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.)