FAA’s Culture of Unaccountability (PIX11 Investigative Series, by Mario Diaz)

This looks like a solid news investigation, and something sorely needed to bring accountability to FAA. Reporter Mario Diaz conducted a four month investigation which has now aired as a series of news stories at PIX11 TV (New York). He found fifteen cases where air traffic controllers were found partially responsible for fatal air crashes, yet the controllers were never held accountable … and some returned to work in just days. He also notes that FAA paid out more than $100 Million to settle the fifteen identified cases, in which 54 people died.

Mr. Diaz reported a lack of cooperation from many aviation officials who declined interview requests during the initial investigation. This included the controllers’ union (NATCA), the main pilots’ union (ALPA), Senator Jay Rockefeller (who chairs the senate committee that oversees transportation), Representative Frank LoBiondo (Chair of the House Subcommittee on Aviation), and most significantly the FAA. Those who did speak (and thus appear more devoted to real transparency) included: U.S. Senator Cory Booker (NJ), U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (NY), and Representative John Mica (FL).

After Part One aired on April 28th, both FAA and Rep. LoBiondo provided brief responses. FAA’s response was incredible, in that the agency declared FAA’s dedication to ‘safety’ while ignoring their own failed safety record, as evidenced by this investigative series. FAA added a declaration that they investigate “…every accident and incident that occurs in the system to determine whether it could pursue further improvements to continue to enhance aviation safety.” This is patently false, as evidenced by the concealment of the 7/25/2010 controller error at Camarillo, CA, which FAA continues to pretend did not happen.

FAA’s statement went even further, citing ‘Due Process’ concerns in defense of their failure to take accountable action against rogue controllers. Those who are aware of FAA’s terrible history of retaliation against Whistleblowers will find this especially galling because, in nearly all Whistleblower cases, FAA has done everything in their power — including lying repeatedly — to obstruct Due Process. So, there is a disturbing double-standard: destroy the Whistleblowers, while supporting those who participate within the corrupt culture. Want to see an example? See the extensively documented Lewis-FAA WB Case, related to the TV set pictured below.

As one aviation attorney said in the PIX11 news series, “…this is the government’s stonewalling … what amounts to incompetent behavior that can, does, and has resulted in death.”

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20140428.. Mario Diaz article, FAA ATCS still employed after deadly crashes4/28/14, Part One:
Reporter Mario Diaz presents his extensive investigation into the lack of accountability by FAA and air traffic controllers. He identifies cases where FAA air traffic controllers were found to have contributed to fatal air crashes, yet are still working in FAA’s control towers and en route radar facilities. In two examples, fatal accidents in both Texas and Florida, all pilots and passengers were killed after the controllers knowingly failed to advise pilots of lines of severe weather. Comments are mostly by controllers, and are ‘unappreciative’ of Diaz’ report.

20140429.. Mario Diaz article, HEMS accident, Andrews AFB4/29/14, Part Two:
The sole survivor of a 2008 medevac helicopter crash is interviewed, and is surprised to hear that the controller who refused to provide an ASR approach is still working. She had heard the controller was fired. That controller was assigned to work the tower at Andrews AFB, but FAA had failed to train her to conduct ASR approaches. NTSB found significant FAA failures at two towers as well as at the Potomac TRACON radar facility. A former FAA attorney noted this criticism: “The NTSB categorized the FAA’s actions in this case as casual and sloppy. I’d say it was casual and sloppy at its best.”

20140430.. Mario Diaz article, FAA probe soon by Maloney4/30/14, Part Three:
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York found FAA’s response was unacceptable, and vowed to send FAA a letter, demanding answers.
Congressman John Mica, former Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, as well as the former Chairman of the House Aviation Sub-Committee, suggests that controllers are being improperly shielded. “This pendulum has swung I think too far in the direction of protecting people who should be held accountable and should be dismissed.” The article also discusses the failure of the ATSAP program, which is effectively burying safety information into a black hole (and thus protecting FAA personnel — and FAA — from accountability)

20140505.. Mario Diaz article, Maloney letter to Huerta5/5/14, Part Four:
U.S. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney discusses the reason he has sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The letter presents his concerns and asks specific questions, including “What transparency measures exist when the FAA investigates an accident?” The letter was also copied to Rep. Bill Shuster, the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Maloney sits on that same committee, which oversees FAA.

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caused a near-midair collision in March 1989

Same Culture of Unaccountability, but two decades earlier. This is the TV set in an Oregon tower cab that caused a near-midair collision and led one FAA air traffic controller to become a Whistleblower. When he spoke up, he became a target of retaliation by FAA officials. [click on image to read more]