|Federal Aviation Administration|
|Seal of the Federal Aviation Administration|
|Flag of the Federal Aviation Administration|
|Formed||August 23, 1958|
|Preceding Agency||Civil Aeronautics Administration|
|Jurisdiction||United States federal government|
|Headquarters||800 Independence Avenue SW Washington DC, 20591
|Annual budget||15.956 billion USD (FY2010)|
|Agency executive||Michael Huerta, Administrator|
|Parent Agency||U.S. Department of Transportation|
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the national aviation authority of the United States of America. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 created the organization under the name "Federal Aviation Agency", and adopted its current name in 1966 when it became a part of the United States Department of Transportation.
The FAA's roles include:
In December 2000, an organization within the FAA called the Air Traffic Organization, or ATO, was set up by presidential executive order. This became the Air Navigation Service Provider for the airspace of the United States and for the New York (Atlantic) and Oakland (Pacific) oceanic areas. It is a full member of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation.
The FAA issues a number of awards to holders of its licenses. Among these are demonstrated proficiencies as an aviation mechanic, a flight instructor, a 50-year aviator, or as a safe pilot. The latter, the FAA "Wings Program", provides a series of three badges for pilots who have undergone several hours of training since their last award. For more information see "FAA Advisory Circular 61-91H".
On March 18, 2008, the FAA ordered its inspectors to reconfirm that airlines are complying with federal rules after revelations that Southwest Airlines flew dozens of aircraft without certain mandatory inspections. The FAA exercises surprise Red Team drills on national airports annually.
The FAA is divided into four "lines of business" (LOB). Each LOB has a specific role within the FAA.
Plans and develops projects involving airports, overseeing their construction and operations. Ensures compliance with federal regulations. 
Primary duty is to safely and efficiently move air traffic within the National Airspace System. ATO employees manage air traffic facilities including Airport Traffic Control Towers (ATCT) and Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities (TRACONs). 
Is responsible for aeronautical certification of personell and aircraft, including pilots, airlines, and mechanics. 
Ensures protection of U.S. assets during the launch or reentry of commercial space vehicles.
From an operational standpoint, the FAA is divided into nine regions plus Headquarters in Washington, DC, the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, and the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. The nine regions are:
The Air Commerce Act of May 20, 1926, is the cornerstone of the federal government's regulation of civil aviation. This landmark legislation was passed at the urging of the aviation industry, whose leaders believed the airplane could not reach its full commercial potential without federal action to improve and maintain safety standards. The Act charged the Secretary of Commerce with fostering air commerce, issuing and enforcing air traffic rules, licensing pilots, certifying aircraft, establishing airways, and operating and maintaining aids to air navigation. The newly created Aeronautics Branch, operating under the Department of Commerce assumed primary responsibility for aviation oversight.
In fulfilling its civil aviation responsibilities, the Department of Commerce initially concentrated on such functions as safety regulations and the certification of pilots and aircraft. It took over the building and operation of the nation's system of lighted airways, a task that had been begun by the Post Office Department. The Department of Commerce improved aeronautical radio communications and introduced radio beacons as an effective aid to air navigation.
The Aeronautics Branch was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1934 to reflect its enhanced status within the Department. As commercial flying increased, the Bureau encouraged a group of airlines to establish the first three centers for providing air traffic control (ATC) along the airways. In 1936, the Bureau itself took over the centers and began to expand the ATC system. The pioneer air traffic controllers used maps, blackboards, and mental calculations to ensure the safe separation of aircraft traveling along designated routes between cities.
In 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Act transferred the federal civil aviation responsibilities from the Commerce Department to a new independent agency, the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The legislation also expanded the government's role by giving them the authority and the power to regulate airline fares and to determine the routes that air carriers would serve.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt split the authority into two agencies in 1940, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). CAA was responsible for ATC, airman and aircraft certification, safety enforcement, and airway development. CAB was entrusted with safety regulation, accident investigation, and economic regulation of the airlines. The CAA was part of the Department of Commerce. The CAB was an independent federal agency.
On the eve of America's entry into World War II, CAA began to extend its ATC responsibilities to takeoff and landing operations at airports. This expanded role eventually became permanent after the war. The application of radar to ATC helped controllers in their drive to keep abreast of the postwar boom in commercial air transportation. In 1946, meanwhile, Congress gave CAA the added task of administering the federal-aid airport program, the first peacetime program of financial assistance aimed exclusively at promoting development of the nation's civil airports.
The approaching era of jet travel, and a series of midair collisions (most notable was the 1956 Grand Canyon mid-air collision), prompted passage of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. This legislation gave the CAA's functions to a new independent body, the Federal Aviation Agency. The act transferred air safety regulation from the CAB to the new FAA, and also gave the FAA sole responsibility for a common civil-military system of air navigation and air traffic control. The FAA's first administrator, Elwood R. Quesada, was a former Air Force general and adviser to President Eisenhower.
The same year witnessed the birth of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), created in the wake of the Soviet launching of the first artificial satellite. NASA assumed NACA's role of aeronautical research while achieving world leadership in space technology and exploration.
In 1967, a new U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) combined major federal responsibilities for air and surface transport. The Federal Aviation Agency's name changed to the Federal Aviation Administration as it became one of several agencies (e.g., Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Commission) within DOT (albeit the largest). The FAA administrator would no longer report directly to the president but would instead report to the Secretary of Transportation. New programs and budget requests would have to be approved by DOT, which would then include these requests in the overall budget and submit it to the president.
At the same time, a new National Transportation Safety Board took over the Civil Aeronautics Board's (CAB) role of investigating and determining the causes of transportation accidents and making recommendations to the secretary of transportation. CAB was merged into DOT with its responsibilities limited to the regulation of commercial airline routes and fares.
The FAA gradually assumed additional functions. The hijacking epidemic of the 1960s had already brought the agency into the field of civil aviation security. In response to the hijackings on September 11, 2001, this responsibility is now primarily taken by the Department of Homeland Security. The FAA became more involved with the environmental aspects of aviation in 1968 when it received the power to set aircraft noise standards. Legislation in 1970 gave the agency management of a new airport aid program and certain added responsibilities for airport safety. During the 1960s and 1970s, the FAA also started to regulate high altitude (over 500 feet) kite and balloon flying.
By the mid-1970s, the agency had achieved a semi-automated air traffic control system using both radar and computer technology. This system required enhancement to keep pace with air traffic growth, however, especially after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 phased out the CAB's economic regulation of the airlines. A nationwide strike by the air traffic controllers union in 1981 forced temporary flight restrictions but failed to shut down the airspace system. During the following year, the agency unveiled a new plan for further automating its air traffic control facilities, but progress proved disappointing. In 1994, the FAA shifted to a more step-by-step approach that has provided controllers with advanced equipment.
In 1979 the Congress authorized the FAA to work with major commercial airports to define noise pollution contours and investigate the feasibility of noise mitigation by residential retrofit programs. Throughout the 1980s these charters were implemented.
In the 1990s, satellite technology received increased emphasis in the FAA's development programs as a means to improvements in communications, navigation, and airspace management. In 1995, the agency assumed responsibility for safety oversight of commercial space transportation, a function begun eleven years before by an office within DOT headquarters. The agency was responsible for the decision to ground flights after the September 11 attacks.
In 2007, two FAA whistleblowers, inspectors Charalambe "Bobby" Boutris and Douglas E. Peters, alleged that Boutris said he attempted to ground Southwest after finding cracks in the fuselage, but was prevented by supervisors he said were friendly with the airline. This was validated by a report by the Department of Transportation which that found FAA managers had allowed Southwest Airlines to fly 46 airplanes in 2006 and 2007 that were overdue for safety inspections, ignoring concerns raised by inspectors. Audits of other airlines resulted in two airlines grounding hundreds of planes, causing thousands of flight cancellations. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held hearings in April 2008. James Oberstar, former chairman of the committee said its investigation uncovered a pattern of regulatory abuse and widespread regulatory lapses, allowing 117 aircraft to be operated commercially although not in compliance with FAA safety rules. Oberstar said there was a "culture of coziness" between senior FAA officials and the airlines and "a systematic breakdown" in the FAA's culture that resulted in "malfeasance, bordering on corruption." In 2008 the FAA proposed to fine Southwest $10.2 million for failing to inspect older planes for cracks, and in 2009 Southwest and the FAA agreed that Southwest would pay a $7.5 million penalty and would adapt new safety procedures, with the fine doubling if Southwest failed to follow through.
The FAA has been cited as an example of regulatory capture, "in which the airline industry openly dictates to its regulators its governing rules, arranging for not only beneficial regulation but placing key people to head these regulators." Retired NASA Office of Inspector General Senior Special Agent Joseph Gutheinz, who formerly was a Special Agent with both the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and FAA Security, is one of the most outspoken critics of FAA. Rather than commend the agency for proposing a 10.2 million dollar fine against Southwest Airlines for its failure to conduct mandatory inspections in 2008, he was quoted as saying the following in an Associated Press story: "Penalties against airlines that violate FAA directives should be stiffer. At $25,000 per violation, (which is how the 10.2 million dollar figure was reached) Gutheinz said, airlines can justify rolling the dice and taking the chance on getting caught. He also said the FAA is often too quick to bend to pressure from airlines and pilots." Other experts have been critical of the constraints and expectations under which the FAA is expected to operate. The dual role of encouraging aerospace travel and regulating aerospace travel are counter intuitive. For example; to levy a heavy penalty upon an airline for violating an FAA regulation which would impact their ability to continue operating would not be considered, encouraging aerospace travel. Risk and safety management author Davic Soucie who served 17 years as a safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration including 4 years in the FAA headquarters office in Washington DC discusses this issue in his book Why Planes Crash - An Accident Investigator's Fight for Safe Skies.
On July 22, 2008, in the aftermath of the Southwest Airlines inspection scandal, a bill was unanimously approved in the House to tighten regulations concerning airplane maintenance procedures, including the establishment of a whistleblower office and a two-year "cooling off" period that FAA inspectors or supervisors of inspectors must wait before they can work for those they regulated. The bill also required rotation of principal maintenance inspectors and stipulated that the word "customer" properly applies to the flying public, not those entities regulated by the FAA. The bill died in a Senate committee that year.
In September 2009, the FAA administrator issued a directive mandating that the agency use the term "customers" only to refer to the flying public.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2013)|
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