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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505

Whistleblowers: Troublesome Air Traffic Control Practices Continue at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Problem May Be Nationwide

CONTACT: Loren Smith, 202-254-3714, lsmith@osc.gov

WASHINGTON, DC – Acting on disclosures by whistleblowers which cast doubt on the safety of air travel at one of the nation’s busiest airports, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has directed the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to investigate.

      Air traffic controllers at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW) allege that a management cover-up of air traffic control operational errors, first reported and investigated more than two years ago, continues today. An Operational Error occurs when air traffic controllers fail to maintain safe separation between aircraft under their control.

      In 2004, air traffic controller Anne R. Whiteman disclosed to the Office of Special Counsel that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers at the DFW Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) routinely covered up operational errors by not properly investigating and reporting them as required by FAA policy. Moreover, Ms. Whiteman reported that, because of her disclosures, she was subjected to reprisal by her managers and harassment by co-workers.

      OSC directed an investigation by the Department of Transportation. In February 2005, the department’s inspector general reported that Ms. Whiteman’s whistleblowing had resulted in the exposure of a seven-year management practice of underreporting operational errors. The report noted that FAA officials considered the underreporting to be very serious and had begun corrective actions.

     In new disclosures made by Ms. Whiteman and another anonymous whistleblower in 2007, it is alleged that FAA personnel at DFW are routinely identifying operational errors as pilot errors. In some cases, the whistleblowers say that managers have improperly interpreted FAA orders and directives to cover up operational errors.

     “We had been led to believe that her disclosures and the inspector general’s final report had taken care of the problem,” said U.S. Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch. “Instead, matters got worse, and we believe the trend to blame pilots for what are really errors by air traffic controllers resulted from a push by FAA top management to reduce the number of operational errors.” He noted that the whistleblowers disclosures reflect a problem that may be national in scope.

      Bloch also requested that corrective actions be taken to restore assignments, promotions and back pay and benefits that had been denied to Ms. Whiteman. As well, Bloch requested that Secretary Peters consider administrative action against managers at DFW who allowed, or took part in personnel practices that are prohibited under U.S. law and by FAA regulations.



The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.

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