This Day in FAA History: January 28th

Full FAA Chronology at this link.

19660128: FAA published a rule requiring a life preserver or some other approved flotation device for each occupant of large aircraft used by air carriers or other commercial operators in all overwater operations. The compliance deadline was March 1, 1967, subsequently extended to September 1, 1967. Such devices had already been required for operations of large aircraft conducted over water at a horizontal distance of more than 50 miles from the nearest shoreline. (See January 4, 1965.)
19750128: The Secretary’s Task Force on the FAA Safety Mission convened to examine FAA’s organizational structure, management, and performance on safety issues. Secretary Claude S. Brinegar had appointed this special ten-person panel in response to criticism of FAA on such matters as the crash of TWA Flight 514 and the DC-10 cargo door problem (see December 1 and December 27, 1974). The task force was headed by Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Environment, Safety, and Consumer Affairs. (See April 8 and April 30, 1975.)
19820128: FAA released a National Airspace System Plan (NAS Plan or NASP), a comprehensive 20- year blueprint for modernizing the nation’s air traffic control and air navigation system. The 450-page document had been printed the previous month and bore the date December 1981. It spelled out specific improvements to be made to facilities and equipment to meet the projected demands of air transportation. Key elements of the plan included
* Computers: FAA would first replace the IBM 9020 computers at the air route traffic control centers with more powerful computers that could use the existing programs or “software packages.” The agency would then proceed with development of new software as well as new consoles and displays known as “sector suites.” (See August 30, 1982.)
* Facility consolidation: air route traffic control centers and terminal radar control rooms would be consolidated from approximately 200 into about 60 by the year 2,000 (see March 22, 1983). Flight service stations would be consolidated from about 300 into 61 automated facilities. (See October 2, 1981.)
* Radars: a new secondary radar system would interrogate aircraft transponders on an individual basis, paving the way for automatic “data link” air-ground communications. This Mode S equipment (“S” for “selective address”), in combination with a new generation of Doppler weather radar, would also permit the replacement of the existing primary en route radar system. Primary radar would be retained in terminal areas, however, and be improved with the addition of a separate weather channel. (See October 5, 1984.)
* Weather services: were to be upgraded by such means as direct pilot access to computer weather data via remote terminals or touchtone telephones (see March 14, 1984). Automated sensors at airports would generate radio broadcasts on surface conditions, improving safety and allowing lower weather minimums for landing (see January 26, 1983).
* The Microwave Landing System (MLS): full production procurement was to be initiated in fiscal 1983, with over 1,250 to be in place before century’s end (see April 19, 1978 and January 12, 1984). FAA expected the new equipment to provide precision guidance over a much broader area than the existing Instrument Landing Systems, thus allowing greater operational flexibility.
Following the publication of this initial NAS Plan, FAA issued updated editions annually (see February 8, 1991).
19860128: The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. The accident killed all seven persons aboard and dealt a severe blow to the U.S. space program. No further shuttle flights took place until September 29, 1988.
19870128: Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole announced a three-part effort to help reduce airline delays. The initiative included: a proposal to grant immunity to the airlines to permit them to conduct joint discussion aimed at adjusting schedules; an investigation to determine if and how airline scheduling processes contributed to delays; and a series of FAA actions to increase system capacity and efficiency. Those FAA steps included the use of computer traffic models to help airlines adjust schedules, a realignment of the air traffic control sectors in the New York/Boston corridor, a review of air traffic procedures on a facility-by-facility basis, and the transfer of additional controllers to the busiest facilities.
19990128: FAA ordered inspections of wiring and insulation in the cockpit and cabin on the entire U.S. commercial fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-11s. The Airworthiness Directive was under development even prior to the January 11 recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board on MD-11 wiring. It also followed discussions with the Canadian Transportation Safety Board and NTSB, which resulted in a December 22, 1998, Canadian Transportation Safety Board safety advisory letter suggesting a closer look at the wiring in the MD-11 fleet. Several MD-11s were examined as part of the Swissair accident investigation. Based on the wiring discrepancies found, the directive required U.S. operators to perform the inspections, and make any necessary repairs, within 60 days and report findings to the FAA. (See December 9, 1998; April 20, 1999.)
20040128: FAA Administrator Marion Blakey dedicated a new FAA Center of Excellence, the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction. (See September 23, 1997; August 18, 2010.)
20080128: 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.
20170128: FAA and the City of Santa Monica, CA, announced a settlement agreement to resolve longstanding litigation over the future of Santa Monica Airport. The agreement required the city to maintain continuous and stable operation of the airport for 12 years, until December 31, 2028, and after that the city had the right to close the airport. In recognition of the city’s authority to make decisions regarding land use, the agreement allowed Santa Monica to shorten the airport’s single runway to 3,500 feet from its then current length of 4,973 feet. The city obligated to enter into leases with private aeronautical service providers to ensure continuity of those services until the runway was shortened and it decided to provide such services on its own. (See December 13, 2016; June 12, 2018.)