Term Paper: History of Aviation Safety

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History Of Aviation Safety

Aviation Safety

Aviation Safety History

According to Boeing (2010), approximately six million individuals get on airplanes and arrive safety at their destinations -- every single day. Today, safety is one of the safest ways to travel domestically and internationally. During the 1950s and 1960s, fatal accidents happened approximately once in every 200,000 flights (2010). However, today, "the worldwide safety record is ten times better, with fatal accidents occurring less than once in every 2 million flights" (2010).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a U.S. government agency with the chief responsibility being for the safety of civil aviation. The FAA was founded by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 and was originally called the Federal Aviation Agency. The name officially changed in 1967 (to Administration) when the FAA became a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT) (Wells & Rodrigues 2004). The main functions of the FAA are: 1) to regulate civil aviation in order to promote safety and fulfill the requirements of national defense; 2) to encourage and develop civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology; 3) to develop and operate a common system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft; 4) to perform research and development with respect to the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics; 5) to develop and implement programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation; and, 6) to regulate U.S. commercial space transportation (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

The FAA is responsible for accomplishing a number of activities that are in support of its above-mentioned functions. These activities include: 1) safety regulation; 2) airspace and air traffic management; 3) air navigation facilities; 4) civil aviation abroad; 5) commercial space transportation; 6) research, engineering, and development; and, 7) other programs (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Safety regulation: The FAA issues and ensures that regulations and minimum standards associated to the manufacture, operation, and maintenance of aircraft are carried out as they are meant to be. The FAA is responsible for the rating and certification of airmen and for certification of airports serving air carriers (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Airspace and air traffic management: The FAA's chief purpose is the safe and effective employment of the navigable airspace. The FAA controls a network of airport towers, airplane route traffic control centers, and flight service stations. It creates the air traffic rules, determines the use of airspace, and provides for the security control of air traffic to meet national defense requirements (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Air navigation facilities: The FAA is in charge of constructing and/or installing visual and electronic aids to air navigation, as well as for the maintenance, operation and quality guarantee of those services. "Other systems maintained in support of air navigation and air traffic control include voice/data communications equipment, radar facilities, computer systems, and visual display equipment at flight service stations" (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Civil aviation abroad: The FAA was officially ordered by legislation to encourage aviation safety as well as civil aviation overseas. Activities include swapping aeronautical information with foreign officials; certifying overseas repair shops, airmen, and mechanics; providing technical assistance and training; negotiating bilateral "air-worthiness agreements"; and providing technical statements at international conferences (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Commercial space transportation: The agency controls and encourages the U.S. commercial space transportation industry. "It licenses commercial space launch facilities and private sector launching of space payloads on expendable launch vehicles" (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Research, engineering, and development: The FAA takes part in research, engineering, and development geared at providing the systems and procedures needed for a safe and effective system of air navigation and air traffic control. The agency accomplishes an aero medical research role and supports development of improved aircraft, engines, and equipment (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Other programs: The FAA provides a system for registering aircraft and recording documents affecting title or interest in aircraft and their various parts. Among other activities, the FAA dispenses an aviation insurance program; creates specifications for aeronautical charts; and publishes information on airways and airport services as well as on technical subjects concerning aeronautics (FAA 2010; Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

The aviation safety programs that we have today have roots that go back to the early days of commercial aviation after World War I (Wells & Rodrigues 2004). Pilots coming back home after the war bought surplus aircraft and decided to go into business for themselves.

These happy-go-lucky barnstormers toured the country, putting on shows and giving rides to local townsfolk. By the mid-1920s, uses of aircraft included advertising, aerial photography, crop dusting, and carrying illegal shipments of liquor during prohibition. Initial efforts to establish scheduled passenger service were short-lived, as service catered primarily to wealthy east coast tourists. This service was expensive compared to the country's well-developed rail and water travel networks (Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

Wells and Rodrigues (2004) note that the growth of commercial aviation grew dramatically with the establishment of the U.S. Air Mail Service in the beginning of the 1920s. The Post office Department created regulations that required its pilots be tested and to have a minimum of 500 hours of flying experience (2004). The Post Office scheduled aircraft inspections and pre-emptive maintenance programs for the pilots. These early regulatory requirements improved the safety of air mail planes. In 1924, commercial flyers underwent one fatality every 13,500 miles, while the Air Mail Service had one fatality every 463,000 miles (2004). In the year of 1925, Congress came up with what was called the Air Mail Act of 1925, which gave the Post Office Department the authorization to transfer air mail service to private operators (2004).

Twelve carriers, some of which evolved into today's major airlines, began air mail operations in 1926 and 1927. These carriers offered limited passenger service, which was much less profitable than carrying mail. Initially, air mail contractors were paid a percentage of postage revenues. In 1926, however, an amendment to the Air Mail Act required payment by weight carried. Small independent operators, using Ford and Fokker trimotor airplanes, handled most of the passenger service in the late 1920s, the forerunner's of today's commuter airlines and air taxis (Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

There wasn't a safety federal safety program in existence very early on in the history of commercial and civil aviation; this provoked various states to pass legislation that would demand aircraft licensing and registration. Local governments came up with ordinances regulating flight operations and pilots, creating a melange of safety-related requirements and layers of power (Wells & Rodrigues 2004). There was quite a bit of industry support for federal legislation, but Congress had a lot of difficulty in coming to an agreement on the range and material of a statue until the year 1926, when the Air Commerce Act was passed (2004). The main issues that were discussed by Congress consisted of whether to divide military and civil aviation activities, what responsibilities should be left to state and local governments, and how to provide federal support for airports (2004).

The Department of Commerce was given the authority over aviation with the new law. The chief provisions of the act authorized the regulation of aircraft and pilots in interstate and foreign commerce; provided federal support for charting and light airways, maintaining emergency fields, and making weather information available to pilots; authorized aeronautical research and development programs; and provided for the investigation of aviation accidents. The local governments were left with jurisdiction over airport control (Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

A new Aeronautics Branch, made up of existing offices that were already taking part in aviation activities, was created to ensure the implementation of the new law. The Aeronautics Branch created nine districted offices in order to make sure that inspections and checks were conducted on aircraft, mechanics, facilities, and pilots (Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

District offices also shared licensing and certification responsibilities with the Washington, D.C. office. The basic allocation of responsibilities survives to this day, although the Department of Commerce responsibilities now rest with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its branch, the FAA (Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is a completely independent agency that determines what caused (probable cause) transportation accidents and it also encourages transportation safety through the recommendation process. The NTSB conducts studies concerning safety, evaluates the efficacy of other government agencies' transportation programs, and reviews any appeals of adverse action by the U.S. DOT involving pilot certificates and licenses (Wells & Rodrigues 2004).

In order to help prevent any accidents from occurring, the NTSB creates and issues safety recommendations to other government agencies, industry, and organizations that are in a position to improve transportation safety (Wells & Rodrigues 2004). The recommendations are always based on the NTSB's findings, investigations, and studies (2004).

The beginning of the NTSB can be found by looking at the Air Commerce Act of 1926. In this Act, Congress gives the responsibility of investigating the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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