Echoes in the Grand Canyon: Public Catastrophes and Technologies of Control in American Aviation

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A series of dramatic mid-air collisions during the late 1950s caused the United States to embark on a reconstruction of its air traffic control system. In pursuit of the concept of 'positive control' over all aircraft, the Federal Aviation Agency modified and deployed military technologies under orders to eliminate these highly public catastrophes. In the process, it curtailed one of flight's great dreams, freedom of the skies, imposing technological and procedural requirements on fliers wanting access to urban airspace. Resistance from private fliers produced modification of some of the agency's plans, causing it to adapt its planned airspace structures to permit private fliers limited access without having to submit to the control system.

Keywords: Air Traffic Control; Federal Aviation Agency; Positive Control; Public Catastrophe; SAGE

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

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