NEW YORK (PIX11) — How did the first sentence read in the FAA’s response to PIX11 News surrounding our investigative series of reports regarding air traffic controllers back in FAA towers or centers after contributing to deadly crashes?
“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operates the safest aviation system in the world.”
To which U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, out of the 18th District of New York, said in a call with PIX 11 News Wednesday afternoon, “I think it’s not good enough to say we run a safe system.”
This is all a result of a four-month long investigation by PIX11 that uncovered several air traffic controllers involved in a number of deadly crashes who are currently listed on the agency’s online employment directory, working out of FAA towers or control centers. In fact, according to Florida aviation attorney Barry Newman, some controllers were back on the job in a matter of “days.”
Arthur Wolk, an aviation attorney out of Philadelphia, summed up our investigation in eight words: “This is a huge embarrassment to the FAA.”
The office of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida weighed in to PIX11 with the following reaction to our investigation through a spokesperson. “Air travelers should be assured that well-trained, professional air traffic controllers maintain the safest airspace in the world. The FAA must hold controllers accountable when mistakes are made on the job and make sure safety is always the number one priority.”
The FAA in its statement also stated that, “Non-punitive safety reporting systems also encourage controllers and other aviation professionals to report safety incidents so that the FAA can fully understand what happened and implement any necessary corrective actions.”
The agency is referring to the Air Traffic Safety Action Program created between the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the FAA, where controllers cannot be de-certified nor can any credentialing action take place if they self-report a compromise in safety.
The Department of Transportation Inspector General, the federal monitor of the FAA, said in this July 2012 report that the collaboration lacks transparency and accountability as well as FAA oversight as a result of the involvement of the controllers union involvement
“The bad players, and they’re just a handful, but they have caused death, mayhem, and they’re still on the job. That’s not fair,” said Florida Representative John Mica in the midst of PIX11 News’ investigation.
The former Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, as well as the former Chairman of the House Aviation Sub-Committee feels that controllers are being shielded. “This pendulum has swung I think too far in the direction of protecting people who should be held accountable and should be dismissed.”
This said, to hold the FAA accountable takes action.
Representative Maloney said he is going to do just that. “Well I’m going take action on it. What we’re going to start with is getting the answers to the questions that you posed in your report Mario, and we’ll take it from there and we’ll let the chips fall where they may. This is a public safety issue and it’s too serious to let politics get in the way, so I’m writing to the FAA and I want answers to the questions you raised and we’ll share them with you.“
The FAA in its statement added that controllers are covered by the provisions of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association contract and while the FAA on it’s “Mission Page” clearly boasts that it is accountable not to a union, but to the American public, as Senator Charles Schumer said in our recent interview, that policy should be examined for one simple reason.
“This is a very important job, one of the most important jobs there is in America because you have people’s lives in your hands and there ought to be strict, strict standards.”