Introduction: Aviation plays a vital role for the economy of a nation, the industry provides millions of job opportunities, and it facilitates economic growth of an entire country through safe and efficient transportation of people and goods.
After the World War II, rapid growth in air commerce, improvement in aviation technology, and unprecedented increase in the demand of air travel caused the aviation industry to reach an unexpected level of complexity, and consequently the ascending demand raised the unanimous concern about aviation safety issues. Today, air transport has become a part of America`s way of life.
In the United States about 5000 planes usually fly over the sky during the peak hours of a day. (Freudenrich, C, n.d.). With the increase in air travel, modernization of operational regulation and aviation system became inevitable to ensure safe and efficient operation of thousands of flights.
The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was the initiative of Congress to regulate the aspects of manufacture and operation of general aviation aircraft to ensure highest degree of safety in aviation. The legislation created the regulatory authority Federal Aviation Administration, and the act entrusted the organization with entire responsibility to coordinate the air navigation of nation`s civil-military system and air traffic control.
Body: Aviation law governs the operation and maintenance of aviation facilities. The aviation in the United States was unregulated until the enactment of Air Commerce Act of 1926. (The Federal Aviation Act Of 1958, n.d.).
The Air Commerce Act of 1926 initiated the civil airway system. Under this legislation a new aeronautics branch was assigned with the primary responsibility of aviation safety under the department of commerce, and secretary of commerce was empowered with the responsibilities related to enforcing air traffic rules, establishing airways, licensing plots, certification of aircrafts etc.
The en-route air traffic control was federal responsibility but, the local government authorities continued to operate the airport towers. As a result of the growing importance of aviation to the nation, the aeronautics branch was renamed as bureau of air commerce by the department of commerce in 1934. Though the department of commerce was working for the improvement of the aviation safety, but a number of accidents raised the common concern about safety issues in aviation.
The Aviation act of 1938 came into existence, to ensure aviation safety from federal perspective. (History: A Brief History of the FAA, 2015) The act established three agencies: Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) to legislate safety and economics, administrator of aviation to implement safety regulations, and air safety board to investigate and recommend the ways for preventing accidents.
In 1940, the Civil Aeronautics Act was amended, and the amendment established the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), responsible for safety regulations, and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) responsible for economic regulations and accident investigations. CAA was charged for generating and maintaining Civil Air Regulations (CAR) to govern all the aspects of civil aviation. (Introduction to the FAA Aviation Safety and Regulation, n.d.).
On the eve of World War II, the authority of CAA expanded to include the operations of airport towers, air route traffic control centres, landings and take-offs at the airports. After the World War II, air travel and the aviation industry flourished significantly but, the skies were getting too much crowded under the existing system of aircraft separation. In the post war era, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the most airports became the federal responsibility and it was also an era of the beginning of commercial jet flights.
In June 30, 1956, TWA Flight 2 collided with the United Flight 718, over Grand Canyon and 128 people died in the accident. On May 20, 1958 a military jet collided with a commercial flight over Brunswick, Maryland.
The approaching era of jet travel and following the in-air collisions, Congress felt that the creation of an independent body to look into the safety issues of aviation can minimize the future hazards. (HERDEM, S., 2012) Simultaneously leaders of the aviation industry realized that without the federal intervention to improve and to maintain safety standards, the task to get the full potential of airplane was impossible, and it was also necessary to develop the unified air traffic control system for the civil and military flights over the United States.
The Federal Aviation Act, was signed into law by the President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 23, 1958. The law replaced the previous Air Commerce Act of 1926, the Aviation Act of 1938, and other related aviation laws. The law transferred the regulatory functions of CAA to the newly formed Federal Aviation Agency. (NATCA A History of Air Traffic Control, n.d.).
The Federal Aviation agency (later it was renamed as Federal Aviation Administration) began its operation on, December 31, 1958. Under the act, primary responsibility of aviation safety regulation lies with the Federal Aviation Administration.
In 1966, Congress authorized the creation of a cabinet department to combine all the major transportation responsibilities for air and surface transport.
Modern Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began its operation under the Department of transportation (USDOT) since 1967.
On April 1, 1975 Congress established a new federal agency National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and delegated the responsibility for investigation of aviation accidents, and in addition, the NTSB field investigators, engineers and scientists are also assigned with the responsibility to conduct special studies and investigations on safety matters in air navigation and prevention of accidents.
Besides establishing the FAA, the act empowered the authority to implement rules for aeronautic safety, including the development of new aviation technology, to regulate noise and other effects of air transportation, to certify the fitness of pilots and aircrafts, and also the entire responsibility for air navigation and air traffic control. (Tyson, J., n.d.).
Purpose of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was to promote safe air travel, and to protect the lives and property of air travellers as well as of people on the ground.
Today the aviation regulations are known as Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). With the intention to prevent conflicts and inconsistencies between state and federal standards, the states, or political subdivision of a state, or a political authority of at least two states are prohibited by the act from enacting or enforcing a law to regulate rates, routes, or services of any air carrier, authorized under the federal aviation act to provide interstate air transportation. However the states are not prohibited from enacting their own law consistent with the federal law or from amending the existing remedies under state law.
In 1968 the FAA was empowered to set noise standard of aircrafts. The FAA pursues a program to control the aircraft noise by development and adaption of quieter aircraft, soundproofing and buyouts of buildings near the airports, operational flight control measures, and phase out of older, noisier aircrafts. (Aircraft Noise Issues, 2014)
Conclusion: Congress enacted the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, to address two broad areas of concern: the rates and routes of commercial air carriers and general aviation safety.
Since the creation of Federal Aviation Act of 1958, aviation in the United States became mostly governed by the federal law. The act states that the U.S. government has exclusive sovereignty over the airspace of the country. The mission of FAA is to provide the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world.
Now, the Federal Administrative Administration ensures the safety of aviation by regulating the air transportation and maintaining the aviation under a nationwide network of air traffic control system. The FAA ensures that aircrafts are safe to fly, pilots and mechanics are competent, and the people and system that regulate the flow of air traffic can perform their job safely.
In 2005, aviation related fatalities in the United States were much less than the casualties occurred in highway, marine and rail accidents.
The impact of Federal Aviation Act of 1958 is reflected in the steadily improved picture of safe air travel records of the U.S.
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