Once the ATC system began to recover from the 1981 Professional Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) strike and the demand for services once more began to rise, the FAA seized an opportunity to partner with the private sector for those badly needed services and created the Federal Contract Tower (FCT) program in an attempt to save bundles of cash and manpower.
U.S. military response during the September 11 attacks
Most maintainers believe that the aviation industry focuses on the flight 99.9 percent of the time, allotting the remaining 0.1 percent for the other aviation specialties. While those numbers certainly are exaggerated, the reality is that flight-deck issues receive much more attention than any other. That could be because pilot error is the number-one cause of aircraft accidents today.
The entire air charter industry has been left in the lurch since the FAA initiated enforcement action against AMI over how it was managing its operation.
For some time, the industry speculated that the FAA was looking into the operations of the on-demand charter operators and into the methods used by some Part 135 on-demand carriers and the corporate aircraft often used to provide lift for these operations.
The commission investigating the 9/11 terror attacks is subpoenaing documents it says the FAA has withheld. The documents ostensibly would clear up an apparent conflict on when ATC first notified the North American Aerospace Defense Command that airliners had been hijacked. The FAA testified that Norad was notified almost immediately, but Norad testified it wasn’t notified for 30 minutes.
In the wake of September 11 the FAA has decided to shelve earlier plans to decommission the U.S.-wide network of ATC primary radar installations. Some officials, however, have expressed concern about the increasing–and currently unbudgeted–maintenance needs of radar stations in future years. The fear is that escalating costs to keep primary radars in operation could have a damaging effect on the agency’s NAS modernization plan.
In a September 9 report to the FAA Administrator, the DOT’s inspector general called upon the agency “to reevaluate the costs of Stars [the standard terminal automation and replacement system] and consider other alternatives.”
The chaos that erupted on the morning of September 11 brought a flood of questions. Where were these airplanes coming from? Who was flying them? Why were they crashing into skyscrapers? In short, what on earth was happening?
At 9:25 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, September 11, the Department of Transportation, via the FAA, ordered the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) closed to all civil flights at its 460 controlled and 15,000+ nontower airports. Canada’s Ministry of Transport followed suit within one hour.
As the National Airspace System (NAS) has reopened in phases, so have the Department of Transportation (DOT) and FAA clarified in increments the sequence of grounding actions made in the earliest minutes. FAA reports have narrowed but not eliminated the gap between its official timeline of decisions on September 11, versus third-party reports and observed actions directly from the field.
Ever since the nerve-shattering morning of September 11, the skies over Manhattan have been strangely quiet. At first it was the same sort of silence that settled over the rest of the U.S.–the product of a total operations ban that was the national airspace lockdown.