Saturday, June 23, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- June 23



Pay Attention. This isn’t sexy. It isn’t glamourous. This won’t stir your emotions like a political wedge issue is designed to do. It won’t even make polite dinner conversation. No matter how boring, this is merely...incredibly important.

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Jun 23, 1938: President Roosevelt signed the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 into law. Most of its provisions, however, were to become effective 60 days later (see Aug 22, 1938). The law created a new kind of Federal agency--one designed, in the light of the Brownlow Report (see Jan 12, 1937) and court decisions (see June 27, 1935), to keep its functions as the agent of Congress distinct from its functions as the agent of the President. This new Civil Aeronautics Authority was composed of three elements. To perform the quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions of safety and economic regulation, the law created a five-member entity designated the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the same term used to describe the agency as a whole. The law also established an Administrator of the Authority, who was independent of the five-member Authority and had responsibility for the executive and operational functions of the agency. Finally, an Air Safety Board of three members operated independently within the agency and had quasi-judicial powers for investigating accidents, determining their probable cause, and making recommendations for accident prevention. The President appointed all nine of these officials with the concurrence of the Senate. The Administrator, as the agent of the presidential power, could be removed by the President at will, the others only for cause. As assigned to the five-member Authority, safety regulation functions were essentially those previously performed by the Bureau of Air Commerce, but revised and enlarged. Economic regulation was made much more comprehensive and thorough than that authorized by the Air Mail Act of 1934 (see Jun 12, 1934). The Authority was given regulatory powers applying to: air mail rates; airline rates, fares, and routes; and the business practices of airlines--the last involving inspection or regulation of such matters as accounts, records, consolidations, mergers, or other forms of control, and methods of competition. Interstate air carriers were required to obtain from the Authority a certificate of public convenience and necessity permitting them to operate over specified routes. The Administrator's functions under the law were the encouragement of civil aeronautics and commerce, establishment of civil airways, provision and technical improvement of air navigation facilities, and the protection and regulation of air traffic along the airways. Airports were not excluded from the facilities that the Administrator could establish and maintain, as they had been under the Air Commerce Act; however, the Administrator was prohibited from acquiring any airport by purchase or condemnation. The law directed the Administrator to make a field survey of the existing system of airports and to present definite recommendations by Feb 1, 1939, on whether and how the Federal government should participate in the development, operation, or maintenance of a national system of airports. (See Sep 14, 1938.) “

Don Brown
June 23, 2007

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