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The Role of the FAA

Introduction:

  • The FAA is responsible for the safety of civil aviation who's history spans nearly a century
  • Their major roles include:
    • Regulating civil aviation to promote safety
    • Encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology
    • Developing and operating a system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft
    • Researching and developing the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics
    • Developing and carrying out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation
    • Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation
  • The FAA maintains several activities through which it exercises its roles

History:

  • During the early years of manned flight, aviation was a free for all because no government body was in place to establish policies or regulate and enforce safety standards. Individuals were free to conduct flights and operate aircraft with no government oversight. Most of the early flights were conducted for sport. Aviation was expensive and became the playground of the wealthy. Since these early airplanes were small, many people doubted their commercial value. One group of individuals believed otherwise and they became the genesis for modern airline travel
  • P. E. Fansler, a Florida businessman living in St. Petersburg, approached Tom Benoist of the Benoist Aircraft Company in St. Louis, Missouri, about starting a flight route from St. Petersburg across the waterway to Tampa. Benoist suggested using his “Safety First” airboat and the two men signed an agreement for what would become the first scheduled airline in the United States. The first aircraft was delivered to St. Petersburg and made the first test flight on December 31, 1913. [Figure 1-4]
  • A public auction decided who would win the honor of becoming the first paying airline customer. The former mayor of St. Petersburg, A. C. Pheil, made the winning bid of $400.00, which secured his place in history as the first paying airline passenger
  • On January 1, 1914, the first scheduled airline flight was conducted. The flight length was 21 miles and lasted 23 minutes due to a headwind. The return trip took 20 minutes. The line, which was subsidized by Florida businessmen, continued for 4 months and offered regular passage for $5.00 per person or $5.00 per 100 pounds of cargo. Shortly after the opening of the line, Benoist added a new airboat that afforded more protection from spray during takeoff and landing. The routes were also extended to Manatee, Bradenton, and Sarasota giving further credence to the idea of a profitable commercial airline
  • The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line continued throughout the winter months with flights finally being suspended when the winter tourist industry began to dry up. The airline operated for only 4 months, but 1,205 passengers were carried without injury. This experiment proved commercial passenger airline travel was viable
  • The advent of World War I offered the airplane a chance to demonstrate its varied capabilities. It began the war as a reconnaissance platform, but by 1918, airplanes were being mass produced to serve as fighters, bombers, trainers, as well as reconnaissance platforms
  • Aviation advocates continued to look for ways to use airplanes. Airmail service was a popular idea, but the war prevented the Postal Service from having access to airplanes. The War Department and Postal Service reached an agreement in 1918. The Army would use the mail service to train its pilots in flying cross-country. The first airmail flight was conducted on May 15, 1918, between New York and Washington, DC. The flight was not considered spectacular; the pilot became lost and landed at the wrong airfield. In August of 1918, the United States Postal Service took control of the airmail routes and brought the existing Army airmail pilots and their planes into the program as postal employees
  • Transcontinental Air Mail Route:

    • Airmail routes continued to expand until the Transcontinental Mail Route was inaugurated. [Figure 1-5] This route spanned from San Francisco to New York for a total distance of 2,612 miles with 13 intermediate stops along the way. [Figure 1-6] On May 20, 1926, Congress passed the Air Commerce Act, which served as the cornerstone for aviation within the United States. This legislation was supported by leaders in the aviation industry who felt that the airplane could not reach its full potential without assistance from the Federal Government in improving safety
    • The Air Commerce Act charged the Secretary of Commerce with fostering air commerce, issuing and enforcing air traffic rules, licensing pilots, certificating aircraft, establishing airways, and operating and maintaining aids to air navigation. The Department of Commerce created a new Aeronautics Branch whose primary mission was to provide oversight for the aviation industry. In addition, the Aeronautics Branch took over the construction and operation of the nation’s system of lighted airways. The Postal Service, as part of the Transcontinental Air Mail Route system, had initiated this system. The Department of Commerce made significant advances in aviation communications, including the introduction of radio beacons as an effective means of navigation
    • Built at intervals of approximately 10 miles apart, the standard beacon tower was 51 feet high, and was topped with a powerful rotating light. Below the rotating light, two course lights pointed forward and back along the airway. The course lights flashed a code to identify the beacon’s number. The tower usually stood in the center of a concrete arrow 70 feet long. A generator shed, where required, stood at the “feather” end of the arrow. [Figure 1-7]
  • Federal Certification of Pilots and Mechanics:

    • The Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce began pilot certification with the first license issued on April 6, 1927. The recipient was the Chief of the Aeronautics Branch, William P. MacCracken, Jr. [Figure 1-8] (Orville Wright, who was no longer an active flier, had declined the honor.) MacCracken’s license was the first issued to a pilot by a civilian agency of the Federal Government. Some 3 months later, the Aeronautics Branch issued the first Federal aircraft mechanic license
    • Equally important for safety was the establishment of a system of certification for aircraft. On March 29, 1927, the Aeronautics Branch issued the first airworthiness type certificate to the Buhl Airster CA-3, a three-place open biplane
    • In 1934, to recognize the tremendous strides made in aviation and to display the enhanced status within the department, the Aeronautics Branch was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce. [Figure 1-9] Within this time frame, the Bureau of Air Commerce brought together a group of airlines and encouraged them to form the first three Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities along the established air routes. Then in 1936, the Bureau of Air Commerce took over the responsibilities of operating the centers and continued to advance the ATC facilities. ATC has come a long way from the early controllers using maps, chalkboards, and performing mental math calculations in order to separate aircraft along flight routes
  • The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938:

    • In 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Act transferred the civil aviation responsibilities to a newly created, independent body, named the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA). This Act empowered the CAA to regulate airfares and establish new routes for the airlines to service
    • President Franklin Roosevelt split the CAA into two agencies—the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). Both agencies were still part of the Department of Commerce but the CAB functioned independently of the Secretary of Commerce. The role of the CAA was to facilitate ATC, certification of airmen and aircraft, rule enforcement, and the development of new airways. The CAB was charged with rule making to enhance safety, accident investigation, and the economic regulation of the airlines. Then in 1946, Congress gave the CAA the responsibility of administering the Federal Aid Airport Program. This program was designed to promote the establishment of civil airports throughout the country
  • The Federal Aviation Act of 1958:

    • By mid-century, air traffic had increased and jet aircraft had been introduced into the civil aviation arena. A series of mid-air collisions underlined the need for more regulation of the aviation industry. Aircraft were not only increasing in numbers, but were now streaking across the skies at much higher speeds. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 established a new independent body that assumed the roles of the CAA and transferred the rule making authority of the CAB to the newly created Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). In addition, the FAA was given complete control of the common civil-military system of air navigation and ATC. The man who was given the honor of being the first Administrator of the FAA was former Air Force General Elwood Richard “Pete” Quesada. He served as the administrator from 1959–1961 [Figure 1-10]
  • Department of Transportation (DOT):

    • On October 15, 1966, Congress established the Department of Transportation (DOT), which was given oversight of the transportation industry within the United States. The result was a combination of both air and surface transportation. Its mission was and is to serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system meeting vital national interests and enhancing the quality of life of the American people, then, now, and into the future. The DOT began operation on April 1, 1967. At this same time, the Federal Aviation Agency was renamed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
    • The role of the CAB was assumed by the newly created National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which was charged with the investigation of all transportation accidents within the United States
    • As aviation continued to grow, the FAA took on additional duties and responsibilities. With the highjacking epidemic of the 1960s, the FAA was responsible for increasing the security duties of aviation both on the ground and in the air. After September 11, 2001, the duties were transferred to a newly created body called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
    • With numerous aircraft flying in and out of larger cities, the FAA began to concentrate on the environmental aspect of aviation by establishing and regulating the noise standards of aircraft. Additionally, in the 1960s and 1970s, the FAA began to regulate high altitude (over 500 feet) kite and balloon flying. In 1970, more duties were assumed by the FAA in the addition of a new federal airport aid program and increased responsibility for airport safety
  • ATC Automation:

    • By the mid-1970s, the FAA had achieved a semi-automated ATC system based on a marriage of radar and computer technology. By automating certain routine tasks, the system allowed controllers to concentrate more efficiently on the vital task of providing aircraft separation. Data appearing directly on the controllers’ scopes provided the identity, altitude, and groundspeed of aircraft carrying radar beacons. Despite its effectiveness, this system required enhancement to keep pace with the increased air traffic of the late 1970s. The increase was due in part to the competitive environment created by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. This law phased out CAB’s economic regulation of the airlines, and CAB ceased to exist at the end of 1984
    • To meet the challenge of traffic growth, the FAA unveiled the National Airspace System (NAS) Plan in January 1982. The new plan called for more advanced systems for en route and terminal ATC, modernized flight service stations, and improvements in ground-to-air surveillance and communication
  • The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) Strike:

    • While preparing the NAS Plan, the FAA faced a strike by key members of its workforce. An earlier period of discord between management and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) culminated in a 1970 “sickout” by 3,000 controllers. Although controllers subsequently gained additional wage and retirement benefits, another period of tension led to an illegal strike in August 1981. The government dismissed over 11,000 strike participants and decertified PATCO. By the spring of 1984, the FAA ended the last of the special restrictions imposed to keep the airspace system operating safely during the strike
  • The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978:

    • Until 1978, the CAB regulated many areas of commercial aviation such as fares, routes, and schedules. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, however, removed many of these controls, thus changing the face of civil aviation in the United States. After deregulation, unfettered free competition ushered in a new era in passenger air travel
    • The CAB had three main functions: to award routes to airlines, to limit the entry of air carriers into new markets, and to regulate fares for passengers. Much of the established practices of commercial passenger travel within the United States went back to the policies of Walter Folger Brown, the United States Postmaster General during the administration of President Herbert Hoover. Brown had changed the mail payments system to encourage the manufacture of passenger aircraft instead of mail-carrying aircraft. His influence was crucial in awarding contracts and helped create four major domestic airlines: United, American, Eastern, and Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). Similarly, Brown had also helped give Pan American a monopoly on international routes
    • The push to deregulate, or at least to reform the existing laws governing passenger carriers, was accelerated by President Jimmy Carter, who appointed economist and former professor Alfred Kahn, a vocal supporter of deregulation, to head the CAB. A second force to deregulate emerged from abroad. In 1977, Freddie Laker, a British entrepreneur who owned Laker Airways, created the Skytrain service, which offered extraordinarily cheap fares for transatlantic flights. Laker’s offerings coincided with a boom in low-cost domestic flights as the CAB eased some limitations on charter flights (i.e., flights offered by companies that do not actually own planes but leased them from the major airlines). The big air carriers responded by proposing their own lower fares. For example, American Airlines, the country’s second largest airline, obtained CAB approval for “SuperSaver” tickets
    • All of these events proved to be favorable for large-scale deregulation. In November 1977, Congress formally deregulated air cargo. In late 1978, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, legislation that had been principally authored by Senators Edward Kennedy and Howard Cannon. [Figure 1-11] There was stiff opposition to the bill—from the major airlines who feared free competition, from labor unions who feared non-union employees, and from safety advocates who feared that safety would be sacrificed. Public support was, however, strong enough to pass the act. The act appeased the major airlines by offering generous subsidies and pleased workers by offering high unemployment benefits if they lost their jobs as a result. The most important effect of the act, whose laws were slowly phased in, was on the passenger market. For the first time in 40 years, airlines could enter the market or (from 1981) expand their routes as they saw fit. Airlines (from 1982) also had full freedom to set their fares. In 1984, the CAB was finally abolished since its primary duty of regulating the airline industry was no longer necessary

FAA Activities:

  • Safety Regulation:

    • Issues and enforces regulations and minimum standards covering manufacturing, operating, and maintaining aircraft
    • Certify airmen and airports that serve air carriers
  • Airspace and Air Traffic Management:

    • The safe and efficient use of navigable airspace is one of our primary objectives. We operate a network of airport towers, air route traffic control centers, and flight service stations. We develop air traffic rules, assign the use of airspace, and control air traffic
  • Air Navigation Facilities:

    • We build or install visual and electronic aids to air navigation. We maintain, operate, and assure the quality of these facilities. We also sustain other systems to support air navigation and air traffic control, including voice and data communications equipment, radar facilities, computer systems, and visual display equipment at flight service stations
  • Civil Aviation Abroad:

    • We promote aviation safety and encourage civil aviation abroad. We exchange aeronautical information with foreign authorities; certify foreign repair shops, airmen, and mechanics; provide technical aid and training; negotiate bilateral airworthiness agreements with other countries; and take part in international conferences
  • Commercial Space Transportation:

    • We regulate and encourage the U.S. commercial space transportation industry. We license commercial space launch facilities and private launches of space payloads on expendable launch vehicles
  • Research, Engineering, and Development:

    • We do research on and develop the systems and procedures we need for a safe and efficient system of air navigation and air traffic control. We help develop better aircraft, engines, and equipment and test or evaluate aviation systems, devices, materials, and procedures. We also do aeromedical research
  • Other Programs:

    • We register aircraft and record documents reflecting title or interest in aircraft and their parts. We administer an aviation insurance program, develop specifications for aeronautical charts, and publish information on airways, airport services, and other technical subjects in aeronautics
  • Organization:

    • An Administrator manages FAA, assisted by a Deputy Administrator. Five Associate Administrators report to the Administrator and direct the line-of-business organizations that carry out the agency's principle functions. The Chief Counsel and nine Assistant Administrators also report to the Administrator. The Assistant Administrators oversee other key programs such as Human Resources, Budget, and System Safety. We also have nine geographical regions and two major centers, the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center and the William J. Hughes Technical Center
Code of Federal Regulations
Figure 1: Code of Federal Regulations

Role of the FAA:

  • The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR):

    • The FAA is empowered by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is the codification of the general and permanent rules published by the executive departments and agencies of the United States Government
      • The regulations are divided into 50 different codes, called Titles, that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation
    • FAA's regulations are listed under Title 14, "Aeronautics and Space," which encompasses all aspects of civil aviation from how to earn a pilot's certificate to maintenance of an aircraft
      • Title 14 CFR Chapter 1, Federal Aviation Administration, is then broken down further [Figure]
    • During flight training, it is helpful for the pilot to become familiar with the parts and subparts that relate to flight training and pilot certification
      • For instance, 14 CFR part 61 pertains to the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors
      • It also defines the eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, and flight proficiency, as well as training and testing requirements for each type of pilot certificate issued
      • 14 CFR part 91 provides guidance in the areas of general flight rules, visual flight rules (VFR), and instrument flight rules (IFR), while 14 CFR part 43 covers aircraft maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations

Primary Locations of the FAA:

  • The FAA headquarters are in Washington, DC, and there are nine regional offices strategically located across the United States
  • Within each region there are several other offices and services provided:
    • Flight Standards Service:

      • Within the FAA, the Flight Standards Service promotes safe air transportation by setting the standards for certification and oversight of airmen, air operators, air agencies, and designees. It also promotes safety of flight of civil aircraft and air commerce by:
        • Accomplishing certification, inspection, surveillance, investigation, and enforcement
        • Setting regulations and standards
        • Managing the system for registration of civil aircraft and all airmen records
      • The focus of interaction between Flight Standards Service and the aviation community/general public is the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)
    • Flight Standards District Office (FSDO):

      • The FAA has approximately 80 FSDOs which provide information and services for the aviation community
      • In addition to accident investigation and the enforcement of aviation regulations, the FSDO is also responsible for the certification and surveillance of air carriers, air operators, flight schools/training centers, and airmen including pilots and flight instructors
        • Each FSDO is staffed by Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs) who play a key role in making the nation’s aviation system safe
    • Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI):

      • The ASIs administer and enforce safety regulations and standards for the production, operation, maintenance, and/ or modification of aircraft used in civil aviation
      • They also specialize in conducting inspections of various aspects of the aviation system, such as aircraft and parts manufacturing, aircraft operation, aircraft airworthiness, and cabin safety
      • The FAA has approximately 3,700 inspectors located in its FSDO offices
      • All questions concerning pilot certification (and/or requests for other aviation information or services) should be directed to the local FSDO
    • FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam):

      • The FAA is dedicated to improving the safety of United States civilian aviation by conveying safety principles and practices through training, outreach, and education
        • The FAASTeam has replaced the Aviation Safety Program (ASP), whose education of airmen on all types of safety subjects successfully reduced accidents
        • Its success led to its demise because the easy-to-fix accident causes have been addressed
        • To take aviation safety one step further, Flight Standards Service created the FAASTeam, which is devoted to reducing aircraft accidents by using a coordinated effort to focus resources on elusive accident causes
      • Each of the FAA’s nine regions has a Regional FAASTeam Office dedicated to this new safety program and managed by the Regional FAASTeam Manager (RFM)
      • The FAASTeam is "teaming" up with individuals and the aviation industry to create a unified effort against accidents and tip the safety culture in the right direction
      • To learn more about this effort to improve aviation safety, to take a course at their online learning center, or to join the FAASTeam, visit their website at www.faasafety.gov
    • Obtaining Assistance from the FAA:

      • Information can be obtained from the FAA by phone, Internet/e-mail, or mail. To talk to the FAA toll-free 24 hours a day, call 1-866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322). To visit the FAA’s website, go to www.faa.gov. Individuals can also e-mail an FAA representative at a local FSDO office by accessing the staff e-mail address available via the “Contact FAA” link at the bottom of the FAA home page. Letters can be sent to:
        • Federal Aviation Administration 800 Independence Ave, SW Washington, DC 20591

Safety Program Airmen Notification System (SPANS):

  • In 2004, the FAA launched the Safety Program Airmen Notification System (SPANS), an online event notification system that provides timely and easy-to-assess seminar and event information notification for airmen. The SPANS system is taking the place of the current paper-based mail system. This provides better service to airmen while reducing costs for the FAA. Anyone can search the SPANS system and register for events. To read more about SPANS, visit www.faasafety.gov/spans

Conclusion:

  • The history of the FAA extends much farther than you will read here

References: