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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
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Special Counsel’s Report Substantiates Cover-up of Operational Errors at Dallas / Ft. Worth International Airport

CONTACT: Anthony Guglielmi, 202-254-3707, aguglielmi@osc.gov

WASHINGTON, DC / November 13, 2008—For the second time in three years, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today transmitted a letter to the President detailing the findings and recommendations of an investigation conducted by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Office of Inspector General (OIG) into allegations of violations of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement and a substantial and specific danger to public safety at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The report confirmed that senior management officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) jeopardized air traffic safety by misclassifying air traffic events in order to record fewer operational errors and deviations by controllers at DFW.

The OIG report reaffirmed that FAA management intentionally misclassified events as pilot error in order to avoid attributing operational errors to air-traffic controllers. The report identified 62 air traffic events which were misclassified between November 2005 and July 2007 rather than being correctly identified as operational errors or deviations by controllers. These allegations highlighted a pattern of persistent, dangerous mismanagement at DFW warranting further scrutiny and investigation.

The OIG found that the lack of oversight following the 2004 DOT OIG investigation of DFW allowed management to continue to underreport operational errors and deviations by controllers. After allegations of underreporting were substantiated in 2004, FAA’s Air Traffic Operation (ATO) Safety was charged with resolving the deficiencies at DFW. This second investigation found that despite FAA’s assurances to the contrary, ATO-Safety took little or no action to address these serious safety matters.

A number of corrective measures have been proposed as a result of these findings. The OIG recommended the following:

1. Permanently change the DFW TRACON management;
2. Require FAA’s Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to conduct comprehensive on-site no-notice audits at DFW TRACON;
3. Expedite the early deployment of the Traffic Analysis and Review Program;
4. Remove the Quality Assurance function at air traffic control facilities from the supervision of the facility management due to the inherent conflict of interest in having the Quality Assurance personnel report to the facility management;
5. Conduct a comprehensive review from “top-to-bottom” of ATO-Safety’s management, staffing and processes to ensure the effective internal oversight of ATO;
6. Consider appropriate administrative action for ATO-Safety officials who failed to conduct no-notice reviews after the first investigation into these allegations because that failure enabled DFW management to continue its underreporting of operational errors and deviations;
7. Consider appropriate administrative action for DFW and Dallas Love Field FSDO officials who failed to validate alleged
8. pilot deviations reported by DFW management officials because that failure enabled TRACON management to continue to underreport operational errors and deviations;
9. Examine the 38 pilot deviations identified in the investigation and rescind any compliance or enforcement actions against the pilots and expunge their records if the deviations are not valid; and
10. Rescind DFW’s award as the “Central Region Large TRACON Facility of the Year.” (This award has since been rescinded.)

The Acting Special Counsel determined that the agency’s report contains all the information required by statute and the agency’s findings appear reasonable.



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. For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.

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