Friday, July 06, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- July 6

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

” Jul 6, 1936: Federal air traffic control began as the Bureau of Air Commerce took over operation of the three airway traffic control centers at Newark, Chicago, and Cleveland. Up to this time, these centers had been operated by private airline companies (see Dec 1, 1935). The centers were placed under Earl F. Ward, whose appointment as Supervisor, Airway Traffic Control, had been announced on Mar 6, 1936. Ward reported to the chief of the Airline Inspection Service within the Air Regulation Division. When the Bureau assumed control of the centers, it hired fifteen center employees to become the original Federal corps of airway controllers. “

Yes-sir-re-Bob, it’s a banner day for Air Traffic Control. Don’t just take my word for it.

”Jul 6, 1986: President Reagan proclaimed this to be National Air Traffic Control Day in honor of the 50th anniversary of Federal involvement in controlling air traffic (see Jul 6, 1936). FAA personnel throughout the nation observed the occasion with ceremonies and celebrations. “

I must have been off that day. I don’t remember any “ceremonies” or “celebrations.” I do remember getting my butt kicked on a regular basis by the volume of traffic we were working at the time. But before I go off on a tangent...

I think it important to note that “business” asked the “government” to provide this air traffic control service. The operative word below being “uniform.” As in “a uniform system of air traffic control.”

”Nov 12-14, 1935: Representatives of all segments of the aviation community, except manufacturers, met at he Commerce Building in Washington, D.C., with Bureau of Air Commerce officials to discuss airway traffic control. Although the conferees agreed that the Bureau should establish a uniform system of air traffic control, a lack of funding prevented it from assuming control. Director of Air Commerce Vidal convinced the airline operators to establish airway traffic control immediately and promised that in 90 to 120 days the Bureau of Air Commerce would take over the operations. (See Mar 24, 1936.) On Nov 15, Vidal approved an interairline air traffic agreement between carriers flying the Chicago-Cleveland-Newark airway. He also relaxed the general ban on instrument flying by private fliers (see Nov 1, 1935). Those pilots could now fly by instruments if they filed a flight plan with the Bureau of Air Commerce and with at least one airline flying over the route they planned to use. “

”Dec 1, 1935: A consortium of airline companies organized and manned the first airway traffic control center at Newark, N.J. It provided information to airline pilots on the whereabouts of planes other than their own in the Newark vicinity during weather conditions requiring instrument flying. Two additional centers, similarly organized and staffed, opened several months later: Chicago in Apr 1936, Cleveland in Jun 1936. (See Jul 6, 1936, and Nov 12-14, 1935.) “

“Uniform” and “innovative” (or “cutting edge”) don’t actually mix well. It makes it real easy for critics to use the word “antiquated.” While everyone recognizes that the ATC system in New York needs to be modernized, they are reluctant to spend the equivalent funds needed to modernize that ATC system in Montana. Yet, airplanes can only carry so much navigational equipment. And since airplanes that fly in Montana like to fly to New York (and L.A. and Atlanta) that navigation system (and everything else that interacts with ATC) must be “uniform.”

And you thought the personal computer industry had “backwards compatibility” issues.

Don Brown
July 6, 2007

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