This Day in FAA History: January 31st

Full FAA Chronology at this link.

19280131: The Aeronautics Branch’s Domestic Air News reported an early instance of airplane noise nuisance. The proprietor of the Cackle Corner Poultry Farm, Garrettsville, Ohio, complained to the Postmaster General that low-flying planes were disrupting egg production. The Postmaster General forwarded the letter to National Air Transport, Inc., the private company operating the New York-Chicago air mail route, suggesting it make a special effort to maintain altitude over Garrettsville.
19410131: CAA established a Standardization Center at Houston, Tex., to promote uniformity in the agency’s inspection and instruction methods and in examinations for all types of pilot certificates. The Center provided mandatory refresher courses for all flight and inspecting personnel, as well as required classes for new employees before they went to their regular post of duty. With the outbreak of war, the center expanded its regular program to instruct multi-engine pilots for ferrying duty with the Army Air Forces. It later also trained flight officers and Link Trainer instructors.
19540131: The Air Navigation Development Board (ANDB) was reconstituted with members from higher levels of Government (see May 23, 1948). The revised Board, chaired by Donald A. Quarles, Assistant Secretary of Defense (R. & D.), included: an Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (R. & D.); and a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army (see October 29, 1957). During its first meeting, the ANDB established a committee to study the military tactical air navigation system (TACAN) and the civilian very high frequency omnidirectional range/distance measuring equipment (VOR/DME) to determine which system offered the most benefits for the development of a common system of air navigation (see January 14, 1955). The committee consisted of representatives from all the military agencies, the Departments of Commerce and Defense, the National Business Aircraft Association, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and was chaired by Milton W. Arnold of the Air Transport Association.
19580131: The United States successfully launched Explorer I, the first U.S. earth satellite. (See October 4, 1957.)
19620131: FAA began using semiautomatic flight inspection (SAFI) equipment for all-weather flight inspection at high altitudes, initially on a limited basis. By the end of fiscal 1963, SAFI-equipped aircraft performed almost all inspections of those air navigation facilities in the 48 contiguous states used purely for en route navigation. (As the dependability of the en route system became established, the SAFI program was reduced until by 1990 it was conducted by a single aircraft.)
Meanwhile, an Executive Order of August 28, 1962, formally authorized the transfer of flight inspection responsibilities from the Defense Department to FAA, as planned under Project Friendship (see October 7, 1959). This process had already begun during the first half of calendar 1961, when FAA had undertaken flight inspection for the Army and Navy, initially on reimbursable basis. During fiscal 1963, the agency also took over routine inspection of air navigation aids for the Air Force, although that service retained some flight inspection aircraft of its own (see October 1, 1991). At the end of fiscal 1963, FAA’s worldwide flight inspection fleet consisted of: 55 Douglas DC-3s; 6 DC-4s (C-54s); 8 Convair 240s (T-29s); 5 Convair 440s (C-131s); 2 Boeing 707s (KC-135s); 4 Lockheed 749 Constellations; and one Fairchild C-123. (See October 6, 1956, and July 8, 1973.)
19630131: Implementing a Project Searchlight recommendation, FAA began using a new reporting system to provide comprehensive data on circumstances associated with outages of air navigation facilities because of equipment failures. Initially using punchcard accounting machinery to obtain data summaries from some 30,000 reports per month, FAA early began to convert the system to a computer. Analyses of the data identified equipment deficiencies, established the basis for equipment modifications, provided a means of evaluating cost-benefit ratios for facility and equipment proposals, and led to an improvement in maintenance productivity. (See August 1, 1960.)
19660131: FAA and the Department of Defense signed an agreement on development of DAIR (direct altitude and identity readout), an automated air traffic control configuration for military facilities and low-density civil terminals. Unlike more sophisticated automated ATC configurations designed to provide alphanumerics, DAIR would employ only numerics. During fiscal 1970, the Air Force contracted for 304 production models of the system, now renamed the AN/TPX-42, and FAA exercised an option to acquire 56 of the systems over a five-year period.
19680131: A group of dissatisfied air traffic controllers in the New York area formed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). By the end of June 1968, PATCO had a national membership of well over 5,000 FAA employees. (See January 17, 1962, and July 3, 1968.)
19690131: Eight U.S. airliners were hijacked to Cuba during the month (see February 21, 1968). In February, FAA created an eight-man Task Force on the Deterrence of Air Piracy that combined a broad spectrum of expertise under the leadership of the Deputy Federal Air Surgeon (see August 3, 1970). Systematic study by the Task Force revealed that a hijacker “profile” could be constructed from behavioral characteristics shared by past perpetrators. When used in conjunction with a magnetometer weapons-screening device developed by the agency, the profile system offered a promising method of preventing potential hijackers from boarding aircraft. On October 15, FAA announced that Eastern Air Lines was using the system at several key locations. By June 15, 1970, four U.S. air carriers were employing the system. (See July 17, 1970.)
19700131: The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) was founded as a trade association of firms producing general aviation aircraft, engines, avionics, and components.
19720131: FAA announced the Executive Development Program to identify and develop individuals in supervisory and managerial positions (GS-14 and -15) who had potential for occupying the agency’s executive positions. On September 17, an initial group of eight candidates began their training.
19730131: Frontier Airlines hired Emily Howell (later Emily Warner) as the first woman member of a flight deck crew on a trunk or regional air carrier since Helen Richey’s brief career with Central Airlines in 1934-35.
19750131: FAA shut down the Fairbanks ARTCC, after 31 years of operation and transferred its functions to the Anchorage ARTCC.
19780131: FAA and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation submitted to Congress a new master plan for the long-delayed modernization of FAA’s 292 flight service stations (FSSs). The plan involved a three-stage process to complete system automation. The first stage involved the installation of semi-automated computer equipment at the 43 busiest stations. The second involved a choice between: the eventual consolidation of all 292 stations into 20 large ones, co-located at the 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs), and modernization of up to 150 of the existing stations at their present sites. The decision on this stage could be postponed until 1982. The third stage would add the capacity for pilot self-briefings, thus completely automating the most important FSS function. FAA estimated that if the FSS system was left unchanged, up to 11,500 specialists would be needed to operate it by 1995, as opposed to only 4,500 in 1978. (See September 1977 and June 1979.)
19830131: FAA published new airworthiness standards for the certification of newly designed helicopters, effective March 2. One important provision required helicopters carrying ten or more passengers to be multi-engine aircraft capable of continued safe flight if one engine failed during climb, cruise, or descent. For helicopters carrying less than ten passengers, the new standards permitted greater flexibility of use. This was achieved by relaxing “height velocity” provisions that had required, in effect, that these aircraft maintain enough altitude and airspeed to allow them to land safety by auto-rotating (the helicopter equivalent of gliding). Other changes dealt with certification for instrument flight rule operations and for flight in icing conditions. The new standards resulted from FAA’s continuing Rotorcraft Regulatory Review Program, begun with a January 5, 1979, invitation for proposals which were subsequently considered at a series of public conferences.
19880131: FAA commissioned its first expanded network version of the Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) at Denver Stapleton airport (see August 2, 1985). A second of the expanded-network systems was commissioned at New Orleans in November 1988. In addition, the agency continued upgrading the standard six-sensor LLWAS units to a version with full microburst detection capability and other improved features. On October 11, 1991, a ceremony at Lexington, Ky., marked the completion of this upgraded LLWAS at all 110 airports designated to receive it.
19920131: Trans World Airlines filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy laws, announcing a plan under which chairman Carl Icahn would lose his controlling interest but continue to head the airline for at least one year. Subsequent events included acquisition of substantial interests in TWA by its employees, and the departure of Icahn in early 1993. TWA became solvent on November 3, 1993, filed again for protection on June 30, 1995, and emerged from its second Chapter 11 reorganization on August 23, 1995.
19940131: Locality pay became effective for Federal workers, who received raises ranging from 6.52 to 3.09 percent. The percentage was determined by location in 27 metropolitan areas, plus a catchall “rest of the U.S.” locality. Certain employees who were already paid at special rates did not receive a raise unless the amount of the locality increase exceeded their pay differential.
20000131: Alaska Air Flight 261, a Boeing MD-83, crashed into the ocean off Point Magu, California, killing all 88 on board. Before the plane suddenly dived 17,900 feet into the water, the crew had reported a stabilizer jammed in a position that pushed the aircraft downward. (See February 10, 2000.) December 10, 2002, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was the loss of airplane pitch control resulting from in-flight failure of the horizontal stabilizer trim system jackscrew assembly’s acme nut thread. The component failed because of excessive wear resulting from Alaska Airlines’ insufficient lubrication of the jackscrew assembly. Contributing to the accident were the carrier’s extended lubrication and end play check intervals, and FAA’s approval of these intervals.
20010131: FAA Administrator Jane Garvey established the terminal business service. The new organization consolidated funding, personnel, planning, and processes in a single organization to provide integrated terminal air traffic control capabilities.
20100131: The FAA released action plans outlining how it planned to implement recommendations from an aviation community task force on modernizing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). The plans were contained in a report issued in response to recommendations made in September by the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force. Responses to the RTCA recommendations focused on improvements in five operational areas: surface, runway access, congested metropolitan airspace (metroplex), cruise, and national airspace system access. They also encompassed two specific NextGen capabilities: automated digital communications and integrated air traffic management. (See September 9, 2009; March 2010.)
20140131: FAA down-graded India’s aviation-safety ranking from Category 1 to Category 2 because of safety deficiencies. The Category 2 rating signified India’s civil aviation safety oversight regime did not comply with ICAO safety standards. It also prohibited any new Indian carriers from starting service to the U.S. and opened up India’s aircraft to additional inspections from FAA. (See September 20, 2013; April 8, 2015.)
20140131: Colorado banned the use of drones in hunting; Montana followed suit in February. Idaho and Wisconsin had already included drones in their current prohibitions against the use of aircraft for hunting. (See January 11, 2014; March 7, 2014.)
20140131: FAA announced Ethiopia had passed the agency’s five-day-long safety audit, allowing the country to keep its Category 1 safety status. (See January 31, 2014; March 7, 2014; February 4, 2015.)
20170131: Elaine Chao became the Secretary of Transportation.
20200131: President Donald Trump issued a proclamation, effective February 2, limiting entry of travelers from the Republic of China into the United State as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Wuhan Province. A second proclamation on January 28 restricted entrance of travelers from Iran into the United States because of a COVID-19 outbreak in that country. As the virus spread to other countries, the President updated the proclamation banning travelers from those countries entry into the United States. U.S. airlines began reducing/cancelling flights into China.
20210131: TSA announced that starting on February 21, it would require travelers to wear face masks when in airports, bus, and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes. On April 30, TSA announced an extension to the face mask requirement, originally set to expire on May 11, through September 13, 2021. On August 20, TSA again extended the requirement to January 21, 2022. (See September 10, 2021).