MMAC Celebrates 75 Years
Vol.8 Issue 3
Grand Canyon fatal crash that formed the Federal Aviation Agency

Considering historical events that have happened over the past seventy-five years, the Aeronautical Center has had a major impact on the aviation industry. In past issues of this 75th year, we at MONRONeYnews have highlighted topics such as the unfortunate collision of two large aircraft over the Grand Canyon (the catalyst for forming the Federal Aviation Agency); the establishment of the Civil AeroMedical Institute on Center grounds (now known as the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute); the transfer of flight inspection responsibilities from the Department of Defense (DoD) to the Federal Aviation Administration; and the establishment of an Air Traffic Controller Training Council at the FAA Academy, among many other significant aviation-related milestones.

Current aerial view of MMAC with insets of additional buildings and radomes

Today, the Center is home to over 6,300 Federal employees, contractors, and students that work in a wide variety of FAA organizations, performing critical functions that touch every aspect of the National Airspace System (NAS). The mission of the Center is to directly support the safe and efficient operations for our national and international aviation systems and provide competitive business solutions for our customers.

The Center touches every aspect of the nation's airspace system, which, on any given day, has about 45,000 flights in the air carrying 2.9 million passengers going to almost 20,000 different airports. The Center trains aviation safety inspectors who clear aircraft to fly, develops air safety rules and trains flight crews on how to implement them, trains Air Traffic Controllers and trains technicians that work with flight-related navigational aids, radars and communications gear. The center also certifies that pilots and aircrews are fit to fly, registers aircraft, and updates navigational charts used by pilots as they plan and execute their flights.

Taking a glimpse back in time, following are some important events that had an impact on the aviation industry.

Historic DC-3 Flight Inspection Aircraft (N34) flies over Oklahoma City

In December of 1985, an FAA DC-3 (registration number N-34) arrived at Washington National Airport to begin a new career as a flying exhibit. Manufactured in 1945, N-34 had belonged to the Navy before its transfer to FAA in 1963. With many other DC-3s, it performed quality assurance and facility certification checks on the nation's airways before its retirement from this role in September of 1982. N-34 was exhibited at air shows until it retired from active service as a cost saving measure in early 1994.

January 28, 1986 was a sad day for the world as the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. The accident killed all seven persons aboard and dealt a severe blow to the U.S. space program. No further shuttle flights took place until September of 1988.

Beechcraft King Air-used for FAA’s flight inspection fleet, calibrating air navigation and landing aids equipment.

FAA announced the purchase of 19 turboprop Beechcraft Super King Air Model 300 aircraft for its flight inspection fleet in October of 1986. The aircraft were (and still are) used to check the accuracy of air navigation and landing aids. Expected to be more fuel efficient and easier to maintain, the new aircraft replaced a number of Saberliner Model 80s and all five of the agency's Jet Commander Model 1121 aircraft. Delivery began in April of 1988. The purchase was part of a modernization process that reduced the number and types of aircraft that FAA used for flight inspection and for other purposes. At its peak in FY 1964, the agency's total fleet had consisted of 116 aircraft of 24 different types. In FY 1987, the fleet was reduced to 50 aircraft, consisting of 16 types.

The Voyager aircraft, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, during its 1986 round-the-world flight

On December 23rd, 1986, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager became the first aircraft pilots to circle the globe without landing or refueling when their experimental airplane Voyager touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after covering 25,000 miles in nine days. The aircraft had a propeller at each end of its fuselage and was equipped with a main wing nearly 111 feet long as well as a smaller forward wing. Voyager took off on December 14th with 1,200 gallons of fuel and landed with only eight gallons of usable fuel remaining.

On September 1st, 1987 an FAA rule required 12-inch high nationality and registration marks be displayed on all aircraft that penetrate any Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or Defense Early Warning Identification Zone (DEWIZ); that an identification data plate be displayed on the exterior of each U.S.-registered civil aircraft; and that operators of aircraft modified to carry fuel tanks within the passenger or baggage compartment keep a copy of the form authorizing that modification on board. A related rule, issued October 5, 1988, required transponder-equipped aircraft to have their transponders turned on during flights into or out of the United States penetrating an ADIZ. The rule also established flight plan and position report requirements for operations penetrating the ADIZ around the contiguous 48 states. Both rules were a response to concerns raised by the U.S. Customs Service in 1985, and FAA stated that they were actions to combat hazards resulting from airborne drug smuggling.

FAA commissioned the first operational ASR-9 airport surveillance radar in May of 1989. The new radar employed advanced Doppler technology to filter out radar reflection and was capable of detecting a one square meter target at a distance of 60 nautical miles. FAA planned to equip every major airport with an ASR-9, and 121 of them had been commissioned by the end of FY 1996. With the introduction of the ASR-9 radars, the older ASR-7 and -8 units would be used to replace aged ASR-4 and -5 radars.

Thomas P. Stafford Building, erected in 1992.

June 30, 1989: FAA broke ground for its new high technology training complex in Oklahoma City, named after astronaut, General Thomas P. Stafford. The agency dedicated the building's tower cab simulation laboratory on January 25, 1991, and then marked the full opening of the Stafford Building with a ceremony on March 11, 1992.

Concerning computer technology advances, the DOT awarded AT&T a contract under the Office Automation Technology and Services (OATS) program to replace many computer brands and software packages throughout the Department with a standardized system for desktop automation in December of 1989.

On February 25th, 1990, in response to a congressional mandate, prohibition of smoking went into effect on virtually all scheduled U.S. domestic airline flights.

SR-71 lands at Dulles Airport

An SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft landed at Dulles International airport after a record-breaking 68-minute flight from the Pacific coast on March 6th, 1990, and was then retired to the National Air and Space Museum collection.

In May of 1990, the FAA Depot at the Aeronautical Center was renamed the FAA Logistics Center.

FAA dedicated its first childcare center to be built "from the ground up" in a ceremony at the Aeronautical Center on June 13th, 1990.

Of military significance, many of us remember August 2nd, 1990, when Iraq invaded and seized control of Kuwait. President George Bush's response included immediate restrictions on air transportation between the U.S. and Iraq, and these prohibitions were extended to include occupied Kuwait on August 9th. The United States also sent thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield. Among the other effects of the crisis during the rest of 1990 was a dramatic escalation of the rise in jet fuel prices.

A new Air Force One made its maiden voyage in September of 1990. The specially designed Boeing 747, and its identical backup plane, replaced two twenty-year-old Boeing 707s.

Airspace classifications – A, B, C, D, E, and G

In December of 1991, the FAA published a rule to establish six classes of airspace designated by a single letter, in conformance with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The new designations and their equivalents under the existing system were: Class A (Positive Control Area); Class B (Terminal Control Area); Class C (Airport Radar Service Area); Class D (Airport Traffic Area, and Control Zone); Class E (General Controlled Airspace); and Class G (Uncontrolled Airspace). The new system became effective on September 16th, 1993.

The FAA announced a computerized testing system, expected to speed selection of air traffic controller trainees and improve their success rate, as well as strengthen the training program on February 3rd, 1992. Previously, candidates spent their first 9 weeks of employment training and testing and were terminated if they were not successful. The new program took 4.5 days, demonstrated an equivalent ability to predict success, and was conducted before an individual was hired.

On May 4, 1992, in order to facilitate emergency evacuations, FAA published a rule specifying required distances between rows of seats near over-wing exits on airliners. A 20-inch clear path for three-seat exit rows, and a 10-inch clear path for two-seat exit rows. As an alternative, airlines could remove the seat nearest to each over-wing exit and provide two paths that are six inches wide in front of, and behind the seats adjacent to the exit.

On August 12, 1993, the Clinton Administration announced that air traffic controllers fired for participation in the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike in 1981 could apply for reemployment. At the time of the announcement, the FAA had already imposed a hiring freeze because of budget restrictions. The agency estimated that once the freeze ended, it would hire fewer than 200 new controllers per year over the next few years.

Linda H. Daschle became the Deputy Administrator of FAA on November 23rd, 1993. Born in Oklahoma, Daschle began her career as a weather observer for the FAA while attending Kansas State University. During the early 1980's, she became the first woman to direct the Civil Aeronautics Board's Office of Congressional, Community, and Consumer Affairs.

In September of 1994, the FAA issued a warning concerning certain types of child restraint systems (CRSs) that were adequate for use in motor vehicles but not in aircraft. The statement was based on a research report by the agency’s Civil Aeromedical Institute.

In celebration of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center’s 75th Anniversary, this link represents the last in a series of trivia questions featured in our monthly newsletter. Click here to participate in this session.

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