Friday, August 19, 2011

Federal Certification of Pilots and Mechanics

| Friday, August 19, 2011 | 0 comments

The Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce began pilot certification with the first license issued on April 6, 1927. The recipient was the chief of the Aeronautics Branch, William P. MacCracken, Jr. [Figure 1-8] (Orville Wright, who was no longer an active flier, had declined the honor.) MacCracken’s license was the first issued to a pilot by a civilian agency of the Federal Government. Some 3 months later, the Aeronautics Branch issued the first Federal aircraft mechanic license.

Equally important for safety was the establishment of a system of certification for aircraft. On March 29, 1927, the Aeronautics Branch issued the first airworthiness type certificate to the Buhl Airster CA-3, a three-place open biplane.

In 1934, to recognize the tremendous strides made in aviation and to display the enhanced status within the department, the Aeronautics Branch was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce. [Figure 1-9] Within this time frame, the Bureau of Air Commerce brought together a group of airlines and encouraged them to form the first three Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities along the established air routes. Then in 1936, the Bureau of Air Commerce took over the responsibilities of operating the centers and continued to advance the ATC facilities. ATC has come a long way from the early controllers using maps, chalkboards, and performing mental math calculations in order to separate aircraft along flight routes.

Figure 1-8. The first pilot license was issued to William P. MacCracken, Jr.

Figure 1-9. The third head of the Aeronautics Branch, Eugene L. Vidal, is flanked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) and Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace (right). The photograph was taken in 1933. During Vidal’s tenure, the Aeronautics Branch was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce on July 1, 1934. The new name more accurately reflected the status of the organization within the Department of Commerce.


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