The second fundamental change was to establish the Civil Aeromedical Institute, which had formerly been created and operated solely at the discretion of the FAA, as a legislatively mandated arm of the FAA, and to specifically charge it with pursuing research in human factors as a crucial functional responsibility. The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives, which was responsible for creating this legislation, cited human factors as a vitally important research area and indicated its concurrence with expert testimony that "if significant improvements are to be made in the technology of transportation safety, they must come at the hands of human factors researchers, or not at all."

In addition, the Act required two further items:

  • a national aviation research plan and annual reports to Congress

    The Administrator shall prepare and transmit to Congress, a national aviation research plan. Not later than the date of the submission of the President's budget ... for each fiscal year ..., the Administrator shall review and revise the plan and pu blish and transmit the revised plan to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate. The plan shall describe, for a 15-year period, the research, engineering, and development considered by the Administrator necessary to ensure the continued capacity, safety, and efficiency of aviation in the United States, considering emerging technologies, forecasted needs of civil aeronautics, and provide the highest degree of safety in air travel.

    The Administrator shall report to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate on the accomplishments of the research completed during the preceding fiscal year.

  • an FAA research advisory committee

    The advisory committee shall provide advice and recommendations to the Administrator regarding needs, objectives, plans, approaches, content, and accomplishments with respect to the aviation research program.... The committee shall also assist in assuring that such research is coordinated with similar research being conducted outside of the Federal Aviation Administration. The advisory committee shall be composed of not more than 20 members appointed by the Administrator from among persons who are not employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and who are especially qualified to serve on the committee by virtue of their education, training, or experience. The Administrator in appointing the members of the committee shall ensure that universities, corporations, associations, consumers, and other government agencies are represented.

    The chairman of the advisory committee shall be designated by the Administrator.

The Aircraft Catastrophic Failure Prevention Research Act of 1990

Subsequent to the Aviation Safety Research Act of 1988, the Aircraft Catastrophic Failure Prevention Research Act of 1990, which was incorporated in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990 (Public Law 101–508), further amended Section 312, charging the FAA "to develop technologies and methods to assess the risk of and prevent defects, failures and malfunctions of products, parts, processes, and articles manufactured for use in aircraft, aircraft engines, propellers and appliances which could result in catastrophic failure of an aircraft."


In response to the new congressional mandates discussed above, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has developed an Aircraft Safety Research Program which includes a Fire Research Program. These programs are discussed below.

Aircraft Safety Research Program

In the two research areas of aviation maintenance and fire safety, the FAA Technical Center (FAATC) established in 1991 a multifaceted Aircraft Safety Research Program and an Aircraft Safety Research Plan (FAA, 1991). The Plan concentrates on identifying improvements to the aircraft and its systems, specifically in the areas of:

  • structural inspection and repair,

  • systems reliability,

  • crew alerting and awareness,

  • fault detection,

  • failure prevention,

  • crash energy absorption,

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