This Day in FAA History: March 31st

Full FAA Chronology at this link.

19310331: A Fokker F-10A operated by Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) crashed near Bazaar, Kans. The accident killed all eight persons aboard, including Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. After an investigation disclosed defective wing construction, the Aeronautics Branch took the F-10A out of passenger service on May 4. Although most of the grounded planes eventually returned to service, the loss of public confidence and the costly periodic inspection required by the Aeronautics Branch led to the demise of the once popular airplane.
19460331: Agreement on certain principles governing Federal-state relationships in aviation law enforcement resulted from meetings of CAA, CAB, and Department of Justice representatives with the National Association of State Aviation Officials. The conferees agreed that CAA would continue to enforce regulations concerning airworthiness of aircraft, competency of airmen, operating standards, and air traffic rules, with the states cooperating in administering punishment for the reckless operation of aircraft in their jurisdictions. States could adopt and enforce their own safety regulations if they were not in conflict with Federal rules (see December 13, 1956). It was also agreed that states could require registration of aircraft provided that the fee was moderate and would be in full substitution for any state, county, and municipal property taxes on the aircraft. State registration of pilots would be permitted if the fee was nominal. CAA reaffirmed its position that it was the states’ function to license airports (see May 21, 1970).
19510331: Pratt & Whitney began flight tests of its new 10,000-pound thrust J57 jet engine, which eventually powered the B-52, YB-60, F-l00, F-l0l, YF-l05A, KC-135, Boeing 707, F4D, and A3D, as well as the Snark missile.
19540331: A team of CAA experts arrived in Formosa (Taiwan) to assist the Nationalist Chinese Government in developing omnirange air routes and in training Chinese personnel to operate and maintain the airways system. Although other CAA missions already operated under Foreign Operations Administration auspices in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Honduras, Italy, Panama, and Turkey, this was the first CAA group to be assigned to the Far East under the FOA’s Technical Cooperation Program.
19560331: The Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) was established as a nonprofit professional organization to promote the advancement of air traffic control. Originally composed only of controllers, ATCA broadened its membership to include governmental agencies, private companies, and other individuals and organizations worldwide.
19650331: Los Angeles Airways became the first helicopter air carrier certificated by FAA to conduct instrument flight rules (IFR) operations. This initial approval was limited to IFR departures from, and approaches to, Los Angeles International Airport. (In April 1950, CAA had authorized the same carrier to fly on instruments at night for periods up to 15 minutes when moving through “smog” in Southern California.)
19710331: The first grant under the Airport Planning Grant Program went to the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission for the development of a statewide comprehensive airport system plan. (See May 21, 1970.)
19760331: Several organizational changes became official this date at the FAA Headquarters. The Office of the Associate Administrator for Airports and the Airports Service were abolished and replaced by the Office of Airport Programs, headed by an assistant administrator who reported directly to the Administrator. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Service was converted to a field element headed by a director who also reported to the Administrator. Finally, the Office of the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety lost its two largest components–the Flight Standards Service and the Civil Aviation Security Service, which now reported directly to the Administrator–and was renamed the Office of Aviation Safety, a small staff unit headed by an assistant administrator who reported to the Administrator. (See November 2, 1978 and June 13, 1979.)
19760331: FAA Deputy Administrator James E. Dow retired after 32 years of Federal service, all with CAA and FAA (see August 9, 1974). Dow had been Deputy or Acting Deputy since July 1973, and had served as Acting Administrator between the tenures of Administrators Butterfield and McLucas. (See March 25, 1975, November 24, 1975, and May 4, 1977.)
19760331: Responding to public and congressional concern about near collisions in the air, Administrator John L. McLucas announced a five-point separation assurance program: continued enhancement of ground-based air traffic control; consideration of increased use of Instrument Flight Rules and radar beacon surveillance; possible additional requirements for carriage of radar beacons (transponders) with altitude reporting capability; development of the Beacon Collision Avoidance System (BCAS); and development of Intermittent Positive Control (IPC), which would allow automatic transmission of collision warnings from ground facilities (see March 4, 1976).
The inclusion of BCAS represented a milestone in the long search for an airborne collision warning device that had been begun by the Air Transport Association in 1955. FAA began participating in 1959 by sponsoring a government-industry advisory group, but by the early 1970s was under fire for failure to achieve prompt deployment of such a system. At congressional request, the agency in 1972 undertook an evaluation of three forms of Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) developed by Honeywell, McDonnell-Douglas, and RCA. Within FAA, however, opinion tended to favor the BCAS system, which made use of radar transponders and was more compatible with the ground-based air traffic control system. On February 9, 1976, McLucas reported to Senator Howard Cannon that, although Honeywell’s system was the best of the three ACAS versions, increased separation assurance could best be achieved by other means, including development of BCAS. (See December 27, 1978.)
19780331: The first ARTS-IIIA, an improved model of the Automated Radar Terminal System III, became operational at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City (see August 10, 1976). Features of the new model included the capacity to track and identify planes not equipped with transponder beacons, and a backup system to maintain alphanumeric tags on controllers’ screens in case of a computer failure in the primary circuits. (See December 1979.)
19840331: Sperry Corporation received a contract to upgrade the En Route Automated Radar Tracking System (EARTS) at the Anchorage, Honolulu, and San Juan Centers, as well as at Nellis Air Force Base (see August 4, 1980). The contractor would provide radar mosaic to allow EARTS controllers to view the best data from multiple radars on a single screen, a capability similar to that available at Centers with NAS En Route Stage A systems. In April 1985, Sperry received another contract to enhance the EARTS facilities by providing confilict alert (see January 9, 1976) and minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) capabilities (see November 5, 1976). FAA accepted delivery of the combined conflict alert/MSAW software package in August 1987. By fiscal year 1991, all the upgraded operational EARTS had been commissioned.
19860331: FAA commissioned the first second-generation common radar digitizer, known as CD-2, for operational use (see April 6, 1979). The first two CD-2s had been delivered to the FAA Academy on February 11, 1983, and the first field delivery took place in May 1984.
19890331: The Acquisition and Materiel Service was retitled the Logistics Service, its name prior to October 29, 1982. (See September 30, 1991.)
19890331: The U.S. licensed commercial space industry made its first launch when Space Service, Inc., sent a scientific payload on a suborbital trip aboard a Starfire rocket. Later in 1989, the first U.S. licensed commercial orbital launch was successfully carried out on August 27 by the McDonnell Douglas corporation, using a Delta I launch vehicle.
19910331: Construction of the Development Demonstration Facility to assess segments of the Advanced Automation System was completed in Gaithersburg, Md. FAA accepted the facility on May 31, and the first operational suitability demonstration began on August 13.
19920331: DOT announced that the United States would explore “open skies” aviation agreements with all European countries willing to allow free access to their markets. In the past, the nation had offered such agreements to only a few of its largest aviation partners. On August 5, DOT established a definition of “open skies” including such points as: (1) open entry on all routes; (2) unrestricted capacity and frequency on all routes; (3) flexibility in setting fares; (4) liberal charter arrangements; (5) liberal cargo arrangements; (6) open code-sharing opportunities; (7) nondiscriminatory operation of and access to computer reservations systems; (8) the ability of carriers to freely enter into commercial transactions related to their flight operations; (9) the right of a carrier to perform its own ground handling in the other country; (10) no restrictions on converting earnings into hard currency or returning earnings to homelands; and (11) the right to operate between any U.S. airport and any point in the European country without restriction. (See September 4, 1992.)
19950331: FAA announced its first certification of an aircraft type designed and manufactured in the People’s Republic of China, the Model Y-12 Harbin. During the 1980s, FAA had provided certification expertise to Chinese authorities in connection with McDonnell Douglas’ manufacture of aircraft in China. The United States and China had concluded a bilateral airworthiness agreement on October 14, 1991, and a later expansion of this agreement permitted U.S. acceptance of small aircraft, such as the Y-12 Harbin, and certain aircraft components. (See March 15, 1986.)
19960331: Effective this date, the following functions were transferred from the Office of Public Affairs to the organization of the Associate Administrator for Administration: the Freedom of Information Act program; the audiovisual function; and the agency history program.
19990331: FAA announced plans to purchase more than 150 additional security devices for the nation’s airports, continuing to implement a recommendation by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. The purchase of 21 FAA-certified explosives detection systems and 135 trace explosives detection devices added to the multi-year deployment of innovative security equipment. Purchases to date included 95 FAA-certified explosives detection systems, 20 automated dual-energy X-ray machines, two quadrapole resonance devices, and 462 trace explosives detection devices. The trace explosives detectors were being deployed primarily at airport security checkpoints for screening carry-on bags. The other machines were bulk explosives detectors used to examine checked baggage. (See November 23, 1998; April 15, 1999.)
20020331: FAA awarded a $26 million follow-on contract to Harris Corporation to maintain and support the Weather and Radar Processor (WARP). Under the original contract, a $72.5 million design and development award given to Harris in July 1996, FAA tasked the firm to develop, procure, install, and support 24 WARP systems at FAA air route traffic control centers and the Air Traffic Control System Command Center. The follow-on contract covered general support and hardware and software maintenance through September 2004. Future awards and options could increase the overall contract value to more than $125 million by 2004. (See February 28 2002; May 2002.)
20060331: A U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission judge ruled that controllers fired by President Reagan after the 1981 strike could proceed with a class action suit against FAA. Specifically, they could argue that age discrimination had prevented their rehiring. In the suit, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) said FAA had not hired any PATCO controllers since 1999. Other discriminatory practices listed by PATCO included the use of separate applicant pools, and hiring quotas for PATCO members.
20070331: FAA selected Naverus Inc., as the first FAA-approved Required Navigation Performance (RNP) consultant to help airlines qualify to fly RNP procedures in the U.S. Intending to accelerate the transition from ground-based to satellite-based navigation, the agency had decided to allow third parties to become involved. Broadening the use of RNP would allow minimums to be lower than otherwise possible during instrument approaches and would eventually allow reduced separation of aircraft. Naverus would advise airlines on how to qualify to fly RNP procedures, as outlined in FAA Advisory Circular 90-101. (See July 2006.)
20080331: 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.)
20100331: FAA issued an updated version of the NextGen Implementation Plan. The Plan expanded upon earlier efforts by including information on the potential effects the future air traffic control system could have upon airports, the environment, and international initiatives. (See January 31, 2010.)
20100331: FAA granted a type certificate to the Cessna Citation CJ4 after a 22-month flight-test program.
20150331: A pilot program that allowed people to use an automated complaint system for reporting helicopter noise to FAA began operating. FAA hoped the collected data collected would help “identify patterns and trends in helicopter operations, improve an understanding of community reaction to helicopter noise, and inform future efforts to develop and implement noise abatement measures.” FAA contracted with Brüeil & Kjaer to operate the system, which was funded through March 2016.
20200331: FAA issued a policy statement regarding the use of real-time and recorded video to perform prototype conformity inspections, engineering and ground tests, engineering compliance inspections, production conformity inspections, and inspections for issuing 8130-3s, or airworthiness approval tags. Applicants that wanted to use remote technology had to work with their local aircraft certification office and incorporate specific details in certification, engineering test, or conformity inspection plans. Production-approval holders that used remote technology for 8180-3 inspections had to have the procedures in their quality systems. Organization designation authorization holders could also incorporate remote inspections into their programs.
20220331: Steve Dickson resigned as FAA Administrator. Billy Nolen, the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, became acting administrator. (See August 12, 2019; July 6, 2022; March 31, 2023.)