OSC: FAA-related Disclosures, etc.

A thorough review was done of all FAA-related Press Releases as issued by OSC, from 1998 to the present. These are primarily disclosures by FAA employees, in which waste, fraud, or safety issues are shared with OSC. A summary of all press releases is compiled in the table below. Each item uses the following color-coding:

OSC-PR … is a link to the actual OSC Press Release.
OSC’s Analysis … is a link to a case analysis document prepared by OSC.
Mr. PRESIDENT! … is a link to OSC’s mandatory letter, sent to inform Congress and the President about the case.
info in a teal box … indicates other significant content, such as changes (and vacancies) in the Special Counsel position.

Please note, this is NOT an exhaustive list. I.e., not all FAA whistleblowers chose to contact OSC with their concerns. There have been periods (such as 1996-2000) where FAA employees were not authorized to obtain OSC assistance. And, there have been other times, when OSC’s reputation was so exceedingly poor, that FAA employees simply chose not to waste their time and effort.

All OSC Press Releases are viewable at this link:

OSC Press Release Archives

 

A review of the many records suggests the following points:

1) OSC handled very few FAA disclosures prior to 2009.

2) The explosion in late 2008, of the numbers of FAA disclosures handled by OSC, correlates with the dismissal of Scott Bloch on 10/23/08. It is conceivable that with Mr. Bloch’s departure and the assignment of his duties to William Reukauf, that OSC personnel resumed work on numerous FAA disclosures that previously had been on hold.

3) Roughly half of FAA disclosures were generated by union officials. It is conceivable that unions may rely more heavily on OSC during times of labor impasse. This was clearly the case between NATCA and FAA, with the contract impasse from 2005-2009.

4) Two OSC actions stand out as exemplary, and representative of the intent that OSC assist whistleblowers. The first is Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan’s support of James Hopkins, obtaining a stay on a removal after he spoke up about security matters in 2001. The second is the strong stance taken by Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, in her 5/8/12 letter to President Obama, identifying serious FAA failures in seven different cases. Nearly everything else in between these two cases, though, seems like just passing time and/or lost opportunity.

There is a lot of insight to be found in the links below. More detailed analysis will be coming soon, on an aiREFORM post.

 

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5/8/12: Special Counsel Calls for Stronger DOT Oversight of Airline Safety

An OSC Press Release announcing that a letter had been sent to President Obama, detailing several current FAA whistleblower complaints. These included:

 

(1) Rand Foster, Aviation Safety Inspector in Renton, WA, who in 2008 identified safety issues with night vision goggles used in EMS helicopters;

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

(2) Evan Seeley, former ATC Supervisor at New York Center, who disclosed a series of improprieties (including sleeping on the job) from February 2010 until January 2011;

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

(3) Dean Iacopelli, Air Traffic Controller at New York TRACON, who reported an ongoing safety conflict in early 2009 involving designed procedures in airspace around Newark and Teterboro;

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

(4) Mark Lund and Daniel Mirau, Aviation Safety Inspectors, who disclosed FAA oversight failures related to maintenance/safety issues at the Delta Airlines CMO;

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

(5) Edgar Diaz, Air Traffic Controller at San Juan, PR, disclosed in 2008 and again in May 2011 security failures related to foreign flights;

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

(6) Brian Gault and Vincent Sugent, Air Traffic Controllers at Detroit (DTW), who disclosed ongoing unsafe parallel runway operations;

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

(7) Vincent Sugent, Air Traffic Controller at DTW, who first disclosed to OSC in 2008 safety concerns that had still not been resolved four years later.

OSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

OSC-PR<—(OSC issued one Press Release for all seven cases)

On 6/24/11, Carolyn Lerner is sworn in and begins service as Special Counsel. She had been nominated by President Obama on 12/15/10, and was confirmed by Congress on 4/15/11.

4/27/11: OSC Finds Deficiencies in Department of Transportation Reports Concerning Flight Safety at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

WB’s Timothy Funari and Vincent Sugent, both in Air Traffic. “…management created a culture in which rules were selectively enforced and in which operational errors and deviations went unreported….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT! (#1)Mr. PRESIDENT! (#2)


1/19/11: OSC Selects Detroit Air Traffic Controller for 2010 Public Servant Award

WB Vincent Sugent, NATCA facility representative & Air Traffic Controller.

OSC-PR

12/28/10: DoT Report Substantiates Whistleblower’s Allegations that FAA’s Failure to Issue Airworthiness Directives Left Unsafe Conditions Unresolved for Years

WB Patrick Massie, Aerospace Engineer. “…systemic deficiencies in the process for developing and publishing AD’s resulted in significant and potentially dangerous delays, in some cases for years, in resolving unsafe conditions in helicopters….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

11/4/10: DoT Report Substantiates Whistleblower’s Concerns at American Airlines Certificate Management Office

WB Andrew Blosser, Aviation Safety Inspector in Fort Worth, TX, disclosed that FAA’s CMO was failing to effectively oversee the American Airlines Inspection and Maintenance program.

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

9/30/10: DoT Report Confirms Deficient Procedures for Investigating Violations of FAA’s Drug Testing Program Regulations

WB Connie Ingram, FAA Drug Abatement Officer. “…disclosed an incident involving an airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanic who continued to perform safety-sensitive maintenance work for a certificate holder in Alaska after he tested positive for cocaine in a pre-employment drug test….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

9/28/10: DoT Report Substantiates Whistleblower’s Allegations of Safety Violations at FAA’s Allegheny Flight Standards Regional Office

WB Robert Spahr, Aviation Safety Inspector. “…OSC found that Allegheny FSDO managers improperly closed enforcement actions, or failed to take enforcement actions, in seven out of eight incidents identified by the whistleblower … (involving) maintenance deficiencies, false entries in aircraft logs, and the operation of aircraft with known mechanical discrepancies….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

8/9/10: DoT Report Again Substantiates Whistleblower’s Safety Concerns at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

WB’s Vincent Sugent & Paul Mueller, Air Traffic Controllers. “…FAA managers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) compromised the safety of the flying public by directing air traffic controllers to operate an air traffic approach and departure configuration in violation of local FAA Orders….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

7/22/10: DoT Report Substantiates Allegations of FAA Oversight Failures

WB Mark Lund, Aviation Safety Inspector. “…FAA failed to provide effective oversight of Northwest Airlines and to address Northwest’s systemic non-compliance with FAA Airworthiness Directives (AD’s)….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

4/1/10: OSC Transmits DoT Report on FAA’s Oversight of American Airlines’ Maintenance Programs

WB Douglas Peters, Aviation Safety Inspector. “…disclosed that high-level officials in the Flight Standards Service intervened after he found American Airlines non-compliant with an Airworthiness Directive (AD) requiring mechanical system inspections. Mr. Peters said that FAA’s intervention assisted American to avoid service interruptions and, as a result, permitted the continued operation of aircraft that were not in compliance with an FAA safety directive….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

3/18/10: DoT Again Substantiates Failure of FAA Officials to Enforce Safety Requirements

WB Charalambe (Bobby) Boutris, Aviation Safety Inspector. “…for the second time the FAA knowingly allowed Southwest Airlines to self-disclose a violation of an Airworthiness Directive (AD) and continue operating aircraft in passenger revenue service in an unsafe condition, in violation of federal regulations… (and) ...a 2008 investigation confirmed that FAA employees in the SWA CMO failed to enforce AD requirements….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

3/17/10: DoT Report Substantiates Whistleblower’s Allegation of Ethics Violation

WB Stanley Brasch, FAA Computer Specialist in Kansas City. “…DoT’s IG substantiated Mr. Brasch’s allegation that twelve FAA employees, primarily managers and supervisors, and two spouses attended a dinner paid for by Dell in violation of ethics regulations….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

3/11/10: DoT Substantiates Whistleblower’s Safety Concerns at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

WB Vincent Sugent, Air Traffic Controller. “…FAA managers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) compromised the safety of the flying public by operating an air traffic approach and departure configuration known as the ‘Southwest Flow’ in an unsafe manner and in violation of FAA policy, and that FAA officials provided disingenuous information in response to a Congressional request….”

OSC-PROSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

2/24/10: DoT Substantiates Whistleblower’s Safety Concerns about United Airlines’ Emergency Door Batteries and Overhead Bins

WB Cheryl Henderson, Aviation Safety Inspector, Daly City, CA. “…disclosed concerns about the lack of proper FAA oversight of United Airlines’ compliance with an Airworthiness Directive (AD) concerning emergency door batteries on United’s Boeing 777s and the improper self-disclosure of defective overhead bins on its Boeing 767s….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

1/28/10: DoT Confirms Mold and Moisture Remediation Attempts Failed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

WB’s Vincent Sugent, Elizabeth Dale, and David Parker (Air Traffic Control Specialists). “…persistent mold and moisture problems in the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) air traffic control tower and base building have caused health problems… (and) …reports substantiated current…that previous remediation attempts costing over one million dollars were unsuccessful….”

OSC-PROSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

11/24/09: Office of Special Counsel finds DoT Report on Aviation Safety Disclosure Deficient – Safety Hazards Persist at Newark Airport

WB Raymond Adams, Air Traffic Controller. Concerns were raised about an unsafe runway operation. “…OIG concluded, and FAA concurred, that these two runway configurations pose significant safety risks that must be resolved through corrective action….”

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

11/16/09: OSC Transmits DoT Report on Aviation Mechanic Re-examination Program to the President and Congress

WB Gabriel Bruno, former FAA Orlando FSDO Manager. Alleges ongoing delays and deficiencies in FAA’s effort to re-examine nearly two thousand aircraft mechanics holding questionable mechanic certificates.

OSC-PROSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

11/10/09: FAA Submits List of Mechanics with Fraudulent Certifications to Transportation Security Administration

WB Gabriel Bruno, former FAA Orlando FSDO Manager. Responding to an earlier disclosure, DoT-IG had recommended that FAA produce a list of nearly two thousand aircraft mechanics who had questionable certificates issued by an examiner later convicted of fraud and conspiracy. FAA failed to produce the list. The concern was raised again, and FAA finally produced.

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!WB’s Letter to OSC

7/30/09: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Finds Secretary of Transportation Failed to Respond to Aviation Safety Allegations

WB Rand Foster, Aviation Safety Inspector. Alleges noncompliant and potentially unsafe modifications made to hundreds of emergency service helicopters operating across the country, and FAA’s alleged failure to appropriately address this problem. OSC records show Foster filed on 5/3/08; Bloch sent a 7/8/08 letter to DoT Secretary Mary Peters; FAA delayed and OSC finally said ‘enough on the delays!’ with this 7/30/09 letter to the President.

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

1/2/09: Office of Special Counsel Settles Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint Against FAA

WB Peter Nesbitt, Air Traffic Controller at Memphis ATCT. Alleged that FAA management was knowingly allowing and failing to correct a dangerous crossing-runway operation where ‘go-arounds’ would be in close conflict with other aircraft. The settlement allowed Peter to return to his previous ATC facility, in Austin, where he retired in 2012. The charges were mostly substantiated and corrections were eventually made to the unsafe operations. (NOTE: letter to President Obama followed 20-months later)

OSC-PRMr. PRESIDENT!

11/13/08: Special Counsel’s Report Substantiates Cover-up of Operational Errors at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport

WB’s Anne Whiteman, Donald Craig, and an un-named person, all Air Traffic Controllers at DFW. “The report identified 62 air traffic events which were mis-classified between November 2005 and July 2007 …highlighted a pattern of persistent, dangerous mismanagement at DFW….”

OSC-PROSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

On 10/24/08, William Reukauf begins service as Special Counsel. President Bush issued a memo directing him to perform the duties of Special Counsel, after the abrupt firing of Scott Bloch. Mr. Reukauf had previously served as ‘Acting Special Counsel’ in late 1997 and early 1998.

On or after 10/10/08, Elaine Kaplan and Tim Hannapel issued a report: “Reinvigorating the U.S. Office of Special Counsel: Suggestions for the Next Administration.” It was 16-pages long and laid out the background and purpose of OSC, while also explaining how it had been failing for years. [link to copy at acslaw.org]

6/12/08: FAA Whistleblowers Receive Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award

WB’s Charalambe (Bobby) Boutris and Douglas Peters, Aviation Safety Inspectors, receive 2007 award. The two were key witnesses at the 4/3/08 Congressional hearing about FAA failure to oversee aircraft maintenance at Southwest and Northwest Airlines.

OSC-PR

7/12/07: Whistleblowers: Troublesome Air Traffic Control Practices Continue at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (problem may be nationwide)

WB’s Anne Whiteman and another anonymous person, at DFW.

“…whistleblowers say that managers have improperly interpreted FAA orders and directives to cover up operational errors….”

OSC-PR

10/6/05: FAA Whistleblower Anne Whiteman Receives 2005 Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award

“…this is a perfect example of a case where a civil servant was willing to take on ‘the establishment’ to protect us all. She believed in this job and more than anything, believed in our nation’s safety.”

OSC-PRSpecial Counsel’s Remarks

6/23/05: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Transmits Report of Cover-up of Operational Errors by FAA Personnel at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport

WB Anne Whiteman, Air Traffic Controller at DFW, reported a long history of misclassification of controller errors to conceal problems at this major FAA ATC facility.

OSC-PROSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

6/14/05: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Transmits Report that FAA Improperly Halted Re-examinations of Aviation Mechanics with Suspect Certificates

WB’s Gabe Bruno and Dorvin Hagen, both from Orlando FSDO, expressed multiple concerns related to FAA’s failure to oversee aviation mechanic certifications. One issue was the discovery that thousands of A&P certificates were issued by St. George Aviation, which received fees for tests that were not properly administered. Another issue was failure of FAA to properly staff the office overseeing Airtran (formerly Valujet)

OSC-PROSC’s AnalysisMr. PRESIDENT!

On 1/5/04, Scott Bloch begins service as Special Counsel. He had been nominated by President Bush on 6/26/03, and was confirmed by Congress on 12/9/03. He submitted a letter on 10/20/08 announcing his plan to resign at the end of his five years, on 1/5/09; at a 10/23/08 White House meeting, his service was abruptly terminated. President Bush selected William Reukauf to serve in his place.

[link to wiki article] * [link to SourceWatch article]

9/12/03: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Announces MSPB Decision Ordering Long-term Suspension of a Federal Employee for a Hatch Act Violation

An FAA Air Traffic Controller at Albuquerque Center violated the Hatch Act by running as a partisan candidate for mayor. He refused to either withdraw his candidacy or resign his federal job. He lost the election and was assessed a 120-day suspension for the Hatch Act violation. It is not clear if FAA imposed any disciplinary actions against their employee.

OSC-PR

8/1/03: DoT Report Leaves Unanswered Questions Regarding FAA Safety Oversight

A more detailed followup to the case of WB Charles Lund, former Manager of FAA International Operations and Programs. (see 6/24/02)

OSC-PR

There was no Special Counsel from 6/3/03 (when Elaine Kaplan resigned) until 1/5/04 (when Scott Bloch was sworn in).

3/18/03: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Sends Report Confirming Gross Mismanagement of FAA’s Red Team, Resulting in Substantial and Specific Danger to Public Safety

WB Bogdan Dzakovic, former FAA Special Agent, was a member of an elite FAA ‘Red Team’ that conducted covert security testing at major U.S. airports. The rates of security failures were very high. He expressed concerns about the suppression of findings that reflected negatively on the aviation industry.

OSC-PR

6/24/02: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Announces Settlement of FAA Whistleblower’s Complaint

WB Charles Lund, Aviation Safety Inspector, served as an Acting Manager for International Operations. He communicated concerns about the lack of aviation safety oversight of U.S. carriers operating on Russian soil, as caused by visa restrictions. He was abruptly demoted.

OSC-PR

5/28/02: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Announces Settlement in Case of Fired FAA Whistleblower Who Disclosed Information to FAA Security and the FBI Concerning September 11th Attacks

Followup on the firing of WB James Hopkins, International Aviation Operations Specialist, who had identified a named 9-11 terrorist who had attended training at FAA’s institute in Oklahoma City. (see the stay request made by OSC to MSPB, on 10/18/01)

OSC-PR

5/15/02: No FEAR Act signed by President Bush.

11/26/01: U.S Office of Special Counsel Files Petition Seeking Order of Removal Against Air Traffic Controller, Charging Him with Two Hatch Act Violations

One of OSC’s duties is to guard against Hatch Act Violations. In this case, Mike McEntee, an air traffic controller at Albuquerque Center, ran a partisan campaign but lost in his bid to become Mayor of Albuquerque. Hatch Act prohibits partisan campaigning (and fund-raising) by federal employees.

OSC-PR

10/18/01: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Wins Temporary Reinstatement of Fired FAA employee who Alerted the FBI & FAA Supervisors to Information Concerning September 11th Attacks

MSPB granted a stay requested by OSC, to protect WB James Hopkins, an International Aviation Operations Specialist. Mr. Hopkins was abruptly fired after he disclosed that the name of one of the 9-11 terrorists was on a list of foreign students trained at FAA’s institute in Oklahoma City.

OSC-PR

4/6/00: U.S. Office of Special Counsel Transmits Report of Investigation in Response to Whistleblower’s Allegations of Safety Concerns at Houston Air Traffic Control Center

An unnamed WB’s disclosure that a former ATM had initiated a policy of ignoring certain OE’s, which was derogating safety. Substantiated by OSC. FAA resolution included nationwide training on proper OE reporting.

OSC-PR

On 5/8/98, Elaine Kaplan began serving as Special Counsel. She had been nominated by President Clinton on 11/7/97, and was confirmed by Congress on 4/2/98. She resigned at the end of her five-year term, on 6/2/03. There was no Special Counsel for the next seven months.