UPDATED With New Research:    March 07, 2017

ATC - Next 30 Years - (1983-2013)
Significant Chronological History -  (1986)

 New Updates:   (March 07, 2017) 

The Next 30 Years: 1983-2013

Commercial Aviation and Air Traffic Control



   January 23, 1986 -Northwest Airlines announced that it would buy Republic Airlines. DOT approved the merger on July 31, 1986.    



   January 28, 1986 - The Space Shuttle 'Challenger' (the 2nd orbiter to be put into service following Columbia) exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida. All seven crew members, including a civilian school teacher died. It was the first of two shuttles to be destroyed in flight, the other being 'Columbia' in 2003. The 'Challenger' launched and landed nine times before breaking apart 73 seconds into its tenth mission.


The 'Challenger' mission was delayed for 6 days due to weather and technical problems. The morning of January 28 was unusually cold, and engineers warned their superiors that certain components -- particularly the rubber O-rings that sealed the joints of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters -- were vulnerable to failure at low temperatures. However, these warnings went unheeded and the 'Challenger' lifted off at 11:39 a.m. Seventy three seconds later the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions watched the tragedy unfold on live TV. The spacecraft broke apart and plunged into the ocean, killing its entire crew.

President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong and to develop future corrective measures. The commission included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager. The investigation revealed that the O-ring on Challenger's solid rocket booster, which had become brittle in the cold temperatures, failed. Flames then broke out of the booster and damaged the external fuel tank causing the spacecraft to disintegrate.

The commission also found that the company that designed the solid rocket boosters, had ignored warnings about potential issues. NASA managers were aware of these design problems but also failed to take action.

Twenty-five seconds after the breakup of the shuttle, the altitude of the crew compartment peaked at 65,000 feet. The crew compartment and many other fragments were eventually recovered from the ocean floor after a lengthy search and recovery operation. Several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup but the shuttle had no escape system, and the impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable. The cabin hit the ocean surface at roughly 207 mph. (7 Fatalities)



   February 24, 1986 - Financialy troubled Eastern Air Lines accepted a buy-out offer by Texas Air. This decision followed labor negotiations in which Eastern's pilots agreed to make concessions, but the union representing machinists and mechanics demanded replacement of chairman Frank Borman. He resigned in June.



   March 1, 1986 - Trans World Airlines acquired Ozark Airlines under an agreement approved by the Department of Transportation. Ozark had been flying since 1950 and expanded within the Midwest.


   March 14, 1986 - FAA announced the choice of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to provide a new management training facility to replace the existing school (Cameron University) at Lawton, OK. Embry Riddle built a new school at Palm Coast, Florida and the new school was named the Center for Management Development (CMD).

-- BOMB ON A TWA B-727 --

    April 2, 1986 -Athens, Greece: A bomb hidden under a seat cushion exploded aboard a TWA B-727 on approach to Athens, creating a hole in the fuselage four feet in diameter.

The blast killed four passengers and injured nine others, but the jet landed safely.
(4 Fatalities)


   April 29, 1986 - FAA announced the resumption of direct airline service between the United States and the Soviet Union after an interruption of over four years. The flights resulted from an agreement between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikail Gorbachev.



    June 18, 1986 - While conducting tours over the Grand Canyon National Park, a Bell 206B helicopter and a De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter collided killing all aboard the two aircraft. (25 Fatalities)


The NTSB listed the probable cause as the failure of both flight crews to see and avoid each other. Contributing factors: failure of FAA oversight regarding Grand Canyon flights; National Park Service influence over route selection by air tour operators; and modification of helicopter routes to intersect those used by fixed-wing aircraft.


    August 21, 1986 - FAA's Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) handled 112,467 en route operations, the highest single-day traffic to this date. The FAA also implemented a Traffic Management System integrating certain air traffic control functions to create a more orderly traffic flow. They also deployed mobile 'Tiger Teams' of personnel with expertise in a variety of air traffic control disciplines to improve traffic management in areas experiencing delays.


   August 31, 1986 - An Aeromexico DC-9 en route from Mexico City to Los Angeles and a Piper Cherokee PA-28 collided in clear air over Cerritos, California. The Piper had inadvertently made an unauthorized entry into the Los Angles Terminal Control Area (TCA), and its radar return was not observed by the air traffic controller providing service to the Mexican flight. Both planes crashed to the ground, killing everyone on board. 82 people lost their lives, including 64 on the DC-9, three on the small plane and 15 on the ground. About 20 houses were either completely or partially destroyed.      (82 Fatalities)


 The Piper Cherokee with the pilot and two passengers had departed Torrance, California, and 12 minutes later the Piper's engine collided with the left horizontal stabilizer of the DC-9, shearing off the top of the Piper's cockpit, killing the pilot and both passengers. The plane fell onto an empty playground at Cerritos Elementary School.

An Orange County Register reporter described the scene: "The DC-9 had careened through houses on three streets, its nose punching through a brick wall onto busy Carmenita Street, crushing the rear end of a Ford Galaxy. The silvery metal tail section, covered with blood, was found in a driveway. At nearby Concordia Lutheran Church, orange metal pieces of the massive DC-9 jetliner was found on the lawn, along with more bodies."


The NTSB listed the probable cause as the limitations of the air traffic control system to provide collision protection, through both air traffic control procedures and automated redundancy. The Piper was out of radio contact with Air Traffic Control which had been distracted by another flight entering his control area without having a clearance. The Piper was not equipped with a transponder, which would have indicated his altitude and LAX had not been equipped with automatic warning systems. Neither pilot sighted the other aircraft because neither attempted any evasive maneuvers.  The Cerritos accident was the first midair collision to occur within a TCS.

As a result of this accident, the FAA required that all commercial aircraft be equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS), and required that light aircraft operating in dense airspaces be equipped with Mode-C transponders that could report 3-dimensional positions.


   September 5, 1986 - A Pan American B-747 was hijacked at Karachi, Pakistan. Four men dressed as security guards stormed the jet, but the senior flight attendant was able to alert the cockpit crew using the intercom, allowing the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer to escape through an overhead hatch in the cockpit. This was to prevent the hijackers from forcing the plane to take off.

The flight crew escaped and the 4 terrorists demanded a new crew to fly them to Cyprus. They killed an American passenger during the ensuing 17-hour negotiations. When the lights aboard the jet failed, the terrorists began a massacre, killing 22 persons and injuring 125 before being arrested. Twelve were from the United States, Pakistan and Mexico. (22 Fatalities)

The senior flight attendant on Flight 73 gave her life to save 360 others. She hid the passports of 44 American passengers so that they could not be distinguished from non-Americans. This was because the hijackers decided to take the passports of all passengers in order to identify the American citizens and make them targets. Seventeen hours later, the  hijackers opened fire on passengers and planted explosives, at which point the flight attendant opened an emergency exit to let the passengers out. She was fatally shot while shielding 3 American children from bullets.

All the hijackers were arrested and sentenced to death in Pakistan, but later their sentences were commuted to life in prison.

Pan Am Flight 73, with 360 passengers on board, had just arrived from Mubai, India, and was preparing to depart Karachi for Frankfurt, Germany and on to JFK in New York City.


   October 23, 1986 - The FAA announced the purchase of 19 turboprop Beech Super King Air Model 300 aircraft for its flight inspection fleet, used to check the accuracy of air navigation and landing aids. The new aircraft will replace a number of Saberliner Model 80s and all 5 of the agency's Jet Commander Model-1121 aircraft. The new King Airs will be more fuel efficient and easier to maintain.

At its peak in FY 1964, the FAA's total fleet had consisted of 116 aircraft of 24 different types. In 1987 the fleet would be reduced to 50 aircraft of 16 types.     .


   December 23, 1986 - Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager became the first aircraft pilots to circle the globe without landing or refueling when their experimental airplane VOYAGER touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after covering 25,000 miles in nine days.

The aircraft had a propeller at each end of its fuselage, and was equipped with a main wing nearly 111 feet long as well as a smaller forward wing. The VOYAGER took off on December 14 with 1,200 gallons of fuel and landed with only eight gallons of usable fuel remaining.


1st 25 Years:   | Pre-FAA | 1959 | 1962 | 1965 | 1967 | 1968 | 1970 | 1972 | 1974 | 1977 | 1979 | 1981 | 1982
 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 |
99 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 |  

Last revised: March 07, 2017

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