The Heyday of Propeller Airliners(1941-1958)

"The airplane will have a far greater role in the affairs of a world at peace than it already has in the stern business of a world at war."

-William A. Patterson, president of United Air Lines

What Does the FAA Do?

The FAA is mainly responsible for the advancement, safety, and regulation of air travel. It also watches over the development of air traffic control systems and commercial space travel.

Post-War Revival and Regulation

American Airlines Post War Brochure
Reprinted courtesy American Airlines, Inc

After World War II, passenger travel surged to new levels. The federal government reorganized its regulatory agencies to manage the rapidly growing airline industry.

When wartime travel restrictions ended, airlines were overwhelmed with passengers. New carriers emerged, and new technology began to revolutionize civil aviation. Through the new Civil Aeronautics Board and later the Federal Aviation Agency, the U.S. government remained a guiding force, working to ensure safety and fair competition.

With revenues on the rise and new, more efficient airliners in the air, airlines no longer needed economic support. In 1952 the government ended its decades-old subsidy for flying the mail. While air mail remained a valuable source of income, airlines no longer needed it to survive.

CAB Flag and Seal
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

The Civil Aeronautics Board

Created in 1940 from the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the Civil Aeronautics Board (C.A.B.) merged the regulatory functions of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Post Office, and Commerce Department. It would set airline fares and routes for four decades.
The C.A.B. continued to favor a system anchored by a few large, well-financed airlines-United, American, Eastern, and TWA-with several regional airlines flying north-south routes. Limited competition ensured stability and allowed the C.A.B. to control the young industry's growth.

Federal Aviation Administration Logo
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The Federal Aviation Agency

A series of airliner accidents and rapid increases in aircraft performance and airport congestion spurred the federal government to again reorganize its regulatory powers.

Created on January 1, 1959, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) quickly moved to improve the management and safety of the nation's airways, while the C.A.B. continued to set airline routes and fares. When the Department of Transportation was created in 1967, the FAA became the Federal Aviation Administration.

CAB Sign Coming Down
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association


FAA Sign Going Up
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

The Civil Aeronautics Administration became the Federal Aviation Agency on January 1, 1959.

Workmen exchange signs on the new FAA headquarters at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, now the site of Constitution Gardens.