In most of the developed countries, the air traffic control has continually developed to a corporatized form of service delivery, with an independent management system that is free from other political actors, such as the government and obtains its capital from the user's fees. In the United States, the federal aviation administration is a government run and tax-funded business in charge of air traffic control. This research will focus on the history of air traffic control that is to determine how the current system was developed and the various reforms that had been raised in the past.
Since the introduction of the first powered flights on December 17, 1903, by the wringhton brothers, the aviation captured the people's attention, but the practical application of the aircraft delayed because it was considered dangerous for the general population (Fothergill, 2009). The investors also considered it risky to invest in the industry because it was not a good decision to invest in something that puts the population in danger. Thomas Benoist started the first scheduled airline service in 1914 but the air service business depreciated by the end of the tourist season (Nolan, 2010). However, the air services also faced huge competition from the railroads. World War I facilitated in the growth of the airline technology, pilots training, and aircraft manufacturing. People started to notice that unless the systems of controlling and directing planes were developed, they would continuously crush each other just like the first automobiles had.
Despite the aircrafts dangers, it started getting more useful through the introduction of the transcontinental airmail services in 1920. However, it was faced with the challenge of not having the ability to fly at night forcing the use of alternative transport methods such as train during the nights. This challenge was overcome through the introduction of rotating light beacons on towers, which helped all the night crafts across the continent to deliver mails efficiently. By mid-1920s the United States post offices flew up to 2.5 miles a year (Fothergill, 2009). Having shown the effectiveness of the airmail, the United States government went ahead to change the airmail service to a private business, while the Congress initiated the contract air mail act of 1925 which allowed the postmaster general to hire private corporations to transport mails, this lead to the growth of the American airline services (Fothergill, 2009). It was further recommended that a committee of government involvement should be introduced in the airline industry. The committee was named as the marrow board just after its leader Dwight marrow. On December 1925, the board sent a report to the United States president recommending that the civilian and military aviation should operate separately.
In 1926, the Congress approved the air commercial act. The acts mandated the secretary of commerce with the duty of creating air traffic rules, certifying aircrafts and pilots and establishing airways to facilitate the growth of the aviation industry (Loft, 2009). In 1927, Charles Lindbergh's conducted a flight across the Atlantic Ocean, and this flight attracted the public attention thus attracting the more needed investment in the airline industry (Loft, 2009). The first ground to air radio was also introduced in 1927 whereby the green and red flags were used as signs of take-off, which were replaced by the light gun. Cleveland's airports were the first to open a radio-equipped control room in 1930. The radio enhanced communication with the pilots within a 15 miles radius (Loft, 2009). The radio also helped reduce the cases of air collision and helped the pilots navigate through the poor visibility regions.
In 1934 the Congress created the Bureau of air commerce act which was part of the department of transportation. The act was responsible for controlling airline traffic (Fothergill, 2009). The bureau also created the instrumental flight rules with the aim of ensuring the pilot's safety when flying the plane in the harsh weather conditions. Increase in flights created the need for air traffic control that connected both the airports and airways. In 1935 the airlines using the Chicago and Cleveland airports agreed to manage the airline traffic between this city whereby they created the first airway traffic control center in Newark and additional control centers opened in 1936 in Chicago and Cleveland (Loft, 2009). The air traffic control units aimed to give air traffic control clearance and assessing if the route and altitude were conflicting. Copeland committee was also created with the intention of regulating the activities of the Bureau of air commerce and regulating the safety of the air traffic.
In 1938 the Congress passed the civil aeronautics act. The act led to the creation of the civil aeronautical authority, which was the only independent authority in the United States at that era. The civil aeronautical authority was later reorganized in 1940 to form the civil air regulations, whose aim was to give its controllers authorities when needed to guide the planes to the right location. The World War II contributed highly to the development of the aviation industry since the aircrafts were highly used during the war due to their effective technology and trust in their services. To minimize civil aeronautics authority control on the military traffics, the army started to use their air traffic control to regulate their planes. The military created 33 control towers which were parallel to those of civil aeronautics authority in 1943 with the intention of separating military aircrafts (Fothergill, 2009).
In 1947, the radio technical commission for aeronautics created a committee that gave its final report on May 12, 1948. The report leads to the creation of air navigation development board with the aim of controlling the enforcement of the air traffic control system (Fothergill, 2009). Despite the recommendation by the committee report in 1948 on the installation of radar to facilitate controllers to separate planes the report was implemented later in the 1950s by the civil aeronautics authority (Fothergill, 2009). The defense department spent a lot of capital to build the system.
The first air route surveillance radar was bought by the civil aeronautics authority in 1956 with the purpose of controlling the air traffic control centers. The air traffic control radar beacon system was later implemented in 1957. For the period between 1950 and 1954, the budget of the civil aeronautical authority reduced from $187 million to $116 million annually (Nolan, 2010). Following the aircraft crash at the grand crayon, the Congress introduced the federal aviation regulation act, the act facilitated in the creation of the federal aviation agency which had the role of controlling aviation hazards. The act also mandated the federal aviation administration with the control of the military and civil systems. In 1960, the federal aviation agency started the use of radar beacon that helps in identifying aircrafts (Nolan, 2010).
The department of transportation was created During the Johnson administration in 1967, and It was created by the Congress to ensure that every type of transportation was under one umbrella (Fothergill, 2009). The department of transportation merged with other agencies such as the federal aviation agency. There was also the creation of the national transportation safety board whose purpose was to investigate accidents and make recommendations to the secretary of transportation. Due to the increased American government, funding's directed towards war, the federal aviation agency began to decline causing the air traffic controllers to get annoyed, and they also experienced delays in the equipment accusation. PATCO tried to solve the situation by ordering member controllers to follow the created separation standards for aircrafts. The relation worsened in 1970 when a sickout was conducted whereby more than 2000 traffic controllers did not attend work due to their protest on the unfair treatment by the federal aviation agency (Fothergill, 2009). Most of those fired during the protest were rehired after negotiations and court battles. The airline deregulation act was introduced in 1978 to minimize the civil aeronautics board influence. The act also assisted the airlines to easily determine their route structures and fares with no government approval. The affected ATC facilities were required to have enough controllers and ATC equipment to tackle the huge peaks during the day. However, the controllers could not meet the demand of the ATC.
The federal aviation agency introduced a lot of PATCO demand for controllers at the towers and centers. For example, medical disability system, and changes in the compensation rules (Fothergill, 2009). After a continued fight the controllers took on an illegal strike in 1981 whereby more than 10000 controllers were fired. The federal aviation agency restored the staffs after ten years after which a new traffic controllers association was formed.
In 2011 September two flights that are United flight 175 and the American airline's flight 11 that was scheduled to depart Boston were high jacked. The American 11 was hijacked and directed to the northern world trade center while flight 175 was directed to the southern world trade center. Another plane that is United flight 93 that was flying from Newark to San Francisco was also hijacked by terrorist but eventually taken over by passengers, however, the plane crashed in Pennsylvania killing all the passengers (Fothergill, 2009). At first, the federal aviation agency was not aware of the incidence, but when they noticed they had to land every civilian plane within the boundaries of the country, and within a short period, the airspace was barred to all except the emergency military operation. After the 9/11 incidence, the airspace traffic reduced for about 18 months but eventually recovered. To strengthen the federal aviation agency strategies were put in place for EN route modernization. This was achieved through ERAM doubling the computer processing power involving the ATC system through the use of computer programing language and modern equipment. The federal aviation agency plans to upgrade navigation, communication, and air traffic management systems. This development will lead to the American traffic control system getting compliant to the future expected ICAO traffic management standards (Fothergill, 2009).
Fothergill, S., Loft, S., & Neal, A. (2009). ATC-lab Advanced: An air traffic control simulator with realism and control. Behavior Research Methods, 41(1), 118-127.
Loft, S., Bolland, S., Humphreys, M. S., & Neal, A. (2009). A theory and model of conflict detection in air traffic control: Incorporating environmental constraints. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15(2), 106.
Nolan, M. (2010). Fundamentals of air traffic control. Cengage learning.
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