This Day in FAA History: April 17th

Full FAA Chronology at this link.

19340417: As a result of recent developments connected with flying the air mail (see March 10, 1934), the Secretary of War appointed the Baker Committee to report on “the operation of the Army Air Corps and the adequacy and efficiency of its technical flying equipment and training for the performance of its mission in peace and in war.” Named for its chairman, former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, the committee was composed of six civilian and five military members. It was directed to include in its report a study of the proper relationship between the Army and civil aviation. (See July 18, 1934.)
* Contracts were to be awarded for an initial period of one year; if the contractor performed satisfactorily during that time, the contract could be extended indefinitely. Existing three-month contracts could be extended by the Postmaster General for a period or periods not exceeding a total extension of nine months (see March 10, 1934, and August 14, 1935).
* The Interstate Commerce Commission was brought into the administration of air law for the first time. The Commission was required to fix fair and reasonable rates of compensation for each route, within the upper limit prescribed in the act, which linked rates to airplane miles, with a sliding scale of increases based on load. Rates were to be reviewed at least annually. The commission had authority upon 60 days notice and hearing to terminate any contract that had been extended beyond the initial period.
* The Postmaster General and the Interstate Commerce Commission were authorized to regulate the accounting practices of the carriers.
* Air mail contractors were prohibited, after December 31, 1934, from holding an interest in any other aviation enterprise except landing fields and appurtenances thereto. Conversely, other aviation enterprises were prohibited from holding any interest in air mail contracts.
* Contractors were prohibited from employing any person in a managerial capacity who had entered into any unlawful combination to prevent air mail bidding. Each bidder for a contract was required to furnish the Postmaster General a list of all stockholders owning more that 5 percent of the bidder’s capital stock, a financial statement, and, in the case of a corporation, the original amount paid to the corporation for its stock.
* The Secretary of Commerce was to specify the speed, load capacity, and safety features of equipment to be used on each air mail route, and to regulate the hours and benefits of pilots and mechanics.
* The President was authorized to appoint a commission of five members “for the purpose of making an immediate study and survey and to report to Congress not later than February 1, 1935, its recommendations of a broad policy covering all phases of aviation and the relation of the United States thereto.” (See July 11, 1934.)
* The National Labor Board’s Decision 83, which, among other things, set a maximum flying time of 85 hours per month for airline pilots, was imposed on air mail carriers. The Board had handed down Decision 83 on May 10, 1934, but its provisions had not possessed the force of law. Later, the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 applied Decision 83 to all interstate air carriers. (See April 29, 1942).
19600417: FAA announced a contract award totaling nearly $6 million to the MITRE Corporation, Lexington, Mass., for advanced experimentation on automated air traffic control. Work to be performed under the contract included research and experimentation on joint use of military SAGE equipment and facilities for air traffic control, as well as for air defense purposes. FAA and the Air Force would share the cost of the project. (See April 12, 1960, and September 11, 1961.)
19610417: Air traffic control training for a group of military ATC trainees began at FAA’s Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. The purpose of the experimental program was to determine whether FAA, inline with the Project Friendship plan, should eventually assume responsibility for training all military air traffic controllers. (See Oct. 7, 1959, and March 1, 1963.)
19640417: Geraldine (“Jerrie”) Mock completed the first solo flight around the world by a woman. Mock made the 23,103-mile flight in 29 days 11 hours 59 minutes, landing at Port Columbus Airport, Ohio. Later, on April 10, 1966, she set a world nonstop distance record for women of 4,550 miles.
19650417: Homeowners of North Caldwell, N.J., flew war-surplus weather balloons over their homes to protest the noise created by low-flying aircraft using neighboring Caldwell-Wright Airport.
19660417: FAA commissioned the San Juan air route traffic control center’s new building.
19680417: Bonanza Air Lines and West Coast Airlines merged with Pacific Air Lines to form Air West, which was renamed Hughes Air West in July 1970, following its acquisition by Howard Hughes.
19720417: FAA placed the Office of International Aviation Affairs under the direction of the Associate Administrator for Plans, a change made to reduce the number of people reporting directly to the Administrator. In July 1973, however, FAA placed the office under an assistant administrator reporting directly to the Administrator, thus restoring the previous arrangement.
19780417: National Weather Service meteorologists began working at 13 of FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers under a recently signed agreement between the two agencies. At each of those centers, a team of three NWS meteorologists provided information on hazardous weather throughout the day to center controllers, as well as to FAA towers and flight service stations. FAA provided each center with new equipment for receiving data from NWS weather radar and satellites. This new program was part of a general effort to provide pilots with more en route weather information, since the lack of accurate knowledge of hazardous weather, particularly thunderstorms, had been found responsible for several air crashes (see May 19, 1977). NWS meteorologists were already on duty at FAA’s national flow control center in Washington, and by November 1980 they were stationed at all U.S. mainland en route centers.
19850417: FAA published a rule establishing a blood alcohol standard (.04 percent by weight) for determining when drinking had impaired the ability of aircrew members to perform their duties. The new regulation strengthened the existing rule prohibiting anyone from acting as an aircrew member within eight hours of alcohol consumption or while under the influence of alcohol or any drug adversely affecting performance (see December 5, 1970). A related rule published on January 9, 1986, made airmen subject to possible loss or suspension of their licenses if they refused to submit to tests for alcohol given by law enforcement officers under certain conditions. (See February 17, 1987, and March 8, 1990.)
19910417: The Supreme Court ruled that passengers on international flights can not recover damages for purely emotional or mental injuries.
20110417: Administrator Babbitt announced changes to air traffic controller scheduling practices after suspending an air traffic controller the day before for falling asleep while on duty during the midnight shift at the Miami ARTCC. The new scheduling rules included
* Controllers would now have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts. Currently they may have as few as eight.
* Controllers would no longer be able to swap shifts unless they have a minimum of 9 hours off between the last shift they worked and the one they want to begin.
* Controllers would no longer be able to switch to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off.
* FAA managers would schedule their own shifts in a way to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late night hours. (See April 14, 2011; July 1, 2011.)
20180417: Southwest flight 1380, A Boeing 737, en route from New York LaGuardia Airport to Dallas Love Field, suffered an engine failure and made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. One passenger died when an explosion involving the left engine blew out a window and caused the cabin to depressurize. The passenger fatality was the first on a U.S. airline since 2009. (See February 12, 2009.)