Friday, November 09, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- November 9



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

”Nov 9-10, 1965: New York's La Guardia and John F. Kennedy airports were forced to shut down when the overloading of a switch at an electrical generating plant in Ontario, Canada, set off a chain reaction that caused a massive power failure in the northeast, blacking out for 13 hours or longer an 80,000-squaremile area. The power failure hit during the evening rush hour, but several factors combined to head off disaster: clear weather, a moonlit night, and the fact that FAA's air route traffic control centers in the blacked out area continued to operate. Relying on secondary commercial suppliers, the ARTCCs guided aircraft to Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, and other airports not affected by the failure.

Prior to the blackout, the agency had believed that a standby engine generator was not as desirable as a second source of commercial power when two or more such sources were available, for the simultaneous loss of multiple sources was considered highly improbable. The power failure, however, demonstrated the need for generators at individual facilities. On Mar 2, 1966, FAA announced a program to install standby engine generators to power essential services at 50 airports in the contiguous United States. The 50 airports, chosen on the basis of their activity and location, would receive standby engine generators capable of powering a control tower, airport surveillance radar, approach-light system, instrument landing system, and runway lights on the primary runway.

The following year, FAA began planning a similar program for the air route traffic control centers. Over the past three years, ARTCCs had suffered more than 1,300 power failures lasting long enough to impair the operational use of critical equipment. Recognizing that power loss would be a potentially more serious safety threat in the future due to increased reliance on automation, FAA planned to equip all 20 centers in the contiguous U.S. with adequate auxiliary power sources and uninterruptible power units. (See Jun 27, 1969.) “


Don Brown
November 9, 2007

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