Unformatted text preview: THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958 The Federal Aviation Act of 1958
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 1 THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958 2
Abstract The collision on June 30, 1956, of United Airlines DC7 and TWA, the most massive air disaster
in U.S. aviation at that time, was a tragic event where lots of lives were lost. Several possible
courses of action could have avoided this catastrophic event. Two of those are included here as
well as the problems, advantages, and disadvantage of each. In conclusion, the explanation
regarding the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 is presented.
Keywords: collision 1956, Federal Aviation Act of 1958, government funding. THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958 3 4.4- Case analysis: The Federal Aviation Act of 1958
On Saturday, June 30, 1956, two airplanes, United Flight 718 and TWA Flight 2, took off
from LAX and collided over the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. The collision happened in
uncontrolled airspace (AvStop n.d.). The accident and amount of lives lost became the
momentum for significant governmental changes such as improvement for air traffic control, the
development of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and most importantly, application
of collision avoidance radar on commercial aircraft (Aroundaz 2014).
Multiple factors played a significant role in the issue that caused this big collision. In
1950, most airplanes flew under the VFR Flight Rules and required almost no ATC control.
Airline pilots would fly mostly under IFR Flight Rules. However, it was not uncommon that
airlines would fly a part of the planned flight under VFR Flight Rules (Harry Lawerence 2015).
The main reason was the lack of en-route radar. Furthermore, most of the airspace was
uncontrolled. Airliners would not talk to a Controller but to a Radar Operator. That process
presented the next problem. When airliners would speak with radar operators, he or she had to
talk to the controller and then go back to the airline pilot with the clearance or request
approved/not approved. Consider all this plus the fact that some other unfortunate circumstances
occurred that day, such as delay of flights, swapping of flight plans, altitude changes, and the
Salt Lake controller did not advise the pilots with the critical information, such as indication of a
risk of an impending collision (Aroundaz 2014, JTWPilot Channel 2017). THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958 4 III. Significance of the problem
TWA 2's flight plan read 19,000 feet, and 270 knots, LAX, flying northeast to Daggett,
CA, to Trinidad, CO, and ultimate destination is Kansas City, MO. TWA 2 would cross the
Painted Desert, which is a line of position between Daggett and Trinidad. TWA 2 took off at
9:01 AM. Three minutes later, United 718 took off at the same airport, LAX. The flight plan for
United 718 read, 21,000 feet at 288 knots, flying east-northeast to Needles, CA, then to Painted
Desert, AZ continue Durango, CO with Chicago IL as its destination (Aroundaz 2014).
The skies over northern Arizona that extended westward into Nevada were overcast.
Therefore, the TWA 2s Captain requested an increase in altitude from 19,000 feet to 21,000 feet
through the TWA ground operator while he was approaching Daggett. This altitude change
would bring the airplane on top of the weather, and able to fly under VFR flight rules. TWA's
operator contacted the Los Angeles Air Traffic Control Center with the request with approximate
arriving at Daggett 10:31 am (JTWPilot Channel 2017). The Los Angeles controller contacted
the Salt Lake City, and both of the controllers notified that United 718 would also be at Daggett
at 21,000 feet. They denied the clearance and the LA controller advised TWA 2 the traffic,
United 718, direct Durango, estimating Needles at 9:57 am (Aroundaz 2014). Since it was VFR
flight rules on top of the weather, the Captain of TWA 2 decided to still climb to 21,000 feet.
Both pilots on United and TWA, reported around 9:58 am, to be reaching the Painted Desert
checkpoint at 10:31, both at 21.000 feet. United 718 reported its position to the CAA
communications station in Needles and TWA 2 to the company radio station in Las Vegas.
At 10:13 am, the last position from both flights reported at the Salt Lake controller did not
prevent this collision. Both planes were flying under VFR flight rules and in uncontrolled
airspace, both pilots, responsible looking out for traffic, did not see each other and collided. THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958 5 IV. Development of Alternative Actions
Alternative Action 1. The pilot could think of why the controller denied his request, and stay at
an altitude of 19.000 feet until passing Painted Desert, cleared of traffic.
Advantages. The collision would never have happened. The two planes crossing Painted
Desert at the same time would be separated by 2,000 feet.
Disadvantage. Because of the weather circumstances, staying at 19,000 feet required
flying under IFR Flight rules. Moreover, since there was no radar following thus, no separation
of aircrafts available, this made IFR flying risky.
Alternative Action 2. Although both pilots flying under VFR flight rules and therefore
controllers and pilots did not have the responsibility to talk to each other, both stations, the CAA
communications station in Needles and TWA 2's company radio station in Las Vegas, could
have notified the pilots about the same reaching time at Painted Desert checkpoint, respectively
10:31 am and 21,000feet.
Advantages. The TWA 2 pilot could have avoided this collision by climbing or
descending 2,000 feet until reaching Painted Desert checkpoint.
Disadvantage. There was no direct communication system in place at that time.
Therefore, both pilots could have decided to do the same action, descend or climb. If a collision
was caused because a controller notifies the airplanes about each other, the controllers would
have been at fault for this wreck. In fact, separation of aircraft was not the responsibility of any
controller since the VFR flight Rules and non- controlled airspace at that time. THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958 6 V. Recommendation
The reason for this collision is apparent, no radio system in place, no controlled airspace, and
VFR flight rules. A tragic accident, caused by a broken system. Flying in IFR weather is an
intensive, and dangerous job, however, denying advice from a controller, even while operating
with VFR flight rules, can be deadly, similar to this tragic accident. Therefore, make the
alternative action 1 the best option that could have prevented this collision.
On a positive note, because of this tragic day, the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was born, and a
lot of changes have been made. Changes include no more VFR on top at high altitudes, all
airspace above 18,000 feet became controlled airspace, new VOR navigate was added over time
and the most critical change, funding from the federal government available to place 82 longrange ATC-radar system. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 changed the way we are flying now,
feeling safe and knowing that someone is always watching, separating us from other airplanes
(JTWPilot Channel 2017). THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT OF 1958
Aroundaz. (2014). Grand Canyon Collision. The greatest commercial air tragedy of its day!
Retrieved from: AvStop. (n.d.). The Federal Aviation Act Of 1958. Aviation online magazine. Retrieved from:
Lawerence H., ( 2015). Aviation and the role of Government. Kendal Hunt. Third edition,
Dubuque IA, Kendal Hunt, 527, 185. JTWPilot Channel (2017). The Crash that Changed the Way we Fly; 1956 Grand Canyon Midair. Retrieved from: 7 ...
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- Spring '12
- Federal Aviation Administration, TWA, Visual flight rules