It's a rare airplane passenger, enjoying the shirt sleeve comfort of hurtling through space near the speed of sound, while relishing a cold drink and a hot meal, far above the storm pounding the mountains below, who even thinks about the relationship between safety of aircraft in flight and radio signals concerning these aircraft. This indifference is a quiet salute to the Diamond Anniversary of airway radio service, a silent tribute to the early pioneers in both fields, and emphasizes the success of this seventy-five year technical partnership .

Flying and radio have been closely linked since soon after Guglielmo Marconi sent the first CW (dots and dashes) long distance wireless message from South Wellfleet, Mass. to Cornwall, England on January 14, 1903, and Orville wright, in the wright biplane, skimmed the sands near Kitty Hawk, N.C. for 12 seconds on a cold and windy December 17, 1903.

Almost immediately, visionary pioneers dreamed of merging these two budding scientific discoveries. One of these men with determination and foresight was Elmo Neal ("Pick") Pickerill, one of the early leaders in the wireless communications field. He was a wireless operator for Associated Press, United Press, and the Hearst Newspapers, then he was the Chief Radio Operator of the S.S.Leviathan, the world's largest ship. After the turn of the century, he worked with Dr. Lee de Forest and Guglielmo Marconi in establishing wireless stations throughout the country.

Elmo Pickerill had an obsession to find out if wireless equipment would work in an aircraft, so he approached Orville Wright, in 1909, to inquire about renting an airplane and pilot to take him and his apparatus aloft to make a few tests. When Wright told him there wasn't an airplane that could lift two men and all that equipment, Pickerill came up with an alternate proposal--since his wireless rig weighed about as much as a man, he would learn to fly, then carry his device, in lieu of a second man, and conduct his tests as both pilot and wireless operator.

He began taking flying lessons from the Wright brothers, and two months later he was a qualified pilot. On August 4, 1910, Pickerill made a historic flight from Mineola to Brooklyn in a model "B" Wright biplane. He flew at a thousand feet and using his "push-button" telegraph key, he made contact with three wireless stations aboard ships, two coastal stations, a portable station at Manhattan Beach, New York, and with a station in New York City. On that day, "Pick" Pickerill's dream of air-to-ground wireless communication became a reality.

The term "wireless" was officially changed to "radio" by the U.S.Navy in 1912, but the epitaph of the early name did not come until 1920, when the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America went out of business and a new organization, Radio Corporation of America (RCA) began operating.

In September, 1911, a pilot named Earle L. Ovington flew more than 37,000 pieces of mail the 6 miles from Sheepshead Bay to Jamaica, Long Island, New York, a feat many people considered to be a "stunt." World War I established the airplane as an effective instrument of destruction, but men of vision saw that it might also serve a more benevolent purpose, as they encouraged the idea of flying the mail.

Post Office Department:

On May 15, 1918, President Wilson and Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson attended the inauguration of the U. S. Aerial Mail Service and the first takeoff from Potomac Park by Army Lt. George L. Boyle, whose fame was assured when he got lost, landed in Maryland, and sent the inaugural air mail to New York by train. On July 30, 1918, Congress appropriated $100,000 to establish an experimental 218 mile route between Washington, through Philadelphia, to New York. The mail would be flown one round trip daily, except Sunday.

The War Department provided both pilots and airplanes. The first were six modified military JN-4 "Jennies" and six new Standard JR-lB's, that were followed by the more powerful DeHaviland DH-4's. The Post Office took over the entire operation from the Army on August 12, 1918. (By 1926, sturdy little Douglas M-4 mail planes were carrying the mail, and by 1929, planes like tn-motor Fords, Boeings, and Fokkers were carrying passengers as well) .

Ambitious plans were made for a transcontinental airway to be developed in four stages: (1) 1919-New York to Cleveland, (2) 1919-Cleveland to Chicago, (3) 1920-Chicago to Omaha, and (4) 1920-Omaha to San Francisco. On August 20, 1920, The Post Office Department issued orders to its Air Mail Radio Service to establish the necessary stations along the route. By November, 1920, the first ten AIR MAIL RADIO STATIONS had been established, and all 17 were in service by the end of 1921.

To guide this newly established service of the Post Office Department, the Postmaster General picked highly regarded Eugene Sibley as the first Division Chief. He served from 1919 to 1950, and established many of the early procedures. Other newcomers were T.C."Tommy" Gale, Raymond E. Brunner, and Raymond J. Green, who reported for duty on June 3, 1920, at the initial annual salary of $2,000, a princely sum in those days.

Ray Green recalled that one of his first tasks was to equip the DeHaviland airplanes with home made, experimental homing devices, basically a few loops of wire on the wings and fuselage, a 6-tube amplifier, batteries, a condenser, with a tuner and a selector switch. In flight, the pilot simply switched loops until the signal was strongest, then turned the airplane until the fore-aft signal was the best, and homed on the 1050 meter signal. Ground stations were installed at five sites between New York and Chicago.

The duties of the Air Mail Radio Operator included reporting arrivals and departures by land line Morse "sounder" or Philips code, turning on the local radio beacon, and transmitting a single letter identifier for inbound flights. Between flights, the operator maintained his equipment and relayed messages for other government agencies, from Post Office weather forecasts to Department of Agriculture market quotations for livestock and farm products.

Those early Air Mail Radio Stations had new Navy spark transmitters, Army antennas, and 4-cylinder gas engine generators. The station quarters were often located in any shelter available, including an abandoned box car, a converted chicken coop, and even a shed made from discarded crates once used for shipping DeHaviland aircraft.

As an early planner said, "An airway exists on the ground, not in the air," and this defined the troubles of the fledgling Post Office transcontinental service. There was a near total lack of dependable airborne or ground-based navigation aids, light beacons, or radio ranges. There were no aerial maps and existing road maps didn't show height of mountains or obstructions, nor was there any communication with the ground, so pilots made position reports by buzzing the station low enough they could be identified. Pilots could fly only by day so the mail would be taken off the train each morning, rushed to the waiting air mail pilot and leapfrogged ahead, by air, to a point that could be reached before dark, where the mail was put on another train.

Without night flying capability, the Post Office believed air mail was an expensive, impractical fad. On February 21, 1921, a daring night flying experiment, using bonfires lit along the route by citizen volunteers, was attempted with four aircraft, two in each direction. The two westbound flights turned back in a snowstorm. One eastbound flight crashed in Nevada and only one completed the flight from San Francisco to New York. Pilots flew relays to North Platte, where James H. "Jack" Knight took oven and, on an epoch flight through bad weather, bitten cold, and missing relief pilots, he landed his DH-4 in Chicago 10 hours later, where the next pilot was waiting.

In 1923, funding was secured for lighting a short segment between Dayton and Columbus with rotating light beacons, field floodlights, and flashing markers. In an extended test, 86% of the night flights on this segment were successful, so work continued. With the growth of night flying came the installation of lighted emergency landing areas along the routes.

By July 1, 1925, overnight air mail service was operating between New York and Rock Springs, Wyoming, and eastbound coast to coast air mail required about 30 hours--the train took about 3 days, and air mail was no longer considered a fad.

Department of Commerce:

The Air Commerce Act of May 20, 1926, effective July 1, 1927, transferred the transcontinental airway and its ground support for civil aviation from the Post Office to the Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Branch, Airways Division, Lighthouse Service. The transfer included 17 air mail radio stations, now called AIRWAY RADIO STATIONS, 95 emergency landing sites, and 146 former Air Mail Service employees.

William A. "Bill" Breniman, who served as Executive Director of "The Wireless Pioneers", the founder of "The Society of Airway Pioneers", and who compiled an excellent history of its first 50 years, recalled that he personally knew all the early Assistant Airway Traffic Supervisors. They were the front line managers for Eugene Sibley, then Chief of the Communications Division in Washington, D.C.

Not all are listed here, but many of those first supervisors eventually became Communications Division Chiefs in the new Regional Offices of 1936: New York/Robert 0 Donaldson, Atlanta/Ben L. Weinberg, Chicago/Claude M. Smith, Fort Worth/George L. Rand, Kansas City/Percy E. White, Los Angeles/Art Johnson, Seattle/C. W."Bill" Larsen, and later (1940) Anchorage/Allen D. Hulen, (1944) Honolulu/ Claude M. Smith--whose vacancy at Chicago was filled by W. A. "Bill" Breniman.

In Washington, George L. Rand replaced Eugene Sibley in 1950 and Clifford W. Burton became Chief of the consolidated Air Traffic Control and Communications Division in 1952, with George Rand as his Deputy. The dedication, experience, and industry of these men established the heritage, attitude, and personality of the CAA/FAA we knew in later years.

The story of the installation of electric or acetylene lights across the alkali deserts and rugged mountains of the West is a gripping tale of another success by early pioneers. On January 29, 1929, beacon No. 25, at Miriam, Nevada, was turned on, closing the final gap in the New York-San Francisco lighted transcontinental airway.

The lighted airway brought new reliability to airmail schedules and aviation growth in general, but pilots still had to maintain visual contact with the ground along one specific route. Unlike the trains on the bus, regularity of service could not be guaranteed, as schedules were still at the mercy of adverse weather. Following the emphasis on building a lighted airway system, it soon became obvious that an economically viable air transport system demanded round-the-clock flying in all but the most extreme weather.

Although nearly abandoned in the mid 1920's, radio was the answer and the Aeronautics Branch of the Airways Division began planning to provide these devices that would permit airplanes to carry mail, passengers, and freight on dependable schedules. The 17 Airway Radio Stations provided only point-to-point radio-telegraph service. Radio navigation and voice communication did not yet exist. After takeoff, pilots could not receive weather changes nor report unexpected conditions non relay emergency messages.

Since World War I, great advances had been made in broadcast transmission and reception by the Bureau of Standards. One of the technical pioneers from there was Hoy J. Walls, a telephone and electrical engineer who left Western Electric Co. in 1922 to join the Radio Section of the Bureau of Standards. With Haraden Pratt and Harry Diamond, they developed and tested radio equipment until 1925, when Walls joined the Bureau of Lighthouses of the Dept. of Commence, where he played a key role in developing radio devices. When the Aeronautics Branch was formed, Walls was put in charge of the Airways Radio Section. In August, 1927, the old arc transmitters were abandoned, and a test 1000 watt station in Pennsylvania successfully carried on a radio conversation with a pilot in an aircraft, equipped with a new receiver and transmitter, 150 miles away. Within a year, 12 new radio stations were on order, with the first seven installed by October, 1928.

On December 31, 1927, in response to complaints from bus and railroad executives about unfair competition from government operated air services, Congress closed out the pioneering Air Mail Service, transferred ownership of airports to the adjacent municipalities, and turned over operation of the routes to a number of private agents bearing such names as Western Air Express, National Air Transport, Varney Speed Lines, and many others. Responsibility for continued operation of the airway lights, radio services, and intermediate (emergency) landing fields remained with the Department of Commerce.

Familiar to many Airway Pioneers were the Federal Radio Commission's exclusive allocation of 278 kilocycles (kcs) for ground to air transmissions of airport information (limited to 10 watts), while 3105 kcs. was the original calling frequency for aircraft. In later years 3117.5 kcs. was for airline use, 3023.5, 4495, and 6210 were assigned for other uses. (These were used by control towers until the close of World War II, when very high frequency (VHF) simplex frequencies replaced them.) As a little incentive, the Airmail Act of 1930 allowed paying a premium to contractors carrying the mail in radio equipped aircraft.

Concurrent with completion of new radio stations, in 1928, the early point-to-point radio telegraph was scrapped and leased teletype circuits were introduced as a new weather collecting method. A 700 mile trial teletype system reportedly reduced airline delays by over 30% in one year.

Other innovations of that period included designation of pilot balloon stations to determine the direction and speed of winds aloft, weather map service to certain stations, and an early form of scheduled weather broadcasts.

Airway Radio Stations provided an early flight following service, with the departure time and a coded flight plan teletyped to all stations along the route. As the pilot passed each station, he would report by radio or, if he had no radio, he would flash his lights or gun his engine and his new position would be relayed by teletype. By mid 1933, 68 Airway Radio Stations, about 200 miles apart, comprised the Federal Airways, supported by 13,000 miles of leased teletype circuits, serving 345 air carrier aircraft flying scheduled services on specific routes.

As the number of stations increased, some were necessarily located in the remote areas of the West and Southwest, in places like Mullan Pass, Hanksville, Donner Summit, and Guadalupe Pass, where distances were great and conditions were difficult. During this period, Radio Operators, Airway Mechanicians, Airway Keepers, Weather Observers, and caretakers transformed U.S. commercial air transportation from a marginal activity to a positive success. A few families enjoyed the solitude, but in later years it became increasingly difficult to fill vacancies at those remote sites. Although they rarely met, isolated operators and pilots often waved at each other and, until higher altitudes became practical, pilots frequently dropped daily city newspapers to certain remote facilities.

Navigation aids being developed at that time concentrated on keeping the aircraft equipment simple, and a low frequency "loop range" (LFR) was the first result. The basic idea was said to have been used by the Germans in World War I to aid their Zeppelins in finding and bombing London. Bureau of Standards engineers Percival D. Lowell, F. H. Engle, and Francis W. Dunmore devised a system of 4 signals, that transmitted "N" (dash-dot) and "A" (dot-dash) in quadrants, that were interlocked to produce a 4-course radio beam of -continuous tone, 3 degrees wide, that could be aligned with the airway axis. This provided the pilot with a line of position, and a low powered radio marker beacon gave a positive fix at intervals along the airway.

Other developmental work resulted in improved radio beacons, a 12-course aural radio range that gave the pilot a positive course indication on his instrument panel, simultaneous transmissions of voice and navigation signals, and the "Adcock" 4-course radio range that practically eliminated erratic shortcomings of the earlier loop antennas. A program to install the new Adcock steel towers at 45 station sites began in 1932.

On February 19, 1934, after a showdown over airline rates for carrying airmail, Postmaster James Farley asked the valiant, but poorly equipped Army Air Corps to fly the mail. On May 16, after a difficult and disastrous period, the commercial airlines resumed their airmail service.

Bureau of Air Commerce:

On July 1, 1934, The Department of Commerce reorganized its aviation functions into the Bureau of Air Commerce, which assumed the responsibilities of the Aeronautics Bureau and its various subdivisions. As more low frequency ranges were commissioned, station operators were given responsibility for regularly monitoring the operation of these navigation aids. From April 1, 1936, station operators making weather observations were tested and issued "Certificates of Authority to Take Weather Observations."

The airlines had become concerned with spacing between airplanes flying on instruments along the airways, and on December 1, 1935, four air carriers--American, TWA, United, and Eastern--established a small experimental airway traffic control unit at Newark, under the direction of Earl F. Wand, a former American Airlines employee. This was successful and plans were made to open additional facilities.

Having resolved several legal issues about jurisdiction oven air traffic, and after several budgetary sessions with congress, the Bureau hired Earl Ward and Glen Gilbert to create a new enterprise. On June 6, 1936, the Bureau of Air Commence assumed control and responsibility for operation of three units at Newark, Chicago, and Cleveland, designating them as AIRWAY TRAFFIC CONTROL (ATC) STATIONS. The Federal Government had undertaken a responsibility that would become its most demanding civil aviation function.

In addition to Ward and Gilbert, the first controllers hired to implement this new service, and whose names are familiar to most Airway Pioneers, were: John Huber, R.A. Eccles, Hugh Macfarlane, E.A. Westlake, William H. Cramer, Lee E. Warren, Emerson R. Mehnling, Jack V. Tighe, Rod E. Sturtevant, L. Ponton de Ance, Homer Cole, C.J. Stock, Harry D. Copland, and Clarence T. Tolpo.

Starting with a blackboard and a map, each facility's controllers designed their own markers ("shrimp boats"), flight progress strips, strip holders and other equipment. Each station was different, until Lee Warren and C.E. Wise, an agency engineer, combined ideas from all locations and created a prototype, in 1938, for a standard configuration.

One of the first changes was to expand active control service to include all aircraft on instrument flights, and amended regulations were issued August 15, 1936. On Federal airways, all eastbound flights were required to fly at odd thousand foot altitudes, while westbounds were to fly at even thousand feet, with deviations as approved by ATC. In 1937 a color code designated east-west airways as Green on Red with a number, while north-south airways were Amber or Blue with a number. At crossing or merging points, Green had top priority, followed by Amber, Red, and Blue, leading users to quietly mumble "GARBo" in planning or providing separation. A year later, fan markers and "Z" markers were first installed to provide positive fixes at critical points along the airways.

The airways controller could not talk directly to pilots, and relied on Airway Radio Station operators, airline dispatchers, or airport traffic controllers to act as messengers, forwarding departure times, relaying progress reports, and delivering clearances. Private telephone lines and weather teletype circuits were used until they became too busy and, in 1937, a special teletype circuit was established for air traffic use. The division of responsibility between the airway controller and the tower operator was simple--The tower controlled all aircraft they could see, or that could see the airport, the airway station controlled all other airplanes flying on instruments.

Airway congestion was increasing in other areas and the Bureau had received funding to establish five more ATC stations at Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco, to be opened during the winter of 1936-37. This program was delayed because of the problem of finding qualified people who would work for $2,000 a year, somewhat less than comparable airline wages.

Los Angeles/Burbank opened on a part time basis, with three controllers. Detroit opened with split shifts, requiring some controllers to work 11 hour days, well over the normal 44 hour week, and Oakland, the last of the series, couldn't open until May 15, 1939. Most controllers couldn't get time of f to take their earned annual leave.

After pilots complained the new Air Traffic Rules were too harsh, a landmark ruling brought a general policy that ATC would separate airplanes, and the pilot on dispatcher would make the decisions regarding bad weather operations. By late 1936, many interests were urging the Bureau to take oven operation of most airport control towers. Neither the Budget Bureau nor Congress was prepared to even discuss such a broad expansion of Federal authority at that time.

Airport control towers were operated by cities, counties or airlines, and employees usually had other assigned duties such as answering the switchboard on selling tickets between flights. Controllers were not licensed, and a uniform set of airport operating rules was still in the future. The early practice of numbering the first runway built as No. 1, the second as No. 2, etc., was confusing as runway No. 1 could run east-west at one location and northwest-southeast at another. This wasn't a great problem in 1938, as only 36 airports in the nation had paved runways of 3500 feet or more, required for operation of the new DC-3. Numbering of runways was standardized by using magnetic bearings for runway numbers everywhere, such as Runway 21 to the southwest while the other end was Runway 3 to the northeast.

Civil Aeronautics Authority:

The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, effective July 1, 1939, established seven Regions, with headquarters at 1-Newark, 2-Atlanta, 3-Chicago, 4-Fort Worth, 5-Kansas City, 6-Santa Monica, and 7-Seattle. On August 22, 1938, the Bureau of Air Commerce became the Civil Aeronautics Authority, an agency intended to combine the Bureau of Federal Airways with the Air Safety Board, and to consolidate the Federal civil aviation affairs, then scattered among the Post Office Department for airmail routes and schedules; the Interstate Commerce Commission, which set airmail rates; and the Department of Commerce, for safety and airway regulation.

This new agency was directed by a five-man Authority under Chairman Edward J. Noble, a business executive who had created Life Savers; Grant Mason of Pan American; Hanllee Branch, a newspaperman and aide to the Postmaster General; Oswald Ryan, a lawyer for the Federal Power Commission; and Robert H. Hinckley, a fixed base operator who later became the second Chairman when Noble left and Edward P. Warner, an aeronautical engineer, was named to the Board. The Board controlled matters of budget, policy, etc., and the Bureau of Federal Airways included establishing and maintaining airways and controlling air traffic, under the direction of the Administrator, Clinton M. Hester.

In 1938, concurrent with the establishment of the new agency, the former Airway Radio Stations became AIRWAY COMMUNICATION STATIONS (ACS), and the Air Traffic Control Stations became AIR ROUTE TRAFFIC CONTROL CENTERS (ARTCC), called simply "Centers" or "ATC" for short.

Civil Aeronautics Administration:

On July 1, 1940, in accordance with the Reorganization Act of 1939, most functions of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, except for those of the new Civil Aeronautics Board, were transferred back to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, and became the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). The Seven Regional Managers became the Regional Administrators, and Air Traffic Control Branches were established and staffed in each region..

By November, 1941, the CAA had 23 new Centers and had begun a limited extension of airport control called "approach control" of instrument flights wherein aircraft holding at a radio fix could be cleared, at timed intervals, to start an approach to a landing. This was used at only a few airports where adequate low frequencies existed, pending installation of the very high frequency (VHF) system, which was then being developed.

In the Fall of 1941, action had been initiated to hire and train some 4,200 airport tower controllers--mostly young men with pilot licenses and two years of college--to operate more than 50 control towers to be acquired by the CAA. This recruiting effort was interrupted by the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, adding a sense of urgency to the program, while a full scale war quickly depleted the pool of qualified applicants.

The writer was in that first group of air traffic controller trainees, who reported on January 15, 1942, at a makeshift school in downtown Seattle, at $1800 a year, with no premium pay for nights, Sundays, or Holidays. A month later he was sent to King County's Boeing Field Tower as a Federal employee, the same day the county tower controllers were absorbed into the CAA as supervisors of the new trainees. One of his first duties was to make announcements over the lobby p.a. system concerning approaching airline flights. After about a month, the CAA decided that had nothing to do with air traffic control, and that practice was ended.

The CAA Goes To World War Two:

As new towers were opened at pilot training locations, some controllers were reassigned, some were "loaned" for foreign air traffic assignments, and others left to go on active duty. By late 1942, the hiring "pipeline" took on a new look as the earlier pilot license requirement was waived if the applicant had four years of college. The result was the appearance of hundreds of well educated, patriotic, women coming from the school rooms, dress shops, offices and even the theater. Many of them kissed their husbands "goodbye" as they went to wan, then signed up to train as Aircraft Communicators, Airway Controllers, and Tower Operators. At one time, about a third of the Air Traffic personnel were women, who, with rare exceptions, performed in a highly commendable manner.

One of these patriotic young ladies was Louise Anselmo, who trained at Los Angeles and was assigned to the Los Angeles Center. It is believed she was the first woman journeyman controller in the nation. She eventually filled a staff position in the Western Regional Office. Louise retired in 1977.

World War II brought a number of changes to air traffic control: The old ABLE-BAKER-CHARLIE phonetic alphabet became the international ALFA-BRAVO-COCA. The two-letter identifiers ran out of letters so were changed to 3-letters and LA became LAX, VZ became DTA, etc. Weather reports became classified information that was transmitted to pilots in a daily code such as, "Wind direction Delta, velocity Romeo," and users of weather sequences had to personally carry the old teletype reports to the incinerator, watch them burn, and stir the ashes. Some coastal airports were camouflaged to appear as residential areas, and itinerant pilots often had difficulty finding the runways. On March 1, 1942, the title of ACS Communications Operators became Aircraft Communicators.

Military personnel were assigned to some civilian towers to coordinate with the local defense units for such things as status of barrage balloons. On May 13, 1943, the Army began staffing their own flight control officers in ATC Centers to track, monitor, and dispatch Army aircraft. Burbank Center closed in October, 1943, and reopened as Los Angeles Center in the Western Defense Command Headquarters, in downtown Los Angeles, with a mini ACS in an adjacent room.

In a wartime expansion of airways overseas, the military asked for radio facilities, and the CAA quickly contributed those stations that would least handicap the domestic airways. One of those, Modesto ACS, was closed, dismantled, including the LFR, and loaded on trucks in 48 hours, ready for shipment to the south Pacific. By mid 1942, the Army had requisitioned almost half of the airline fleet and Army flights accounted for about 85% of all airway activity. Local Draft Boards, searching for healthy young men, were restrained by the CAA's essential industry freeze until early 1944, when many single controllers under age 26 were released for induction.

In 1942, four Overseas Foreign Aeronautical Communication Stations (OFACS) were established in the continental U.S. San Francisco OFACS, commissioned April 1, 1942, made an enormous contribution to overseas flights across the Pacific. Alaska Region 8, with headquarters in Anchorage, had been established in January, 1940, and in August, 1944, Region 9 was established in Honolulu. This included the Honolulu Center, which had been partially secret since late 1943, when it began controlling the many aircraft inbound from the mainland.

In the transition to peacetime, the CAA found a veritable treasure chest of new electronic devices. The new Visual- Aural Range (VAR) was a hybrid cross between the old low frequency range and the experimental very high frequency (VHF) range. They were installed along certain airways in 1945-47 as an interim navigation aid until the new Visual- Omni directional range (VOR) and the new Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) could be perfected.

By early 1944, VHF communications became available, covering 30 to 300 megacycles (mcs), while ultra high frequency (UHF) communications, between 300 and 3,000 mcs., was introduced for military use. In November, 1950, the first of many VOR airways was inaugurated. These were identified by V and a number, such as "Victor 107" to avoid confusion with the old LFR colored airways, known as "Amber 2, Blue 17," etc.

In January, 1946, administration of the airways at the regional level was divided among three Divisions: Establishment, Maintenance, and Operations. Stations, centers, and terminals all became part of the same Air Traffic family. After several name changes, the unit became the Air Traffic Division, with Station, Enroute, and Terminal Sections in appropriate Branches. In 1946, the Airway Communication Station became INTERSTATE AERONAUTICAL COMMUNICATION STATION (INSACS) or "Station" for short.

Around 1949-50, the proliferation of supplemental air carriers (nonskeds) supporting the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War effort, under Part 42, brought additional safety and air traffic demands. Many of those operators had no ground support system and often requested air traffic facilities to make ground arrangements for midnight refueling, box lunches, and transportation until the agency prohibited such additional services, except in emergencies.

After 1952 many procedural changes were made, such as using "knots" in lieu of miles per hour for wind and aircraft speeds, and reporting wind direction in magnetic degrees rather than the cardinal compass points. Later, the familiar word "kilocycles" would be changed to "kilohertz," to honor Heinnich Hertz, a German physicist of the 1890's.

At the close of 1954, 383 VOR's and only 167 DME's (less than half of those scheduled) had been installed--The DME was delayed until 1952, partly by the Korean War, and partly by a civil-military, DME-TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation) dispute that clouded its status. Concurrent with the introduction of the VOR/DME's, the old LFR's began to disappear. (The writer shed no tears as he flew one last LFR approach at Eugene, Oregon, on March 10, 1965, shortly before the last of the Western Region's Adcock ranges vanished forever.)

The Instrument Landing System (ILS) comprised of glide slope, localizer and marker beacons, had been discussed for ten years and 37 airports had been so equipped, but airborne equipment had not been released for civilian use. The Army preferred the Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) for bad weather landings, with both Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) and the Precision Approach Radar (PAR) . After many tests and evaluations, the CAA selected ILS, but was very interested in combining the ASR with the ILS for a future system. The Army (after July, 1947, the Air Force) favored the ease of flying the GCA, which is still in use.

In May, 1947, Braniff Airlines became the first operator to start using ILS. The same year, four CAA GCA installations had both ILS and GCA in use. Chicago, Washington, and New York had radar on loan from the Army, while Los Angeles had a Gilfillan Bros. ASR-l, production sequence No. 1, and the first PAR-l as demonstrators. Los Angeles Tower used ILS as the primary approach method, but had a radar tent in the near of the tower cab with Surveillance and Precision Radar that was used for target watching, controller proficiency, ILS monitoring, and GCA's.

The unwritten policy in the 1950's was, "If you're in a bind, you can vector one to final, but you'd better not get caught at it!" By mid 1955 radar vectors to the final approach required the pilot's concurrence, and when controllers asked, "Would you accept a vector to expedite your approach?" few pilots could refuse. In early 1956, new ASR-3 was installed at Los Angeles, and on March 19, 1956, a revolutionary new method of radar control was commissioned, with vectors to either the ILS on GCA final approach.

Here was the ideal combination of Surveillance Radar and ILS, envisioned earlier, and in general use today. It has flexibility to accommodate almost any final approach, from visual to VOR, ADF, GCA, on Global Positioning System (GPS) .

As vectors to final approach became common, a new minimum of three miles separation behind the preceding aircraft replaced the two minutes of the old timed approaches. The merging of a variety of aircraft into a "string of pearls" three miles apart had been achieved through holding patterns, short circles, delay vectors, or "S turns" while on approach, which irked pilots and made passengers nervous.

After two airline pilots told him they'd prefer to slow down than to zig-zag all oven the sky, Mike Hunter, a Los Angeles tower controller and commercial pilot, began asking about speed control, and spent pant of 1958 and 1959 discussing approach speeds with chief pilots, line pilots, and aircraft manufacturers. Mike drew up a proposal wherein controllers could assign airspeeds, within certain limits. His idea was approved for a test and soon was a standard practice in many parts of the world. A supervisor told Mike his idea had earned him a twenty-five dollar award, and would save the airlines millions of dollars.

Some of the original three mile spacing has been increased to reduce wake turbulence generated by newer aircraft, but speed control remains an effective way for arriving aircraft to "get in line" for landing.

Around 1945 through 1947, at the end of WW II, a few combinations of low activity towers and INSACS (briefly called TOWACS) had been tried and abandoned. In early 1952, the Combined Station/Tower (CS/T) program was reinstituted at a few selected lower activity locations for manpower and cost savings. Each CS/T specialist was qualified in both tower and station duties. CS/T's met with varying success, and most were continued for many years.

On July 1, 1953, in response to President Eisenhower's pledge of government economy, the nine regions were reduced to six, with elimination of Seattle, Atlanta, and Chicago. The remaining regions were 1, New York; 2, Fort Worth; 3, Kansas City; 4, Los Angeles; 5, Anchorage; and 6, Honolulu. This austerity move closed a few low activity towers, combined 23 others with stations, shut down half the tower and center standby generators, and brought the largest personnel cut in agency history.

In late 1954, the Air Force agreed to have CAA controllers operate their equipment to provide Radar Approach Control Service (RAPCONS) at 18 military bases, for both civil and military traffic. About the same time, the Navy agreed to a similar arrangement, calling their joint facilities Radar Air Traffic Control Centers (RATCCs).

A new million dollar, especially designed Center had been dedicated in New York on January 10, 1956. That year a small but important improvement was made with installation of continuous time recording on multi-channel radio and telephone tapes. Prior to this change, time was recorded on tapes by controllers stating their initials and the time, to acknowledge a message, such as, "J B Four Seven."

On the morning of June 30, 1956, a TWA Super Constellation, bound for Kansas City, and a United DC-7, Enroute to Chicago, departed Los Angeles 3 minutes apart. About an hour and a half later, while operating outside controlled airspace, they collided at 21,000 feet and fell into a remote area of Grand Canyon with 128 fatalities.

A southern senator made the headlines by blaming the control tower at Los Angeles, but it appeared both pilots chose to fly routes not controlled by ATC Centers because controlled airways were not as direct and were more congested. When David Thomas, CAA's director of air traffic control, was asked why there were not more direct, controlled transcontinental routes, he responded, "Funds, personnel, and equipment." He explained that airways were established where most traffic used them.

Before the accident the CAA had begun a 5-year plan to modernize the airway system. After the tragedy, Charles J. Lowen, the newly confirmed CAA Administrator, asked for a supplemental appropriation of $68 million to speed purchase of 18 long range radars (scheduled for purchase in 1957) to fill the gaps in existing radar coverage, to provide more VOR's for new airways, and to lower the controlled airways floor to 15,000 feet. There was some budgetary relief, but the 84th Congress committee sliced $23 million from the request after a fact finding junket to Las Vegas, where only 3 of the 9 members even bothered to visit the crash site.

On July 15, 1953, Boeing's prototype B-707 first flew from Renton. It was certified September 23, 1958. On October 26, Pan American began daily 707 flights between New York and Paris, National started 707 service from New York to Miami on December 10, and American made the first coast to coast 707 flights between New York and Los Angeles on January 25, 1959. The commercial jet age had arrived, with its special handling and a new air traffic phrase, "Clean the area, here comes the damned jet."

To radar track all jet flights from takeoff to touchdown, General Quesada prevailed on General Curtis LeMay to share 38 long range military radar facilities by July, 1960, to permit FAA radar controllers (detailed from nearby civil facilities) to control all major high altitude routes until FAA centers could commission their own high altitude radar. By early 1965, nearly all U.S. airspace above 24,000 feet was covered by watchful eyes of FAA radar.

On April 21, 1958, while the CAB's Bureau of Safety Regulation was meeting with Air Force General Counsel representatives to discuss lowering the positive control route floor of 24,000 feet to 15,000 feet, an Air Force jet T-33 descending into Nellis AFB collided with a United DC-7, at 21,000 feet near Las Vegas. One of the victims was Ed Nollenberger, of the Los Angeles Regional Office's Air Traffic Division. Within 15 minutes after resuming the meeting, the positive control route proposal was adopted.

Federal Aviation Agency:

On December 31, 1958, The Federal Aviation Agency, an independent entity, assumed full operational status of the former Civil Aeronautics Administration of the Department of Commerce. The new Administrator, retired General Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada (who did not want to be Administrator, and who had to resign his commission to again serve his country) chose James "Jimmy" Pyle as his new Deputy. The Regional boundaries remained unchanged, but the Operations Division became the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Division, under the newly formed Bureau of Air Traffic Management.

The INSACS became FLIGHT SERVICE STATIONS (FSS) and the Communicators became Flight Service Specialists. The functions of the Overseas Foreign Aeronautical Communication Stations (OFACS), such as the one at San Francisco, changed and that facility later became a busy International Aeronautical Telecommunications Switching Center (IATSC).

In July, 1959, the agency ended the near-miss reporting program with its immunity to pilots who reported on themselves. After that, the new agency was involved in almost continuous brouhahas over noise abatement routes, with pilots complaining they were hazardous and citizens complaining they weren't effective, the requirement for airline pilots to stay in their seats unless needed elsewhere, the "Age 60 Rule" for airline pilots, mandatory installation of flight recorders in turbo-prop aircraft, and the Lockheed Electra "whirl mode accidents" decision.

The controversy continued throughout 1960 with new positive control areas, relocation from Washington of the Examination and Records division, SAC's low-level training missions in the "oil burner" program, the requirement that all pilots be examined by a designated Medical Examiner, tightening of enforcement actions, and the December 16 mid-air collision of a United DC-8 and a TWA Constellation over New York City with 132 fatalities, in an area of positive control and radar coverage. One probable cause was airborne failure of critical navigation equipment. Investigators agreed that devices such as electronic radar handoff, distance measuring equipment, and improved radar, that might have prevented this tragedy, were years from operational use.

In early 1959, during the "cold wan," key people from many air traffic facilities went to Radiological Monitor Class to become facility experts in ion chambers and milliroentgens. Facilities were provided with dosimeters and other radiation monitoring devices. As it turned out, this equipment was used only for training, but this program was an excellent way for facility supervisors to get acquainted with local civil defense groups and civic officials.

Global trouble spots, such as Korea, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, seemed very remote in 1960, but several smaller air traffic facilities became directly involved in training foreign nationals from those far away places. In the spring, Pendleton, Oregon, CS/T received trainees from Seoul and Kabul for basic tower and FSS training. After they moved on to bigger FSS facilities, two trainees from Saigon arrived. It was an interesting period with some cultural shock and a few unforgettable experiences on both sides.

By the end of 1960 the FAA was operating 425 FSS's, 228 Towers, 35 Centers, 41 Long Range Radars, 53 Airport Surveillance Radars, and 21 Precision Approach Radars. By then, U.S. air carriers were carrying 60 million passengers a year and were operating some 200 B-707's and DC-8's, and "Breakfast in San Francisco, lunch in New York, dinner in London, and luggage in Mexico City" was a popular line with comedians.

As 1960 came to a close, 15 more new centers were under construction on completed. San Antonio was finished in September, 1959, followed by Oakland and Atlanta in 1960. Los Angeles (Palmdale) was completed in 1963, and 40 more long range radars were on order from Raytheon. The new centers generally followed the same layout, with administrative offices, class rooms, cafeteria/lunch room and rooms of radar, computer, radio and recorder equipment, near the gymnasium size control room with controllers seated at rows of radar indicators. A center custodian was heard telling his new assistant, "I don't know what them fellers do in that big room, but they do it all the time."

In March, 1956, early automation had reached the center with installation of a computer at Indianapolis Center capable of calculating estimates and printing the information on flight progress strips. By 1955, the military's Semiautomatic Ground Environment (SAGE) was operational, and collected information from a network of radar sites to a central computer which presented a display expected to show and identify all aircraft over the U.S. Although some elements of the radar system were used in the civil system, SAGE never fulfilled its early goal, and two final tests in 1960 indicated a need for something else to control air traffic.

By 1960, ATC Radar Beacon System (ATCRBS) became operational at 16 centers, with more to follow. This secondary system received a live coded signal from the aircraft and depicted flight identification, altitude, and other information with a little alpha-numeric tag that followed the radar target.

By the Spring of 1965, controllers had actually used a new experimental pant of the National Airspace System (NAS) called SPAN (Stored Program Alpha/Numerics) in the high altitude sectors of Indianapolis Center. A related new terminal development called ARTS (Advanced Radar Traffic Control System) was being tested at Atlanta Airport.

In early December, 1965, an Eastern Constellation and a TWA jet (both under positive control) collided oven New York. Providence and skillful crews intervened to limit the casualties to four deaths, but many injuries. Again the technological promises had failed to keep pace with reality. Controllers were still using flight progress strips and plastic "shrimp boats" of the 1930's.

Within days a series of meetings reached a decision to shore up the New York system with new NAS equipment on hand. A common IFR room for three major New York airports would be operational by late 1967, and would bring controllers under one roof, using the new ARTS equipment then being tested in Atlanta. The new SPAN equipment, from Indianapolis, was dismantled and sent to New York Center for immediate operational use in the second half of 1966. Several program changes were made to improve design, procurement, and installation of needed air traffic control subsystems.

Radar had been a great improvement, but new equipment made it much more useful and soon digitizers from Burroughs were translating radar and transponder signals into computer language for processing by IBM 9020 computers in Centers that fed the combined data to Raytheon display consoles for controller use.

In a few years several features of the merged radar, transponder, and computer information were common to both Centers and Terminals. These included auto-acquire that identified participating aircraft, recording of radar returns that was invaluable in locating downed aircraft, terrain avoidance information for controllers' use, or for relay to the pilot, and proximity warning that anticipated loss of separation between aircraft. There was even a feature that alerted the supervisor if aircraft were allowed to get closer than the minimum legal distance.

Modern towers employ transmissometers to measure surface visibility, surface radar to monitor ground traffic in fog on darkness, digital controls and fiber optics for rapid and foolproof communications, and other new devices those early light gun and green flag controllers never imagined.

Prior to 1942, when the CAA first operated control towers, no two structures were alike and all were built by the airport operators. After the war, cities again built their own control towers, following general CAA guidelines. In the 1960's the FAA funded a standard tower structure, designed by internationally renowned architect I. M. Pei, featuring a distinctive five sided cab atop a choice of a five sided low base with slanted walls, on a tall five sided shaft for an elevator with an administrative suite at ground level. These unique structures were to identify many airports across the country.

Other special design towers were temporary facilities, installed for extended periods while the permanent tower was being constructed or repaired, and mobile towers, usually on wheels, used for short term air meets, forest fine activity, and emergency service. There was even a "tower in a suitcase" that could be flown on carried to provide basic air traffic service at disaster sites or special events.

For cities wanting an eye-catching theme structure, the FAA offered a compromise if the municipality wanted to pay the difference for a soaring, dramatic centerpiece. As usual, standard equipment was furnished and installed by the FAA, with alternate arrangements for a few privately owned airports, with FAA operated towers.

During the 1970's a safety program to provide control tower service at every airport served by scheduled airlines, plus a federal austerity effort, resulted in a low cost, modular design, contract tower in which square, versatile units were stacked as high as needed then a six sided tower cab was added, for a comfortable, functional, and economical tower.

In the 1980's a few low activity towers across the nation were operated under contract, by private air traffic control corporations, licensed by the FAA. Airport growth at some of the larger airports has resulted in taller, larger, and more expensive towers with the FAA paying for the basic tower, and the architectural symbolic theme statement financed by the city.

In 1961, the new FAA Administrator, Najeeb Halaby's decentralization plan eliminated the various Washington Bureaus and renamed them "Services." A new Southern Region was created with its headquarters in Atlanta. The new regions would be named by geographic area, discarding the former numerical titles.

In an interesting analysis, in 1962, Administrator Halaby informed the Appropriations Committee that the state of technology, in improved transmission of radar information, would permit the FAA to trim the 29 Centers to 21 within two years, saving seven million dollars annually, and would require fewer hand-offs, which had proved to be one of the weak links in the ATC system. Despite strong political opposition, the reduction was completed as planned.

Although the Administrator was concerned, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, in 1962, that set standards of conduct for government employee organizations and a code of fair labor practices that first opened the door to federal employee labor unions. Several soon were competing for members, targeting the large, assertive, and articulate group of FAA air traffic controllers.

In mid 1963, area offices were established to provide closer supervision and day-to-day guidance of Air Traffic and Airway Facilities operating units, while most management functions, such as payroll, budget, evaluation, etc. remained with the Regional Offices. This concept continued until the 1970 reorganization.

In the aftermath of the April, 1958, Las Vegas collision, and after a rash of "near misses" in congested terminal areas, Air Traffic Specialists throughout the Agency intensified their efforts to find a solution. The only regulatory deterrents at that time were the long standing rules about right-of-way, traffic patterns, and control zones. Planners realized the FAA did not have the resources to control all air traffic, so they concentrated their efforts on segregating different activities.

In discussing this problem, a controller in Los Angeles Tower mentioned that the only thing pilots read is cartoons, and soon the controllers originated and distributed a series of 2-color cartoon cards encouraging pilots to avoid approach and departure paths. The military had limited success with "climb corridors" and these were seriously considered for busy civil airports, but appeared to lack the needed flexibility, so this idea was discarded.

Several regulatory modifications of control zones were proposed, including one where non-participating flights would be prohibited. This control zone plan had ever larger circles at higher altitudes over the airports. Because of its shape, it was called the "Upside-Down Wedding Cake," and was soon bogged down in controversy.

In 1961, a study group in the Western Region Air Traffic Division developed a concept of voluntary air traffic separation, called the "Keyhole" because of its shape, basically encompassing the Los Angeles control zone and the busy final approach. Charts depicting this voluntary plan were widely posted across southern California. It was shown in the Airman's Guide through 1966, and was soon joined by several pages of similar chants for other terminal areas.

In 1967 a Western Region Staff Study, initiated by Regional Director Arvin 0. Basnight, recommended a new mandatory positive control area for Los Angeles Airport. In the next four years the Regional proposal was thoroughly discussed, revised, criticized, amended, and finally accepted. Effective September 16, 1971, the Federal Air Regulations required all aircraft within the newly defined area, between the altitudes specified, to be under positive control. About that time, Terminal Control Areas (TCA's) were designated for many major airports.

Flight Service Stations had developed from the late 1920's as aids to cross country aviation. Throughout the 1930's and 1940's they were a key link in the air-ground radio network. In the 1950's direct pilot-center radio contact removed their major function. In the lull following, FSS programs had expanded the services to general aviation pilots to include weather observations, airport advisories, face-to-face pilot briefings, administration of written examinations for pilot ratings, flight plan services, lost aircraft assistance, pilot reports (PIREPS) for real-time weather aloft, a "lake/mountain reporting service", and later a very effective, although short-lived, emergency direction finding service.

In the early 1960's the FSS became the one personal and friendly operation of an otherwise intrusive bureaucracy. At remote sites, FSS personnel, and their families, were invariably active in their small communities. Lonely stations usually had a few candy bars or cold drinks to share with itinerant pilots. FSS specialists would help chase sheep off the runway, could tell visitors where the fish were biting, or where arrowheads might be found. At Bryce Canyon FSS, specialists had been known to loan their personal autos for a quick look at the nearby National Park.

Several isolated stations had custody of the keys to the gas pump, and assisted pilots with the credit card paperwork. At Eagle, Colo., there was no gasoline dealer and the area distributor invited the FSS to act as his agent. The FAA rejected any deal to add a profit to the wholesale cost, but let the station keep a small evaporation allowance. When word got out that Eagle had the cheapest gas around, the business grew, with an assist from a new ski resort, then an operator willingly took oven the aviation fuel services.

When the FAA was directed, in 1963, by the House Independent Offices Appropriation Subcommittee to reduce the number of FSS's, it was not surprising that efforts to close these stations met with stiff resistance from private fliers. On February 4, 1964, the FAA announced that 42 stations would be converted to remote control facilities, reducing staffing by 600 people and saving about $3 million annually. To head off growing opposition, the FAA then proposed two new classes of replacement facilities; a "Manicom" small manned station with limited hours, and an Airport Information Desk, known as an "AID", with charts, books and a free hot line. In a 6-month test, approval was less than enthusiastic.

The apprehension increased until a full blown congressional investigation was scheduled. During the public hearing, the House began debate on the FAA appropriations bill, and made such deep cuts it appeared likely the FAA would close down more FSS's than the 42 already announced. So controversial was this item that the Senate's 1966 appropriations bill prohibited the FAA from closing any station without first consulting congress. The Administrator continued planning for the reduction until a new Administrator was in charge and the proposal was put on a back burner.

By May, 1966, a master plan for consolidating all Flight Service Stations, including those in CS/T facilities, into 61 automated super FSS facilities was underway. (The last FSS in the Western Region, at Red Bluff, Calif., closed on September 29, 1995, after 52 years of service.) All services were remote, by land lines or microwave relay, to Automated FSS's, except for weather observations and airport advisories provided by local arrangements. Supporters claimed the same services would be provided by telephone, at less cost, but the personal touch would be gone.

Federal Aviation Administration:

A new cabinet level Department of Transportation was launched April 1, 1966. Inclusion of the new Federal Aviation Administration was mostly cosmetic and, except for new signs and letterhead, there were few changes in the former Agency. Integrating agencies and functions from Commerce, Interior, CAB, ICC, Army Corps of Engineers, and creating new administrations for the NTSB, for rail, and ground transportation proved more difficult. The new Secretary of Transportation was Alan Boyd, while the FAA Administrator was General William F. "Bozo" McKee, a retired four-star USAF General assigned to NASA. His primary task was to shepherd the Supersonic Transport (SST) program, while his deputy, David D. Thomas, an experienced FAA air traffic veteran, would handle the day to day decisions.

When General McKee took office, President Johnson was seeking to reconstruct government spending priorities by squeezing the budgets of existing agencies to obtain needed funds for the blossoming conflict in Vietnam, the social programs of the Great Society, and the burgeoning SST project. The resulting 1966 additional FAA budget cuts were largely from Automation and Research and Development.

After months of discussion, subcommittees, and conferences on relationship between overcrowded airports and airspace congestion, what to do and how to pay for improvements in both areas, the expected massive overloading of the nation's system peaked in July, 1968. New York's busy Kennedy International Airport became fully saturated. Flights bound for New York suffered delays up to six hours, with planes waiting on the ground as fan away as Los Angeles because there was no room for them in New York's airspace. This aerial gridlock was highlighted on the August 9, 1968, cover of LIFE Magazine.

Administrator McKee, frustrated by oven two years attempting to obtain adequate resources for the FAA, submitted his resignation, as he continued to direct FAA's efforts to handle the nationwide traffic jam. He instituted regulatory controls to delay traffic to preserve safety. One method was Flow Control, to hold or delay traffic to an agreed acceptance rate at the next facility. Another was to limit access to busier airports, or to eliminate mixing of VFR and IFR traffic. At the peak of the summer crisis, some northeast controllers, members of a new Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), slowed the traffic further by "going strictly by the book."

By August, 1968, the FAA adopted a plan to impose limits on the number of operations at the four busiest airports. The controversial plan affected all classes of users as various aviation elements fought over the limited number of slots. As the summer travel season ebbed, so did the long delays. No one believed the problem had gone away, and it would take years to fully resolve.

With the national elections only two months away, law and order, the environment, and the Vietnam War dominated the campaign. Aviation's troubles were filed under "Federal Bureaucracy," for the incoming Republicans, President Nixon, Transportation Secretary John A. Volpe, and FAA Administrator John H. Shaffer to resolve when their agenda permitted.

Air traffic supervisors were stunned, on June 18, 1969, when a number of PATCO members at centers in mid America called in sick. The sickout spread to the New York Center area which had an absentee rate of almost 50%. By June 21, about 477 "sick" controllers returned to work, with letters from their doctors. PATCO's spokesman, criminal lawyer F. Lee Bailey, testified that Administrator Shaffer's comments in the senate hearing on controller working conditions, pay, and second career opportunities had caused such depression among controllers, many had to consult their doctors.

An investigation of PATCO's claim that the sickout was a spontaneous act, found that Bailey appeared on Johnny Carson's June 17 "Tonight Show", and said, "Tonight is the night." Documentary evidence supported the FAA's findings.

The atmosphere between the FAA and PATCO remained poisonous, with the FAA taking disciplinary action and canceling the dues withholding agreement, under Executive Order 10988, while PATCO withdrew recognition "of the FAA as a supervisory force."

On October 29, 1969, President Nixon signed a replacement Executive Order No. 11491, effective January 1,1970, with tighten financial reporting, dues checkoff, and specific areas of negotiation. A blue ribbon committee, headed by noted labor relations consultant, John J. Corson, had been formed to examine air traffic control careen problems.

On January 15, 1970, PATCO warned of a pending nationwide controller strike. The issue, this time, was involuntary transfer of 3 CS/T controllers to a radar facility for training. On January 25, PATCO modified its threat from a strike (which was clearly illegal) to a new tactic, to "withhold optional services".

On March 25, 1970, the PATCO showdown began. The FAA instituted flow control, requested military and general aviation to defer non-essential IFR flights, and rerouted some flights to minimize long delays and cancellations. Despite the absence of more than 2000 controllers, not one FAA facility was forced to close. When former controllers in supervisory and management positions volunteered to fill in for strikers, PATCO's Bailey warned viewers of TV news that, "Rusty old fogies are playing Russian Roulette with your lives." Despite his dire claim, there were no airline accidents during that period.

By April 15, 1970, the strike collapsed following a firm FAA "carrot or stick" approach, count issued contempt citations, and heavy fines from various interests. Administrator Shaf fer emphasized the positive aspects of air traffic control in lieu of rehashing an illegal strike against the government. Under new leadership, a rejuvenated PATCO emerged and was recognized on June 4, 1971. A new bargaining unit for all FSS specialists, the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) was recognized on December 27, 1971, and the Corson Committee recommended an early retirement formula that became law on May 16, 1972

By the end of 1972, the FAA was one of the most heavily unionized agencies of the federal government. By 1973, PATCO joined NAATS as a recognized bargaining unit. Like many other aspects of this dynamic industry, labor relations would never be the same.

The U.S. SST development program had moved forward when prototype and flight testing contracts with Boeing and General Electric were signed on May 1, 1967, two days after President Johnson announced his decision to go ahead with the SST prototype. From the outset, the project was plagued by design problems and changes that added weight and reduced payload and range. This led to funding problems, but more serious was the projected engine noise, stratospheric pollution, and sonic booms feared by the environmentally sensitive Nixon administration.

After four years of intensive lobbying on both sides, hearings, and expert witnesses discussing the ozone layer, ultraviolet radiation, climatic changes, and skin cancer, the hoped-for technological breakthrough never materialized and, on March 24, 1971, the Senate delivered the fatal blow and canceled the U.S. SST program. As FAA historian Richard J. Kent, Jr. wrote, "The ecology movement.. . turned the SST into a suitably grotesque dragon, which it slew in heroic combat."

On October 12, 1970, to comply with President Nixon's standard region concept of uniform boundaries for all government offices, the FAA reorganized once again. Four new regions were established at Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and Denver, for a total of nine in the continental United States and one each at Anchorage and Honolulu. Concurrent with this action, the area office concept, which had served its purpose, was abolished.

By the end of 1970 the FSS network served all 50 states and 5 territories with 340 stations, including 9 international stations.

In the early 1970's a few light aircraft accidents in remote areas made headlines when people survived the crash but died from exposure or starvation. With a nudge from Congress, electronics manufacturers soon produced Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT) that sent a distinctive radio signal on emergency frequency (121.5 MHZ) when activated by a sudden impact. Sometimes airborne pilots would hear the signal and locate the downed aircraft before it was reported overdue.

This little battery operated portable device, about the size of a box of matches, was truly a life saver that quickly became a nemesis to air traffic facilities. Even a hard landing on carelessly tossed flight bag could trigger the warbling tone that would jam the emergency frequency for days, unless the false alarm ELT was found and disabled. These were sometimes located in locked cars or aircraft parked near the control tower, sometimes in an office desk drawer, on in the bottom of a closet.

The FCC helped when they could, but the major burden fell to John Kemper and his Western Region Frequency Management Staff. They kept busy as the inhospitable terrain of the far west brought out the ELT's, with their accidental triggering. The usual radio direction finder (DF) was quite cumbersome, so John devised an experimental hand-held unit that could quickly pinpoint the suspect signal. When the agency declined to develop this device, it was acquired by an electronics firm, Andy Hish Associates, who marketed a mini-DF, about the size of a book, for both VHF and UHF signals, and eventually sold several dozen to the FAA.

Frequency management specialists are also the first line of defense against other radio frequency interference problems that derogate air traffic services. These come from many sources, including plastic welding equipment, power line arcing, electrical devices, distant radio signals bouncing off the inversion layer (anomalous propagation), and off- frequency military gear. Interference problems still exist and tales of tracking them down and eliminating them would make great detective stories.

On July 20, 1972, the last rotating airway beacon in the Western Region, at Whitewater Hill, near Palm Springs, California, went dark, ending a once vital program that began 43 years earlier. The familiar beacons had been rendered obsolete by the ubiquitous VOR/DME signals that told the pilot much more than could a flashing light on the ground, glimpsed momentarily from 25,000 feet.

As people in the industry looked back on the many challenges over the years--establishing airways, developing new electronic devices, aircraft noise abatement, passenger safety and comfort, relocation of approach controllers and FSS specialists to new facilities miles from airports they serve, labor unrest, budget cuts, aircraft speeds increasing ten fold and passenger loads by 300 times, wake turbulence, all weather flying, and many more, a few observers believed, "They've gone about as far as they can go!"

That first aeronautical radio message of 1910 transmitted strange sounds to all but ears trained to understand code. By the 1940's voice and code were both used for air-ground communications on as many as 7 civilian frequencies. In the late 1940's the introduction of 23 channel VHF transceivers was followed a few years later by 90 channel equipment that gave pilots the means to conduct business by voice to a number of ground stations.

This was quickly followed by 360 channel radios, then by 720 channels, and now 760 channels of aeronautical radio that allow pilots full access to all air traffic services, ARINC (a private airline network), company offices, mechanic and fueling service, airport advisories at remote airports, other pilots along the route, the chef to order a buffalo burger at Catalina's island airport, and even a cashier in a Nevada casino to arrange ground transportation and lodging.

With all this voice capability, the emergence of new coded messages again gave listeners many strange sounds as navigation devices, radar signals, transponder codes, radio altimeters, proximity warning indicators, and many other imaginative uses were introduced that would have astounded Elmo Pickerell, whose one-tone signal started the whole aeronautical radio thing.

From an unanticipated direction came the next threat to aviation in 1961, when one Antulio Ramirez forced a National Airlines Convair pilot, at gunpoint, to fly to Havana, the first of several trips to Cuba that year. By the late 1960's a new wave of hijackings and bomb threats struck worldwide aviation in epidemic proportions. Most of these events were motivated by extortion, escape, on political terrorism, and they overwhelmed current passenger safety procedures. In 1968, twelve airliners from the United States were hijacked to Cuba. The FAA offered an option: free one-way flights to Cuba, while the Miami Center set up a special handoff line with Havana air traffic control.

In September, 1970, four jets were hijacked, their passengers were taken hostage and traded for other Arab hijackers in custody in Europe. A Pan American B-747 was blown up in Cairo, and the other three: a TWA B-707, a Swissair DC-8, and a BOAC Comet, were blown up on the Jordanian desert by Palestinian terrorists. In the 1970's the problem turned deadly with flight crews shot, passengers selectively murdered, and in-flight bomb explosions, in many parts of the world.

On December 21, 1988, Pan American flight 103, a B-747, from Frankfort to New York, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, with 270 fatalities. An exhaustive investigation determined that a bomb had detonated in a checked suitcase, and that Libyan terrorists probably planted the bomb, then fled back to sanctuary in Libya.

Ordinary security measures had proved ineffective against suicidal terrorists, but slowly the airlines of the world are making such crimes more difficult. Most airline airports, both here and abroad, use a combination of tactics such as X-Rays of all carry-on luggage, or of all checked luggage, psychological and metal detector screening and checking a photo ID of each passenger, improved X-Ray equipment, matching luggage to passengers, a hand search of all luggage, special air traffic procedures to identify and accommodate aircraft being hijacked, and politically reducing the number of countries harboring hijackers. The danger still exists, but counter measures have significantly reduced hijacker and airline terrorist acts worldwide.

After threats of a strike by the increasingly militant PATCO and a promise of swift action by the government, on August 3, 1981, almost half the scheduled controllers failed to report for duty. PATCO had organized a full scale strike (still illegal for federal employees) with sign carrying pickets, including spouses and children. President Reagan, through the Department of Transportation, gave the striking controllers until August 5 to return to work or be fired.

Strike leaders said they wanted their jobs back but refused to return, so the strikers were quickly fired, PATCO was decertified, and the FAA began replacing 11,400 terminated controllers from a pool of 109,000 applicants. Four months later, President Reagan signed an Executive Order barring strikers from being ne-employed in FAA facilities.

At first, airlines suffered delays and cancellations, but were soon back to 80% of normal, although they limited their schedules for several years while the air traffic control system was rebuilt. By 1987 a new union, The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, represented controllers, claiming 3000 members of about 18,000 FAA controllers.

On August 31, 1986, an Aeromexico DC-9, approaching Los Angeles, collided with a single engine Piper Archer in positive control airspace, in an area of radar coverage, with 82 fatalities. Although the light aircraft entered the Terminal Control Area without authorization, with no transponder, nor radio contact with the controller, a U.S. district count ruled the FAA controller and the Piper pilot responsible for the tragedy. A federal appeals court upheld the ruling, and by late 1995 the U.S. government had paid over $40 million to be apportioned among the plaintiffs.

Twelve years after the nationwide PATCO strike of 1981, on August 12, 1993, President Clinton kept a campaign promise and lifted the ban on ne-hiring the striking controllers, under the same rules as any other applicants. According to the Associate Administrator for Air Traffic, Bill Pollard, by then the ATC system was fully staffed with about 80% of the work force having been hired after 1981. Anticipated hiring was 200 more controllers a year.

As the first 75 years comes to a close, those who might think Airway Pioneering is over haven't been reading the newspapers beyond the stock market pages. Headlines tell us of a new "Free Flight" traffic system that will replace the present Positive Control within 10-20 years. Pilots will soon be able to fly any route, speed, and altitude they want, enclosed in an electronic "alert zone" and a "protective zone." A key element of this new concept is the 24 satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) which will show pilots, sailors, hikers, and others their precise position by processing signals from the four nearest satellites.

The FAA is working on a Differential GPS (D-GPS) using one of 18 ground stations to compare its precise location with the GPS indicated position and broadcast correction signals. The D-GPS will be part of the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), that was contracted to Hughes Aircraft in 1996. Present accuracy is within about 328 feet, with an enhancement called Selective Availability (SA) that is accurate within 98 feet. A challenge is to insure that such accuracy cannot be used by enemy forces, nor will they be able to jam or create false signals.

The first of a new generation of USAF/Lockheed Martin GPS Block 2R spacecraft, with improved reliability and accuracy, was scheduled from Cape Canaveral, on a Delta 2 booster, in early 1997. (On January 17, 1997, a booster explosion, seconds after lift-off, destroyed the 2-ton GPS 2R, delaying this GPS program for several months and disrupting schedules of four other GPS 2R missions.) This was the latest of several major upgrades since launch of the original Rockwell International Navstar GPS spacecraft early in 1978. The last of those original pioneering first-generation Navstars was deactivated in June, 1996.

The new 2R's will join a constellation of second-generation Block 2 and third-generation Block 2A's. Once several of the new 2R's are operating, navigational accuracy would improve to about 20 feet, and the satellite will have backup units, self diagnostic and avionics switching capability, and can accept computer reprogramming from the ground.

The potential of GPS applications is mind boggling. It can provide satellite communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management information. With appropriate data link equipment, it can provide a cockpit display of traffic information, it can feed an area navigation (R-NAV) display, it can provide guidance for weapons, it can feed enemy coordinates directly to an aircraft's fire control or missile guidance computers, it can feed a low cost traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), it can provide an advanced airborne collision avoidance system, it could provide data for Automated Enroute Air Traffic Control, and for Centen/TRACON automation systems.

Before Free Flight becomes a reality, progress is continuing on many other developments: Head-Up Guidance Systems (HGS) was scheduled to be operational with a major cargo carrier, in mid 1996, to maintain schedules with lower weather conditions. Data link communications equipment was to be operational in 57 FAA towers in 1996 to permit towers to issue predeparture clearances by data link instead of voice. Automated and standard taxi clearances by data link were scheduled for testing late in 1996, and controller-pilot data link and automatic waypoint reporting are being tested on certain trans-pacific routes. There are many other improvements planned for the coming years, and those who still think Airway Pioneering is finished, "Ain't seen nuthin' yet."

© Schuyler M. "Slick" Gardner , used here by permisson of author

[Author's note: Part of this article, and most of the accompanying photographs, are somewhat parochial toward the Western United States because the writer grew up, learned to fly, served his shore duty military service, and entire CAA/FAA career (except for a few forays to Oklahoma and Washington D.C.) in the Western U.S. Obviously, other significant events were taking place elsewhere at that same time. s.m.g.]

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References and Sources

In addition to my personal recollections, and those of my FAA acquaintances, the primary documents used in this brief history of the first 75 years of Aeronautical Radio include the following references and publications:

A = Airway Pioneer/ Bill Breniman. B = Bonfires to Beacons/ Nick A. Komons. C = Specification Sheets/ Andy Hish Associates. D = Radio Frequency Interference Manual/ John P. Kemper. E = Aircraft Performance Charts/ William S. "Mike" Hunter. F = Safe, Separated, and Soaring/ Richard M. Kent, Jr. G = My Personal Notes, Journals/ Schuyler M. Gardner. H = Global Mission/ General H. H. "Hap" Arnold. K = Aviation Week/ GPS,WAAS, 3/25, 4/15, 6/10/96, GPS 2R, 1/20, 1/27/97. L = LA Times/ PATCO 7/27/91, Clinton 8/12/93, GPS 3/18, 3/30/96, Aeromexico 10/7/95. M = Take Of f at Mid Century/ Stuart I. Rochester. N = FAA Western Region News/ March 1953. P = End of Seat of the Pants Flying/ H. Dale Heister. R = FAA Intercom Newsletter/ August 30, 1993. S = The Sky's the Limit/ Arch Whitehouse. T = Thrbulence Aloft/ John R. Mi Wilson. V = Early Aeronautical Chants/ Harry Vick. W = The Only Way to Fly/ Robert J. Serling.