On Friday the Transportation Department is scheduled to release the results of an investigation into the FAA which turned up dozens of instances in which the agency attempted to cover up safety violations by intentionally misclassifying them.
The probe was launched in April after an FAA whistleblower alerted authorities to the practice of underreporting air traffic control errors at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by miscategorizing events or shifting blame to other personnel.
DOT inspectors found that FAA managers at DFW intentionally misclassified 62 instances where airplanes were allowed to fly closer together than they were supposed to between November 2005 and July 2007.
Most of the incidents were labeled as pilot error or categorized as non-events.
Inspectors also confirmed that similar problems had occurred at DFW in 2004 and had been investigated and documented in a report, but the report had never been publicly released. The current investigation was launched after complaints were made the same violations were recurring.
In an attempt to prevent the problem, the report also recommends corrective measures such as reorganizing management of air traffic control at DFW and conducting a thorough review of the FAA’s general safety management program.
The FAA claims that the agency has already implemented all of the inspector general’s recommendations, and takes the matter very seriously.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says that issues with air traffic control stem from the fact that control towers are understaffed, and experienced controllers are leaving or retiring from the FAA in alarmingly high numbers.
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