The Birth of FAA

Quesada takes the oathAs the age of jet airline travel approached, many Americans recognized the need for more concerted effort to safeguard civil aviation. A severe midair collision over the Grand Canyon in 1956 underscored this necessity. In 1958, the Federal Aviation Act created the FAA, an independent agency combining scattered safety responsibilities.

Above: on November 1, 1958, Elwood R. Quesada took the oath as FAA's first Administrator.

Technical center ceremony

A retired Air Force general, Quesada had served as President Eisenhower's special aviation advisor. He had also headed a temporary Airways Modernization Board. One of his actions in that position was to establish the National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center (NAFEC) at a former military base in New Jersey. (This research complex is now the FAA's Technical Center.)

In the above photo, Quesada is standing beside a Naval officer at the NAFEC facility transfer ceremony in June 1958. The man seated second to the left of the podium is James T. Pyle, last Administrator of the CAA and soon to become the first Deputy Administrator of the nascent FAA.

Changing signsOn the last day of 1958, the FAA assumed the full scope of its responsibilities, superceding the CAA and also absorbing the Civil Aeronautics Board's safety rulemaking function. The new agency possessed the authority to establish a unified civil/military National Airspace System backed by an expanded network of air navigation and air traffic control facilities.

The last word of the FAA's name changed from "Agency" to "Administration" when the organization became part of the new Department of Transportation in 1967.