations. Therefore, the FAA concluded that the project, if constructed as proposed, posed no hazard to air navigation.
Monday, August 27, 2012:FAA announced plans to establish a government-industry group to study the portable electronic devices (PED) policies and procedures aircraft operators used to determine when such devices could be used safely during flight. FAA’s mandate to the study group excluded in-flight use of cell phones. Current FAA regulations required an aircraft operator to determine the radio frequency interference from the devices were not a safety risk before authorizing them for use during certain phases of flight. As the first step in gathering information for the working group, FAA sought public input on the agency’s current PED policies, guidance, and procedures for operators. The Request for Comments appeared in the Federal Register on August 28.
Monday, August 27, 2012:FAA announced the selection of Harris Corp. to develop the National Airspace System (NAS) Voice System (NVS) as a replacement for the 40-year-old legacy system. NVS would support ground-to-ground voice communications between air traffic controllers and air-to-ground voice communications between controllers and aircraft. The FAA planned to deploy NVS in air traffic control towers, terminal and en route facilities, and future NextGen air traffic control facilities. The NVS contract had a five-year base and five two-year options, with a potential total value of $291.6 million. (See February 18, 1997.)
Tuesday, September 11, 2012:FAA and its German counterpart signed a declaration of cooperation to promote, develop, and use sustainable alternative aviation fuels in the United States and Germany. The declaration identified specific areas in which FAA and Germany’s Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, might cooperate, including exchanging information about research results, publications, funded research and development activities, and the sharing of best practices in alternative jet fuel conversion research and development and deployment. In addition, the countries could explore possibilities for cooperation in other areas, such as researching the lifecycle impact of the use of candidate alternative fuels on atmospheric emissions. The declaration also created an umbrella for cooperation between the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) — comprised of several U.S. agencies and aviation industry groups — and its German counterpart, the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy.
Monday, September 18, 2102:FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that, if adopted, would mandate more stringent noise certification standards for helicopters certificated in the United States. The rule would apply to new helicopter type designs and for supplemental type certificates for those new type designs. Helicopters type certificated under the new standard would be designated as a Stage 3 helicopter. The new standards would harmonize U.S. standards with those of ICAO. The public had until November 19, 2012, to comment on the proposed rule.
Thursday, September 20, 2012:Harris Corp. Government Communications Systems announced FAA had selected it to provide Data Communications Integrated Services (DCIS) . With a subcontracting team that included ARINC Inc., GE Aviation, and Thales, Harris would develop DataComm to supplement analog voice-only air-to-ground communications system with a digital system. DataComm would provide a two-way data exchange between controllers and flight crews for clearances, instructions, advisories, requests, and reports. FAA planned to install the system in air traffic control towers by 2016 and in air traffic facilities that managed high-altitude traffic beginning in 2019. The $331 million contract covered seven years, with 10 additional one-year options.
Friday, September 21, 2012:The new air traffic control tower at Missoula International Airport (MT) opened, replacing a tower built in 1961.
Friday, September 28, 2012:FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood dedicated the new $20.5 million air traffic control tower at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in PA. The 118-foot tower, equipped with Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility, provided NextGen-capable air traffic capability for flights within a 57-mile radius of the airport. Air traffic controllers had begun managing flights from the new tower in August.
Friday, September 28, 2012:FAA’s Office of Airports issued an updated Airport Design Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5300-13A, the first major rewrite of the AC in over 20 years. The AC, used by airport operators, airport planners, and engineers, provided guidance and recommendations for the geometric layout and engineering design of runways, taxiways, aprons, and other facilities at civil airports.
Monday, October 1, 2012:A new FAA rule required all pilots to use FAA MedXPress to apply for an Airman Medical Certificate. The electronic system allowed pilots and aviation medical examiners to query the system electronically and determine the status of applications. FAA planned future enhancements to the system to all air traffic control specialists (ATCSs) to use MedXPress.
Friday, October 12, 2012:The Mingo County (WV) Airport Authority held a grand opening ceremony for the new Appalachia Regional Airport. The airport officially opened on June 26 with limited services. The airport consisted of 975 acres of previously mined land donated to the county in 2008 by Alpha Natural Resources. The Airport Authority said a total of $9 million had been invested in the site to date.
Friday, October 12, 2012:FAA approved the type certificate for the Sikorsky S-76D helicopter. Originally announced in 2005, the S-76D featured all-composite main rotor blades, Pratt & Whitney PW210S engines, and Thales TopDeck avionics.
Monday, October 15, 2012:The first air traffic control tower at Hernando County (FL) Airport began operations. The FAA contract operated from 7 am until 10 pm seven days a week. The 82-foot tower cost $2.2 million to construct.
Monday, October 15, 2012:Southwest Airlines announced it had hired former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt as its senior vice president of labor relations. (See December 5, 2011.)
Thursday, October 18, 2012:Officials dedicated a runway extension at the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria (IL) International Airport. A FAA grant paid for the majority of the approximately $950,000 project, which allowed larger turbine powered aircraft to use the airport.
Thursday, October 25, 2012:FAA announced it had begun deploying a new web application that made the process of submitting, reviewing, and issuing Notices to Airmen – or NOTAMS – more efficient and accurate. The e-NOTAM II or ENII tool expedited the time it took to publish a NOTAM. With the new system, it took less than three seconds for a NOTAM to be published once a flight service specialist had reviewed and approved it. Previously, specialists had to copy and paste information from a system that handled requested NOTAMs into a system that issued the NOTAMs. They would then submit the NOTAM to a centralized office for approval and publication. (See May 2010.)
October 29-30, 2012:Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States causing power outages and damage to FAA facilities and equipment. FAA prepared for the storm by pre-positioning restoration assets, readying control facilities, and working with airlines as they cancelled thousands of flights. FAA reported that the storm affected three en route centers, nine TRACONs, 40 control towers, and equipment, including 25 airport surveillance radars, 121 localizers, and 74 very high frequency omni directional range facilities (VORs) with tropical storm force winds, rain, snow, and flooding.
October 2012:Portland, ME-based Elite Airways received FAA Part 121 air carrier certification.
Thursday, November 1, 2012:FAA upgraded Israel to a Category 1 safety rating based on international safety standards set by ICAO. FAA downgraded Israel in 2008 to a category 2, which meant it lacked laws or regulations necessary to oversee airline safety, its civil aviation authority lacked technical expertise or trained personnel, or it was deficient in its record keeping or inspection procedures.
Thursday, November 1, 2012:FAA implemented new wake turbulence categories for aircraft separation standards. Under the re-categorization, aircraft models were placed in one of six categories (labeled A-F) based on considerations other than maximum gross takeoff weight, such as approach speeds, wing characteristics, and lateral control characteristics. FAA split the heavy category (including the “super” Airbus A380) into three wake categories, “A” (super); “B” (upper heavy); and “C” (lower heavy) aircraft. When a lower heavy jet followed an upper heavy jet into an airport, the separation standard remained at four miles. When an upper heavy jet followed a lower heavy jet, the separation could be reduced to three miles. The former method of wake turbulence categorization was based solely on maximum gross takeoff weight. (See November 1, 2010.)
Thursday, November 1, 2012:The Department of Transportation Inspector General (IG) issued a report detailing a range of ethical, personnel, and procurement issues at the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) . MWAA operated two federally owned airports, Reagan National and Dulles International, and had responsibility for managing a two-phased extension of the Silver Line subway. After the IG issued an interim report in May that highlighted systematic procurement and ethical lapses at MWAA, Secretary of Transportation appointed, on July 1, a Federal Accountability Officer to provide MWAA with advice and counsel on improved ethics, procurement, and governance policies. DOT attorney Kimberly Moore served as the accountability officer until Congress established an inspector general position for MWAA. (See June 7, 1987.)
Thursday, November 8, 2012:FAA, airlines, and aviation labor unions announced a partnership with the National Transportation Safety Board to share summarized safety information that could help prevent accidents. The information, shared through an initiative called the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) Executive Board, would help NTSB determine if an accident was a unique event or an indication of systemic risks. The agreement outlined the procedures, guidelines, and roles and responsibilities for the ASIAS Executive Board to address specific written NTSB requests for ASIAS information. ASIAS used aggregate, protected data from industry and government voluntary reporting programs, without identifying the source of the data, to find proactively safety issues, identify safety enhancements, and measure the effectiveness of solutions.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012:FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to tighten requirements for aircraft maintenance outsourcing. Under the proposal, each carrier that contracts out any of its maintenance must have policies and procedures in place to ensure that the contracted maintenance would be performed in accordance with its maintenance program and manual. The requirement would apply to scheduled service carriers under Part 121 regulations, but also to most commuter and on-demand carriers operating under Part 135 regulations. (See June 16, 1999.)
Thursday, November 22, 2012:Dan McKinnon, who helped oversee the deregulation of the U.S. airline industry as the last chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board in the early 1980s, died at the age of 78. In a 1984 speech to the Aero Club of Washington, McKinnon counted among his accomplishments a tough new U.S. policy to negotiate quid pro quos for U.S. aviation interests in bilateral accords; the elimination of antitrust immunity for travel agents to sell airline tickets; and the transfer of the remaining CAB functions to the U.S. Transportation Department. (See December 31, 1984.)
Monday, November 26, 2012:FAA banned the use of Velcro-type straps to secure emergency locator transmitters (ELT) designed and built after November 26, 2012. FAA issued the technical standard order (TSO-C126b) two years after a high-profile crash that killed Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and four others. The ELT aboard the Otter aircraft they were on came loose on impact and detached from the antenna. Rescuers found it on the floor in the back of plane, activated, but unable to transmit because it was no longer connected to the antenna. (See August 9, 2010.)
Tuesday, November 27, 2012:President Obama signed the European Union Emission Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, introduced by Senator John Thune (R-SD), which gave the Secretary of Transportation the authority to ensure that U.S. aircraft operators would not be penalized or harmed by the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS). Under ETS, the European Union could subject all international flights operating to and from the European Union to pay an emissions tax. (See December 16, 2011.)
Wednesday, November 28, 2012:The Consistency of Regulatory Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) charted by FAA on April 30, 2012, issued its final report. Among other things, it concluded that the agency’s Flight Standards Service and Aircraft Certification Service offices should review all guidance documents and interpretations to identify and cancel outdated material, and cross-reference material to the applicable rule. Further, the ARC suggested FAA expand its current aviation safety information management system initiative to consolidate all of the aviation safety organization libraries into a single master electronic resource, organized by rule, to allow users access to relevant rules and all active and superseded guidance material and related documents.
Friday, November 30, 2012:FAA, working with the Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed a new policy for addressing flight attendant workplace safety. While the FAA’s aviation safety regulations took precedence, the agency proposed that OSHA enforce certain occupational safety and health standards currently not covered by FAA oversight. Under the proposal, flight attendants would, for the first time, be able to report workplace injury and illness complaints to OSHA for response and investigation. On December 7, FAA published the proposed policy in the Federal Register and requested comments on that policy by January 7, 2013.
Monday, December 3, 2012:FAA and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced the activation of new technology to help pilots address inclement weather around Montrose Regional Airport in western Colorado. The technology, known as Wide Area Multilateration (WAM), improved safety and efficiency by allowing air traffic controllers to track aircraft in mountainous areas outside radar coverage. The WAM deployment around Montrose was part of the larger Colorado Surveillance Project, a partnership between the FAA and CDOT, which began providing radar-like service to the mountain communities of Craig, Hayden, Steamboat Springs, and Rifle in 2009. The FAA and State of Colorado expected to complete the project by deploying WAM around Durango, Gunnison, and Telluride in summer 2013. (See May 4, 2010.)
Tuesday, December 4, 2012:FAA released a report approving commercial passenger flights at Paine Field south of Everett, WA. FAA began studying the issue in 2008 when Allegiant Air expressed interest in providing regional flights from the airport. In the report, FAA stated that up to 23 daily flights would not significantly increase noise, traffic, or pollution in nearby communities.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012:FAA issued an airworthiness directive ordering airlines to inspect Boeing 787 Dreamliners for improperly installed fuel-line connectors that could result in leaks or fires. Airlines had reported fuel leaks on two in-service 787s, and subsequent inspections by Boeing of jets in service or still in production revealed some fuel line connectors installed incorrectly. Boeing recommended such inspections to 787 customers on November 25; the FAA airworthiness directive made those inspections mandatory. A third aircraft experienced electrical problems after the FAA issued its directive. (See August 26, 2011.)
Thursday, December 6, 2012:FAA lifted its 16-year ban on commercial flights by U.S. carriers to two international airports, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, in Kurdish northern Iraq because of increased stability in the region. FAA banned flights to the region on October 16, 1996 (SFAR No. 77) for safety reasons.
Sunday, December 9, 2012:A Learjet 25 (N345MC) carrying Los Angeles-based Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera crashed in northern Mexico approximately 10 minutes after departing the airport in Monterey, Mexico. Six others, including 2 pilots, were on the plane. There were no survivors. The NTSB assisted in the accident investigation. The 43-year-old aircraft was owned by Starwood Management of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Friday, December 14, 2012:FAA issued a safety directive mandating a three-day deadline for 200 operators of Gulfstream business jets to conduct high-priority inspections and possible fixes of flight-control systems on the aircraft. FAA issued the mandate to avoid grounding Gulfstream 350 and 450 models when it discovered potential problems controlling horizontal stabilizers on the tails of the aircraft.
Friday, December 14, 2012:After an extensive two-year application and development process, FAA awarded Geisinger Life Flight an air carrier certificate. The certificate allowed Geisinger Health System to operate the aircraft assets it leased and owned. In addition, GHS could now employ its own pilots, mechanics, and aviation support personnel a process previously done through contracted air-services vendors. Averaging 2,600 flights per year, Life Flight operated 24-hours a day with a fleet of six twin-engine helicopters from air bases in Danville, State College, Avoca, Williamsport, and Minersville, PA.
Friday, December 14, 2012:FAA and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists leaders signed a new five-year contract covering PASS’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) bargaining units (Technical Operations, Flight Inspection Services and Mission Support Services). The agreement became effective on December 16, 2012. Among other things, the new contract contained a variety of provisions regarding pay, including annual increases each year from 2013 through 2017. The new agreement prevented the agency from reducing pay increases, guaranteed that PASS would have an active role in modernization of the NAS, and required the agency to notify PASS before it explored the contracting out of a bargaining unit function or service that would significantly change the scope of an employee’s work responsibilities.
Friday, December 21, 2012:FAA closed its Center for Management and Executive Leadership in Palm Coast, Florida. FAA’s lease for the facility, under a contract with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Center signed in 1987, expired on August 21. FAA planned to hold management training classes at its aeronautical center in Oklahoma City until it found a new location for the training center. (See March 14, 1986.)
Calendar Year 2012:According to the Netherlands-based Aviation Safety Network, 2012 was the safest year for air travel since 1945. The world’s airlines – including passenger and cargo flights – reported only 23 accidents resulting in 475 fatalities last year, compared with the 10-year average of 34 accidents and 773 fatalities per year. In the U.S., the network’s data base shows only two fatal commercial airline accidents last year, resulting in two deaths.
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.