• The History of Flight Inspection (Ⅱ)



    Through the early 1950s, the CAA developed a series of ambitious plans for the widespread installation of standardized navigational aids consisting of VOR/DME’s for the airways, plus long-range and terminal radar equipment and ILS’s for airport approaches. The continued growth of civil aviation and the advent of the jet airliner soon pushed airspace problems into the headlines. Several major mid-air collisions, including one over the Grand Canyon in June 1956, pressed the Congress and federal government into making a dramatic new commitment to funding air traffic and airspace improvements. By the end of 1956 an overhaul of the system was begun, with a price tag in excess of $450 million.

    pic9.jpgFor CAA flight inspection, the planned installation of hundreds of VOR’s and ILS’s demanded a dramatic increase in flight inspection capability. Toward that end, the U.S. Navy eventually transferred forty surplus R4Ds (DC-3) to the CAA for modification into the new "Type II" DC-3 flight inspection aircraft. The Type II DC-3 became the standard flight inspection aircraft system wide for nearly twenty years, with the CAA eventually operating nearly sixty DC-3s in its fleet. The prime mission of the DC-3 fleet was envisioned to be ILS and terminal approach inspection, plus the detailed commissioning inspections of all new facilities. Each DC-3 operated with two pilots and at least one airborne electronics technician, a crew concept that has carried forth to modern flight inspection.pic11.jpg

    Also, to explore how VOR’s and other navaids performed at the altitudes new jet aircraft were now routinely flying, the U.S. Air Force agreed to loan two Martin B-57 Canberra bombers to the CAA for high-altitude use. The Air Force pulled two Boeing KC-135s from the production line for fitting as high-altitude flight inspection aircraft for loan to the CAA. 

    The Semi-Automatic Flight Inspection (SAFI) program was developed in the late 1950s to perform long-range airway-type inspection. Five U.S. Air Force C-131 Convairs were obtained and modified with DME positioning information and computerized recorders. All five Convairs were modified with the installation of Allison turboprop engines before they joined the flight inspection fleet. The SAFI program flew predetermined grids across the country looking at each of the enroute VORTAC’s as part of the entire airspace system.pic12.jpg

    Before most of this new equipment had been delivered, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to overcome differences between the CAA and the military over aviation matters. This legislation created a new independent agency, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). The FAA was separated from the Department of Commerce, and assigned the final jurisdiction over civil and military aviation as they participated in the national airspace system.

    The new FAA faced many problems with the expanding airspace system, but quickly established itself as a technically-proficient, competent authority on aviation matters.pic14.jpg In 1959, the U.S. Army and Navy transferred their flight inspection programs to the FAA. The U.S. Air Force, under the prodding of a 1962 Presidential executive order, developed a new sense of cooperation with the FAA and, with "Operation Friendship," transferred much of its own flight inspection capability to the FAA. This transfer included its fleet of Douglas AC-54s, Douglas AC-47s, and Convair AT-29s for the FAA to perform routine Air Force flight inspection. The combat flight inspection mission was retained by the Air Force for its Lockheed C-140 Jetstar-eqiupped flight inspection squadron.

    pic15.jpgOne important international aspect of FAA flight inspection operations during the late 1950s and extending through the 1960’s, was the particular emphasis placed upon foreign aid. Under the auspices of the Agency for International Development and other State Department-administered programs, foreign flight inspection programs were developed utilizing the training facilities at the Aeronautical Center. DC-3s, including several drawn directly from the FAA fleet, were modified similarly to the Type II configuration by the FAA and delivered to the foreign governments for flight inspection.