Friday, May 02, 2008

Keeping Up

I can’t help but wonder...are people able to keep track of all that is going on ? Everybody remembers the $10 million dollar fine levied on Southwest Airlines, right ? Chairman Oberstar held a hearing, there was a big show and a big splash. That all started about March 9th.

Remember that the FAA tried to convince you that it was an isolated incident ? Do you remember my blog post from January 31, 2008 ? The FAA hopes you didn’t.

So, It Isn’t Just Me

My hat is off to Stanley Holmes and Business Week for an excellent article on a different side of airline safety.

Airline Safety: A Whistleblower's Tale

Let me quote a couple of different things from that Business Week article.

” After mechanics at Northwest Airlines went out on strike on Aug. 20, 2005, Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector Mark Lund began to see troubling signs.“

The thing I want you to note is the date -- August, 2005. The Southwest fiasco made the news in March, 2008 -- well over two years later.

”Just two days after the strike began, Lund fired off a "safety recommendation for accident prevention" letter to his supervisors and to FAA headquarters in Washington. It was the loudest alarm he had the authority to ring.“

Sound familiar ? The quote below is from the Whistleblower Protection Blog in reference to the Southwest Airlines story over 2 years later.

”Instead of taking action, Boutris’ supervisor Douglas Gawadzinski, who was close friends with Southwest’s manager for regulatory compliance (himself a former FAA inspector) chose to ignore Boutris’ reports.  When Boutris wanted to send Southwest a letter of inspection, Gawadzinski refused. “

Back to Northwest in 2005.

”On Aug. 29, Lund's supervisors confiscated the badge that gave him access to Northwest's facilities and gave him a desk job. That happened to be the same day the airline sent a letter to the FAA complaining about Lund's allegedly disruptive and unprofessional conduct. The FAA says it treated Lund fairly.“

Back to Southwest in 2008.

”When Boutris pressed harder, Gawadzinski first simply blocked him and then removed him from the inspection and told him that “his career was in jeopardy” because of “undisclosed complaints from anonymous Southwest officials.”“

You remembered all this, right ?

I realize that some of my readers aren’t in this business and haven’t seen this type of malicious behavior first hand. Those of us in the business occasionally forget that you really aren’t convinced that the FAA is rotten to the core -- that we need to stitch all the facts together for you on occasion.

I’m not a journalist. I haven’t been to school to learn all the tricks of researching and investigation. I haven’t studied the greatest cases in journalism so that I can grasp how it’s all done and exploit the power of the press. I’ve never interviewed anybody in my life and I don’t have a team of researchers working for me.

I’m just a retired air traffic controller that was fortunate enough to do a little writing for an on-line magazine. I might not be able to document it all to journalistic standards but I know what I know. The FAA was never a shining example of government competence during my 25 year career. It has always had problems but it always muddled through. During the Bush Administration -- abetted by a Republican-controlled Congress -- the FAA went from neglected incompetence to ideologically motivated vindictiveness.

The FAA didn’t use it’s new-found power to improve it’s service -- it used it to crush its employees and their unions. They wanted you to believe it was the unions that kept them from succeeding -- they wanted to believe it themselves -- but the record has shown otherwise. The increase in power only highlighted the incompetence and increased corruption. The only people that were willing to stand up to it were the employees backed up by their unions. And if Congressman James Oberstar hadn’t become Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee you still wouldn’t realize it.

Try to keep up.

Don Brown
May 2, 2008

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