This Day in FAA History: April 27th

Full FAA Chronology at this link.

19530427: Frederick B. Lee was sworn in as CAA Administrator. He succeeded Charles F. Horne (see May 18, 1951), who resigned on March 6, 1953, because of the change in administration following President Eisenhower’s election. Lee received his A.B. degree from Stanford in 1928 and a law degree from Harvard in 1931. A naval aviator in World War II, he rose to the rank of commander, authored a manual for naval flight instructors, and supervised training in night fighters and torpedo units. He joined CAA in 1946 as Program Planning Officer, was made executive assistant to the Administrator in January 1947, and became Deputy Administrator the same year. He was still Deputy Administrator when nominated on March 11, 1953, to be Administrator. (See December 8, 1955.)
19590427: FAA announced a contract award for development of an air height surveillance radar (AHSR-1) to automatically provide air traffic controllers with information on aircraft altitudes up to a range of 50 nautical miles. This data would add a third dimension to the distance and bearing data provided by radar currently in use. The AHSR-1 would have a three-sided fixed antenna 150 feet in height, with each of the three sides 60 feet wide. FAA completed development and testing of the AHSR-1 during fiscal 1963, but the project was placed on standby as a possible backup system due to a decision to use secondary radar as the primary means of acquiring aircraft height data. (See September 10, 1959.)
19600427: FAA announced a contract with the General Instrument Corporation for 38 radar bright display systems for Air Route Traffic Control Centers. The equipment used a dual purpose scan converter/storage tube to present a brighter display that would help controllers work more efficiently in lighted rooms. FAA and its predecessors had been involved in developing bright displays as early as August 18, 1952, when CAA’s Technical Development and Evaluation Center reported favorably on using storage tube techniques for the purpose. At the time of the 1960 order, bright display units were already in service at 10 ARTCCs and 4 towers. On July 9, 1961, FAA announced an order for 40 more of the systems. (See September 9-13, 1957, July 15, 1968, and April 5, 1988.)
19690427: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the retirement of the two extant X-15 rocket research aircraft. The X-15 had first flown on June 8, 1959; it made its final flight on October 24, 1968. (See October 3, 1967.)
19700427: The Central Flow Control Facility was established at FAA Headquarters as a permanent part of the air traffic control (ATC) system. This facility took over from the air route traffic control centers some of the responsibility for restricting the number of aircraft moving from the control of one center to another. Central Flow Control collected and correlated system-wide air traffic and weather data, using this information to prevent isolated clusters of congestion from disrupting the overall traffic flow. Linked by teletypwriter and telephone to all 21 centers, the facility detected potential trouble spots and suggested to the centers such solutions as flow-control restrictions or rerouting. (See July 29, 1970.)
The centers retained the authority to accept or reject the Central Flow facility’s recommendations, but their decisions were now based on broad information about the overall condition of the ATC system. Lacking such information, the centers had previously tended to be over-defensive. For example, when a buildup of traffic forced one center to restrict the number of incoming aircraft from an adjacent center, the adjacent center might fear an impending traffic buildup in its own area and hence institute restrictions against yet another center. The spreading restrictions could eventually affect Instrument Flight Rules aircraft throughout the ATC system.
During a three-month test beginning in January 1970, the Central Flow facility had proved its worth in reducing delays, and had been invaluable in monitoring and rerouting traffic during the controller “sick-out” strike (see March 25-April 10, 1970).
On July 29, 1970, FAA established the Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center to integrate the functions of the Central Flow Control Facility, Airport Reservation Office, the Air Traffic Service Contingency Command Post, and Central Altitude Reservation Facility. (See December 31, 1983.)
19730427: An FAA rule imposing a virtual ban on civilian supersonic flights over the United States went into effect. The rule, first proposed on April 10, 1970, prohibited any operator of a civil aircraft from exceeding the speed of sound (Mach 1) when flying over the land mass or territorial waters of the United States, except when such operations would not cause a “measurable sonic boom overpressure to reach the surface.” This wording left room for certain authorized operations at the lower end of the supersonic speed range. The rule was not seen as a bar to planned operations of the Anglo-French supersonic transport Concorde, which was expected to fly subsonic over U.S. territorial waters and mainland. (See February 4, 1976.)
19760427: An American Airlines Boeing 727 crashed on landing at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, killing 37 of 88 persons aboard. The accident, the third crash of a jetliner at St. Thomas’s Truman Airport in less than 8 years, revived criticism of the airport as unsafe because of a short runway (4,650 feet), mountainous surroundings, and tricky winds. Later in the year, Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman announced that grants would be provided to assist in building a longer runway.
19920427: FAA announced that its Flight Standards Service was opening a direct computer line to answer questions from the aviation community about regulations and procedures. The action reflected a growing global trend toward use of computer networks for communications. On August 15, 1995, FAA opened a “Headquarters News and Public Affairs Home Page” on the World Wide Web to provide news releases and other information to the media and public, and the Northwest Mountain Region opened a home page on the same day.
19950427: FAA announced an agreement with Loral Corp. on contract modifications regarding air traffic control modernization under the former Advanced Automation System program (see December 13, 1993). Loral would develop and implement the Display System Replacement (DSR), new automated workstations for controllers at en route centers and other key sites. On December 5, 1996, FAA announced that Loral had delivered the first DSR to the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center, ten months ahead of schedule. The April 1995 agreement with Loral also included delivery of the first Tower Control Computer Complex (TCCC), with a future agreement for additional TCCC systems to be negotiated. The TCCC program was subsequently restructured, however, to provide modular upgrades to towers on an “as needed” basis.
20010427: FAA prohibited U.S. operators of Boeing 737 aircraft from running center wing tank fuel pumps unless the quantity of fuel exceeded a specified minimum level. The Airworthiness Directive was one of many FAA initiatives to enhance fuel tank safety. (See February 22, 2000; May 7, 2001.)
20020427: A new terminal radar control facility (TRACON) began providing air traffic approach and departure control for the entire St. Louis metropolitan area. Airport traffic control tower facilities supported by the new TRACON included St. Louis Lambert International Airport (St. Louis); Spirit of St. Louis Airport; (Chesterfield, Missouri); St. Louis Regional Airport (Alton, Illinois); St. Louis Downtown Airport (Cahokia, Illinois); and Scott Mid-America Airport (Belleville, Illinois), a joint-use facility also responsible for directing air traffic for Scott Air Force Base.
20090427: FAA announced a bilateral aviation safety agreement between the United States and Japan that allowed for the reciprocal certification of aircraft and aviation products. (See November 2007.)
20130427: After Congressional action, FAA suspended all employee furloughs. A typo in the legislation delayed getting the bill to the President, but President Obama signed it on May 1. The law allowed FAA to move as much as $253 million within its budget to end furloughs and gave the agency enough flexibility to cancel the planned June 15 closing of 149 small airport control towers operated by contractors. (See April 24, 2013; May 9, 2013.)
20170427: FAA published more than 200 facility maps to streamline the commercial drone authorization process. The maps depicted areas and altitudes near airports where an unmanned aerial system (UAS) could operate safely. Drone operators still needed FAA authorization to fly in those areas. This marked a key first step as FAA and industry worked together to automate the airspace authorization process. The maps helped drone operators improve the quality of their Part 107 airspace authorization requests and helped FAA process the requests more quickly. (See December 28, 2016; June 21, 2017.)
20200427: Effective this date, FAA required air carriers conducting domestic, flag, and supplemental operations to provide new-hire pilots with an opportunity to observe flight operations and become familiar with procedures before serving as a flightcrew member in operations; to revise the upgrade curriculum; and to provide leadership and command and mentoring training for all pilots in command. (See October 7, 2016.)