The first official and registered flight by engine was performed in the United States in December the 13th of 1903. The author of it, Orville Wright, the feat, getting the first flight sustained 12 seconds in the air while his brother and business partner Wilbur, was watching his short but successful progress. Without a doubt, a date and event largely known by all who are dedicated to aviation and essential to mention it as a starting point for the evolution of American aviation, and consequently, the future General direction of American Civil Aviation (FAA). Actually 17 years had to pass until the creation of an organism that was responsible for the development of air transport, it was not until the middle of the 1920’s decade that the U.S. Commerce Department (Ministry) urged the creation of an internal agency, which was called the Aeronautics Branch, not only to develop and ensure the safety standards of safety regulations, but also to promote and maintain air commerce, establish new air routes and air traffic standards, the operation and maintenance of AIDS for air navigation and licensing of pilots and aircrafts certifications. With the Aeronautics Branch the objectives and the future Federal Aviation Administration databases were going to be born.


In 1934 and due to the growth the aviation industry was experiencing, The Aeronautical Branch was reorganized in an external office and it was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce, which reflected the weight that this new Government Office was acquiring within the Ministry of trade and the growing importance of aviation in the nation.

It was then when they began to have more initiatives to organize the industrial skeleton and the operating environment that was being created around this new mean of transport. Among these initiatives, the Bureau encouraged a group of airlines to establish the first centers for Air Traffic Control (ATC) despite not yet having direct contact by radio with the flights.

Naples Airport_Air traffic control tower and Atitech building_aviation_law
Image courtesy of Elliott Brown at

A traffic control was being born by only using maps, blackboards and direct phone calls to other traffic control centers, radio stations, and airline dispatchers. These first centers were in the regions of denser air traffic at the time, these were: Newark (NJ), Cleveland (OH), and Chicago (IL). This centers also worked on the planning and scheduling of flights, once these were standardized and implemented, commercial air transport began to become more professional and organized, taking on a new height, no pun intended.

Airlines and air routes began to grow, however, air safety did not evolve at the same speed, it remained a problem and an ill-managed federal responsibility. The management of towers at the airports and other similar functions were carried out by local government authorities, operating independently and without integral control, several fatal accidents were happening so it became evident that the Department of Commerce had to unify its inter-operability in all air traffic centers.

A control tower in the 1930’s.

It was the year of 1938 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally signed a new law to create a new independent body called the Civil Aeronautics Authority or CAA that would have authority over air traffic in all the national territory, in addition to regulate rates and air routes throughout the country. The unification of tasks and responsibilities in a single agency did not last long, just before the eve of the entry of the United States to the Second World War, the CAA split into two agencies: The CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) for the areas that regulated safety on airplanes, the investigation of accidents and the economic regularization of the airlines and The CAA which held its ATC responsibilities like the aircraft pilot certifications, the enforcement of safety, and the development of airlines extending their creation to include them in the operation of the control towers inside the airports.

In the times right after the war, the ATC became a permanent federal responsibility at most airports. The Congress gave the CAA the additional task of administering the Federal-Aid Airport Program, the first program of financial assistance in times of peace that was exclusively aimed at promoting the development of the civil airports in the nation, with this program the use of the radar was introduced and this helped the boom in commercial air transport to explode.

So air traveling is not new but is not old, it gradually became a science that only a few can master after a lot of studying. Airplanes are currently the second transport mode most used in the world, right after the train, it can carry all sorts of goods and people to their intended destination in the shortest time possible for today’s standards. It is very safe and let’s face it, it is not that comfortable sometimes.


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