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Civil Aeronautics Board

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was an agency of the federal government of the United States, formed in 1938 and abolished in 1985, that regulated aviation services including scheduled passenger airline service and provided air accident investigation. The agency headquarters were in Washington, D.C.

Functions

The primary role of the CAB was to regulate scheduled commercial airline operations in the United States. The CAB strictly controlled all U.S. certificated airlines ("scheduled carriers") -- deciding which routes would be serviced by which airlines, and setting minimum limits on passenger fares (comparable to the Interstate Commerce Commission) -- effectively managing competition between airlines, and ensuring certain levels of service to communities throughout the United States.

While the CAB regulation suppressed free competition, it provided security for the existing airlines, avoided gluts and shortages of passengers on certain routes, and (partly by allowing airlines to carry air mail) secured airline service for communities that would have otherwise been served less, or not have been served at all (due to low passenger traffic or other reasons).

To achieve its goals, the CAB was empowered to provide and administer subsidies to airlines. Further, the CAB regulated airline industry mergers and intercompany contracting -- but shielded the airlines from antitrust regulation. Additionally, within the airline industry, the CAB was assigned to prevent deceptive trade practices and unfair competition methods (similar to the role of the Federal Trade Commission).

History

The Civil Aeronautics Authority Act of 1938 formed the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The agency was renamed in 1940, due to a merger with the Air Safety Board. It became an independent agency under Reorganization Plans Nos. III and IV of 1940, effective on June 30, 1940. The Air Safety Board had formed in 1938.

Other predecessor agencies included the Aeronautics Branch (1926–1934), the Bureau of Air Commerce (1934–1938), and the Bureau of Air Mail, Interstate Commerce Commission (1934–38).

The first air accident investigation led by the CAB was the 1940 Lovettsville air disaster.

Some duties were transferred to the Federal Aviation Agency in 1958.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was established in 1967, taking over air accident investigation duties.

In the late 1970s, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, and under the guidance of his economic advisor Alfred Kahn (who had specialized in research on deregulation, and was appointed CAB Chairman), the CAB became the target of the early deregulation movement, and its dissolution was one of the most conspicuous pioneering events of the movement. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 specified that the CAB would eventually be disestablished -- the first federal regulatory regime, since the 1930s, to be totally dismantled -- and this happened on January 1, 1985. The remaining tasks were transferred to the Secretary of Transportation except for a few going to the U.S. Postal Service.

Offices



The agency had its headquarters in the Universal Building in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. The agency had moved there by May 1959. Previously it had been headquartered in the Commerce Building (a.k.a. the Herbert C. Hoover Building), and its offices were in several buildings. After moving into the Universal Building, CAB leased space there. By 1968 the agency had acquired an additional approximately 2000 sqft of space in the same building, resulting in additional rent expenses.