U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL TRANSMITS REPORT THAT FAA IMPROPERLY
HALTED RE-EXAMINATIONS OF AVIATION MECHANICS WITH SUSPECT CERTIFICATES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 6/14/05
CONTACT: Cathy Deeds, 202-254-3607,
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Office of Special Counsel
(OSC) today transmitted a letter to the President detailing findings and
recommendations regarding allegations of a substantial and specific danger
to public safety made by employees of the Department of Transportation
(DOT), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The whistleblowers, Gabriel D. Bruno, former
Manager of the Orlando Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and Dorvin
Hagen, a former Supervisory Safety Inspector of the Orlando FSDO, alleged
that (1) in the Spring of 2001, management officials abruptly cancelled a
program re-examining approximately 2,000 mechanics who received airframe and
power plant (A&P) mechanic certificates under fraudulent conditions and (2)
management of the Southern Region FSDO failed to adequately staff the
AirTran Certificate Management Unit (CMU), which provides certification and
monitors air carriers to ensure compliance with aviation safety regulations
and procedures. DOT’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated the
allegations and substantiated them in part.
The A&P certificates in question were issued by St. George Aviation. In May
1999, the owner and an employee of St. George were convicted in federal
court of fraud and conspiracy for their mismanagement of the A&P certificate
program from 1995 to 1999. During that time frame, St. George issued
approximately 2,000 certificates under fraudulent conditions including
issuing certificates without any examination at all.
The OIG investigation revealed that FAA cancelled the re-examination program
after only 130 mechanics were re-examined based on (1) an opinion from the
Regional Counsel’s Office that it was “merely speculation that the balance
of the approximately 1,228 certificate holders identified for re-examination
had not received a valid test;” and (2) advice from the Regional Air Safety
Regulation Branch that because two years had passed since St. George’s
closure and there was a pass-rate of 79 percent for the mechanics who were
re-examined, there was “no conclusive measurable impact on aviation safety
and the flying public.”
The OIG disagreed and recommended that FAA take steps to re-examine the
remaining 1,228 mechanics who received certificates from St. George under
suspect conditions. Initially, FAA did not identify what steps had been
taken in response to the recommendation. In a supplemental report, the OIG
provided information reflecting that FAA was taking steps to re-examine all
mechanics who received certificates from St. George dating back to May 1995.
Subsequently, some of the suspect certificate holders challenged the
legality of the re-examination program. In response, the U.S. District Court
for the Middle District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction stopping
the re-examinations. The program has been suspended pending reconsideration
of the injunction by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The OIG also found that “there were considerable staffing issues in the
Orlando FSDO” from 1998 to 2001. However, the OIG did not find evidence that
the staffing shortage in the AirTran CMU could be attributed to any
deliberate act or omission by the Southern Region FSD managers, nor did it
find that the shortage created a substantial and specific danger to public
safety. Information provided by the whistleblowers and the OIG establishes
that the shortage that existed from 1998 to 2001 has since been rectified,
and the AirTran CMU, now classified as a Certificate Management Office, is
currently adequately staffed.
The Special Counsel determined that the agency’s reports contain all the
information required by statute and the agency’s findings appear reasonable.
However, OSC remains concerned that the re-examination process has not yet
been completed. In view of the serious concerns that remain regarding the
re-examination program, the Special Counsel recommends follow-up with the
agency to determine the status of the litigation and the steps the agency is
taking to complete the reexaminations.
Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch said, “Nothing could be more central to the
nation’s overall security and the well-being of our citizenry than aviation
safety of which the aviation mechanics and inspectors form a critical link.
Thanks to the efforts of the whistleblowers, a problem was identified and is
being corrected. OSC takes these and all disclosures very seriously.”
OSC Analysis of DOT’s IG Report
OSC Transmittal Letter to the President
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. For more
information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1-800-872-9855.