J. LYNN HELMS, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration who carried out President Ronald Reagan's order to fire more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers and oversaw efforts to keep airlines flying during the crisis, died on Dec. 11. He was 86.
A former test pilot, Helms was the first FAA chief in a decade capable of designing an airplane that could fly.
Several months into his tenure, in August 1981, more than 12,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, known as PATCO, walked off the job after contract negotiations stalled over the union's call for a reduced workweek and higher pay.
Reagan declared the walkout illegal and warned that any workers who did not return to their jobs within 48 hours would be fired. The majority of controllers remained on strike and lost their jobs.
Helms' contingency plan sharply reduced flight schedules and used supervisors, non-striking air controllers and some military controllers to direct the nation's air traffic.