Friday, June 26, 2009

Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association Website Launch

To All Our Members

As mentioned a few days ago, our Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association website is now online. Our thanks go out to all those who have helped to spread the word of its launch, as our readership has more than quadrupled in just the past twenty-four hours to include visitors from numerous countries abroad also.

Additionally, numerous aviation safety and security consulting firms, media investigative journalists, and airline passenger rights groups have contacted us for additional information. Our grassroots support is swelling by the hour, but there's still more that can be done to spread the word throughout the airline industry.

Please forward this information to every single airline employee that you know in the industry. The website is still under expansive construction as more information becomes available. Several new pages have been added in the past few days, so please revisit the site. For additional information regarding the scope and nature of our association goals, please visit this page. Additionally, if you know the email address of your local media outlets, please forward this email to them also or, better yet, pay them a personal visit to solicit their support.

With an estimated 1-million years of airline cockpit experience in this country, our collective voices must be heard. As stated on the website, our function is to serve as the grassroots safety voice on Capitol Hill for the millions of passengers who travel by air, as well as airline employees across the nation. Grassroots efforts have no leaders since, by definition, each member of the group is a leader who has garnered the courage to speak out on safety issues that each holds dear to their hearts. These groups are owned and controlled by no one, especially not by the special interests of those on Wall Street, K-Street, and airline corporate board rooms.

Our 'Special Interests' are the millions of air travelers and those professional aircrew members who ensure their safety each day by their dedication to their chosen professions.

"We do not play politics with other peoples' lives."

Spread the Word!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Senate panel misses the point on aviation safety delays by FAA

By: Barbara Hollingsworth
Examiner Columnist | 6/22/09 5:46 AM

Leave it to Congress to hold not one, but two public hearings and still not get to the heart of the matter: For at least six years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to heed warnings by airline pilots who reported serious safety concerns that put the public at risk. And the very same safety issues are still not being adequately addressed now.

Like the first hearing held a week earlier, last Wednesday’s inquiry by the Senate Aviation Subcommittee focused on the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo, which killed all 50 people aboard and one on the ground. The lack of adequate training and pilot fatigue were cited as the two major contributing factors by FAA administrator Randy Babbitt and National Transportation Safety Board acting chairman Mark Rosenker.

However, neither Babbit nor Rosenker mentioned the fact that FAA had been warned about these same issues six years prior to the Colgan crash by commercial pilots with sterling cockpit credentials and decades of flying experience. Instead of being commended for their candor, these pilots were medically grounded in retaliation for speaking up. Instead of defending their own members, the Airline Pilots Association looked the other way as their lives and careers were ruined.

Yet not one of these former pilots were called to testify before the subcommittee, even though several offered to do so and even traveled to Washington at their own expense. Consequently, none of the senators, including chairman Byron Dorgan, D-ND, asked Mr. Babbitt exactly how he planned to prevent future suppression of mandated safety warnings by airline and FAA officials.

Former United captain Dan Hanley, head of the Whistleblowing United Pilots Association, wasn’t allowed to tell subcommittee members that he was forced out of the cockpit after complaining about pilot fatigue – the same issue the subcommittee is now investigating - and that the same kind of legal and economic pressures the airlines experienced after 9/11 still prevent pilots from voicing their concerns.

A former Continental pilot said that a physician who fabricated a medical diagnosis that permanently grounded him after he filed a safety complaint now works for the FAA, so those who muster the courage to speak out are still being threatened with losing their jobs. But because he wasn’t allowed to testify either, Babbitt wasn’t questioned about it.

An overworked young pilot told me that calling in to report excessive fatigue means he will not only lose his own pay, but his entire flight crew would also be docked as well. This policy puts added pressure on sleep-deprived pilots to fly even when physically impaired.

Why didn’t the FAA address the pilot fatigue issue before 51 people died? Babbitt should have been asked, but wasn’t.

Airline passengers literally put their lives in the hands of airline pilots every day. They should be appalled to learn that the federal agency with direct responsibility for aviation safety has ignored safety warnings by pilots and allowed airline management to interfere with its mission to protect the flying public. And that members of Congress are still letting them get away with it.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is the Examiner’s local opinion editor.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

HR 1507 Action Alert!

----- Original Message -----
From: Dan Hanley
To: Senator Johnny Isakson ; Senator Byron Dorgan ; Rich Swayze ; Gabe Bruno ; Tom Devine ; Congressman Jerry Costello ; Senator Claire McCaskill
Cc: ALPAEMAIL, Herndon ; UAL Board ; Captain Steve Wallach ; Sarah Goldmann ; Shanna Devine ; Glenn A. Fine ; CBS 60 Minutes ; Rocci Fisch ; Mary Williams-Walsh ; Matthew Wald ; David Cay Johnston ; David Cay Johnston ; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee ; Congressman Lynn Westmoreland ; Congressman Westmoreland ; Robert Mueller ; Attorney General Eric Holder ; Senator Daniel Akaka ; Captain John Prater ; Calvin L. Scovel ; FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:21 PM
Subject: Alert! Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association


"Patriotism and Freedom of Speech in Action"


Association members who have failed to read and respond to requests for political action concerning important issues in the past, must not be remiss in their responsibility to read the material below and take appropriate action at this critical juncture, which directly concerns the safety of the public who travel by air, including aircrew members, as well as very much needed enhancement of today's whistle blower laws.

Key members of our association are working closely with FAA Whistleblower Gabe Bruno and members of the FAA Whistleblowers Alliance, and Tom Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) office in exposing gross frailties in safety in the air transportation industry, as well as phenomenal weaknesses in current whistleblower laws on the books. There are currently twin whistleblower enhancement bills that have been introduced in the Senate and the House. The above named parties fully recognize the inherent weaknesses in the Senate bill, while strongly endorsing the provisions contained within the House bill HR 1507, the Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act of 2009.

Anyone who has been apprised of recent safety concerns addressed in the recent hearings held by Senator Dorgan's Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security recognizes the need for the ability of airline whistle blowers to speak out unimpeded on safety issues concerning the millions who travel by commercial air, without fears of recrimination, but with afforded enhanced legal protection. As repeatedly espoused by airline management in their public proclamations, airline safety must necessarily be the foremost concern of every employee, without undue economic, legal, and political pressures exerted on employees garnering the courage to speak out.

Commercial aviation serves as the backbone of our already weakened economy. President Obama campaigned on a promise of greater openness of government. Current whistleblower laws currently do not afford such opportunities of openness. The safety of the travelling public is paramount. Aircrew members serve at the front line safety professionals to offer first-hand accounts of air safety degradations, but do not presently have in place an effective communications process, with added legal safeguards for doing so. Additionally, reports have been received from all quarters of previous whistle blower suppression, intimidation, and in some cases, recrimination.

Please do not discontinue reading this email, but continue reading to the end. As an aviation safety professional, and in light of revelations of a massive failure of check valves within the safety network at Colgan Air, including lack of government oversight, you MUST speak out on behalf of the traveling public.

Yesterday at Senator Dorgan's hearing, Mr. Scott Maurer, a representative of the families of Colgan Air 3407, was one of the four witnesses that was afforded an opportunity to provide testimony. During his recount of the pain of loss of his 30-year old daughter, there were not many dry eyes in the room, especially those of the next-of-kin in attendance. How many more such hearings will we have to endure, (perhaps with standing room only if it involves a wide-body hull loss sometime in the future), before the congress and the public realizes the inherent dangers still in existence, but have not been reported as a result of suppression of airline whistle blowers. If you do not speak out now, then the blood of the victims of the next disaster will be on your hands.

Your senators may be contacted here and your representatives may be contacted here. Please call, fax, and email them today demanding that they support House Bill HR 1507. Additionally, President Obama has launched a website Open Government Initiative. Kindly visit this website, establish a plan for inclusion of others and ask the President to support HR 1507, in consonance with his campaign promises of greater openness of government.

Below is amplifying information just received from Shanna Devine, the GAP Legislative Campaign Coordinator. Never in the history of this country, has the citizenry had to endure the secrecy of the government of past eight years. Our depressed economy is in a shambled condition, which might have been averted if protective provisions had been afforded to those who could have identified alleged criminal wrongdoing, but were suppressed. Now is the time to support our president in undoing the past. The White House switchboard and other contact information is available here, but please also become engaged by following the procedures stated below.

Please Pass This Email To All On Your Email Network And Ask Them To Do The Same...Ad Infinitum!

Make Sure Whistleblower Protection is on the White House Transparency Agenda!

Genuine federal whistleblower protection is on the verge of becoming law. Both the House and Senate held hearings in the last month on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009 (WPEA), documenting painful lessons learned from the gutted Whistleblower Protection Act – the only legal recourse for federal whistleblowers. The record is in our favor, and the support from Congress and the Administration for strengthening the law is at an unprecedented high. With our momentum, however, has come increased opposition from the internal power structure and federal management.

That means we can not ease up now. We are in the stretch drive of passing credible rights that would protect federal employees from retaliation when they expose abuses of power that betray the public trust. We expect the key congressional committee votes later next month, after the July 4 recess. Until then, we need to lock in credible reform by voicing our support for H.R. 1507, the House WPEA version that protects all taxpayer-funded federal employees, with rights enforced by access to jury trials.

Here’s where you come in. In response to President Obama's campaign promises to promote a more transparent and open government, the White House created an Open Government Directive, comprised of three phases for citizen participation; Brainstorm, Discuss, Draft. We called on the whistleblower community to support Federal Whistleblower Protection during the “Brainstorming” phase. Thanks to your response, it made 2nd place under “Transparency: Open Government Operations”! We need your voice again in the “Discussion” phase, to ensure that federal whistleblower protection is part of any credible dialogue on open-government. The deadline to post a comment is this Friday, June 20th. We will contact you when the "Drafting" phase begins as well.

How to Participate:

Register here and create a user name
Once you log-in, we suggest commenting on the blog entitled “Transparency: Open Government Operations.” To comment, scroll to the bottom of the page and under the option to “submit a comment,” voice your support for federal whistleblower protection.

Recruit your coworkers and friends to join us in this effort. For guidance, here is an easy-to-edit message for you to build on that captures our campaign in the endgame.

“Federal whistleblowers are our nation’s first line of defense against waste, fraud and abuse. Yet, they remain the only group within the labor force that has second class due process rights to protect them from retaliation when they make the difficult decision to blow the whistle. HR. 1507, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009, would offer full access to court, enforced by access to jury trials, for all employees paid by the taxpayers, just as President Obama promised in his campaign. I support H.R. 1507 for these reasons, and I expect the President to deliver on his commitment to whistleblowers and the public by making this reform a cornerstone of any transparency measure until it is passed.”

Shanna Devine
Legislative Campaign Coordinator
Government Accountability Project
1612 K St NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 457-0034 ext. 132 (voice)
(202) 457-0059 (fax)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Editorial Comment

----- Original Message -----
From: Dan Hanley
Cc: Calvin L. Scovel ; Senator Byron Dorgan ; Rich Swayze ; Senator Johnny Isakson ; Senator Daniel Akaka ; Captain John Prater ; Senator Claire McCaskill ; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee ; Congressman Jerry Costello ; Congressman Lynn Westmoreland ; Congressman Westmoreland ; FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt ; FAA Whistleblower Alliance ; Matthew Wald ; David Cay Johnston ; David Cay Johnston ; Rocci Fisch ; Captain Steve Wallach ; Captain Jeff Barath ; Captain Joseph Genovese ; UAL Board ; Pete McDonald ; Paul Lovejoy ; Glenn Tilton
Sent: Sunday, June 14, 2009 2:02 PM
Subject: Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association


"Patriotism and Freedom of Speech in Action"

Editorial Comment

On June 11, 2009, the United Airlines Board of Directors held their annual shareholders meeting in Chicago where many of its employees were seen picketing, in addition to attending the meeting during which select employees were given the opportunity to pose questions to senior level management regarding operational concerns that included alleged degradation of airline safety as a direct result of decisions reached by upper-level airline managers who have no direct experience as a line captain at that airline.

Below is a direct quote excerpt from the website of the Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing United Airlines flight attendants, including 55,000 flight attendants at 21 carriers in the United States.

“Some pilots expressed concern about being scrutinized and intimidated after making decisions to refuse aircraft for safety concerns. The response from Kolchak, the Senior Vice President in charge of maintenance, was that United would change its training so that every pilot accepts an aircraft when the minimum equipment list standards are met instead of allowing Captains to use their discretion as empowered by the FAA. Kolchak said United would never put a plane on the line that wasn’t fit to fly and acknowledged the Captain’s discretion was being questioned.”

In July, 2008, United Airlines filed suit in Chicago resulting in a federal judge ruling that implicitly added undue pressures on line captains with regard to ensuring on-time departures from the gate for fear of being held in contempt of the judge’s ruling perhaps sometime in the future. Recently, United Airlines management suspended continued legal response to a threat of appeal of this ruling by ALPA until a contract settlement might hopefully reached sometime late this year, but with the impending threat of potential legal action should the need arise.

Reports have been received from United Airline line captains of flight managers appearing in the cockpit just prior to aircraft pushback to question the captain’s judgment and authority for delaying a flight for operational safety, but in compliance with federal aviation regulatory requirements.

Conversely, a report was received from one United B-777 captain of a situation at the gate in San Francisco with an FAA Air Carrier Inspector occupying the cockpit jump seat for a routine check ride of the cockpit crew. Just prior to pushback, the purser entered the cockpit to advise the captain that a light bulb in the forward lavatory had burnt out, but there was still adequate illumination in this facility. The FAA Air Carrier inspector informed the captain that this discrepancy must be entered into the aircraft log book and signed off by maintenance personnel or the light bulb replaced before pushback. He went on to remark that if one of these actions were not performed, then the captain would receive a flight violation for noncompliance with federal aviation regulations pertaining to this situation. Other similar reports have been received also.

Additionally, it was recently reported in the news of an incident involving a United captain several years ago that was allegedly removed from the line for reporting unsafe conditions at United Airlines to United Airlines management, ALPA, and the FAA-appointed Principle Operation inspector, but was subsequently placed in a ‘medically grounded’ status at that airline. The Department of Transportation Inspector General and the FAA are currently investigating this matter, and relevant congressional committee chairmen have been advised. But recent advisement from a DOT IG staff member has suggested that this investigative process sometimes takes as long as 30-180 days.

If Mr. Kolchak’s statements above are interpreted correctly, is it reasonable to assume that senior level United management with no line experience as a captain are now apparently abrogating the authority and discretion of the captain in questioning his operational decision to delay the departure of an aircraft from the gate for maintenance reasons? Although maintenance clearance of an aircraft for flight in consonance with Minimum Equipment List (MEL) for that segment of the flight is the responsibility and authority vested in that department, it is ultimately the authority and responsibility of the captain in making the final decision regarding brake release based on his assessment and analysis of the condition of the aircraft, but including other operational requirements he deems essential, above and beyond MEL requirements and in keeping with federal aviation regulations regarding maintenance issues that must be repaired before departure, lest he receive an FAA flight violation as noted above.

With the pressure exerted by threatened future legal action of contempt of court, coupled with this increased purported pressure by senior level management that apparently enables maintenance personnel to question captain’s discretion, it has become apparent to many that United Airlines pilots are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard spot. The implicit suggestion here is that situations could arise in the future where a captain is held in contempt for delaying a flight, or be violated for noncompliance with federal aviation regulations. What is the legal position of the FAA Principle Operations Inspector at United Airlines in this matter? If this persisting and degenerating situation continues, at what point in time will the Department of Transportation Inspector General and relevant congressional committees intercede on behalf of aircrew members and the travelling public? Hopefully this will occur immediately.

The recent Colgan Air tragedy divulged alleged suppression of line pilots and a maintenance inspector, which purportedly, as reported by the media, were issues that were ignored by the Federal Aviation Administration. Although recently confirmed Federal Aviation Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt affirmed that Aviation Safety Awareness Programs would be instated at all airlines in the United States, the issues addressed herein are very time-sensitive requiring the immediate attention and rectification of potential conflicts of interest regarding the safe carriage of passengers in commercial jet aircraft, while protecting the rights, responsibilities, and authority of pilots occupying the left seat.

At what point in time will members of Congress, the Department of Transportation, and senior level airline management come to grips with the reality of the potential threats to aviation safety, given the present reality for line aircrew members and employees? Hopefully, this awareness will not be presented to them with the loss of a wide-body aircraft sometime in the not-too-distant future. Government officials and airline management boast of the past record of safety in the industry, without recognition of the fact of the massive degradation of safety that has resulted from external threats and pressures being exerted. It has been duly noted by many that not one single active line or retired airline pilot from a trunk carrier, whose cumulative pilot experiences totals millions of years of line flight experience, have been permitted to testify before relevant congressional committees. Why? It is surmised by many pilots within our association and elsewhere that the travelling public would be more than a little disturbed by what they might learn from testimony of experienced line pilots, particularly with regard to what has transpired concerning external pressures that have been exerted during and after the post-9/11 bankruptcies to present.

With all due respect to their offices, members of Congress and the Department of Transportation have limited knowledge and no line experience as a commercial pilot. Consequently, it would seem reasonable that these agencies of government would be most eager to receive testimony from all available sources, given what has been reported recently in the media of pilot suppression and other matters in the aftermath of the Colgan Air disaster. Hopefully, Captain Sullenberger will address these same safety concerns in his upcoming book.

Numerous trunk airline first officers have privately admitted working full-time jobs outside their airline pilot employment as a result of taking up to a 60% reduction in pay the past several years. These outside jobs provide their primary source of income as augmented by their airline salary. Some of these same individuals have started their own businesses with the intent of resigning from their airline jobs at their earliest convenience, admitting that the continued harassment and intimidation, poor morale, working, and pay conditions, coupled with the instability within the industry no longer make the pilot job and extensive family separation attractive to them.

Additionally, senior active airline captains from trunk carriers are working minimum schedules to escape this hazardous environment, but must remain employed because they cannot afford to retire as a result of their pension and, in some cases ESOP stock loss, during the post-9/11 bankruptcy processes. Contrary to what some might imagine, it does count just how many times a pilot walks down the jet way in their career with regard to airline safety issues. Degradation of morale amongst cockpit and cabin crew as a result of extraneous pressures serves as a distraction and degradation to issues of safety. Anyone who has ever occupied either seat of a commercial jet aircraft realize this, while others with no line experience as a pilot cannot conceive of this being the case.

Unequivocally, issues of commercial aviation safety must necessarily be maintained in a vacuum without the impediment of external financial, legal, and political pressures and influences exerted on aircrew members wishing to report known safety deficiencies for fear of undue recriminations by management, the FAA, or contempt of implicit court ruling pressures, or possible dismissal via the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as has been reported in the media of late. Unless current federal aviation regulations are amended to reflect a change in this regard, appropriate and immediate redress by some agency of the federal government is immediately imperative. Employees cannot afford to wait an additional 30-180 days for a DOT or congressional response. Airline pilots’ careers and passenger safety are otherwise at risk.

The first few sentences of the Air Line Pilots Association Code of Ethics thus state:

AN AIRLINE PILOT will keep uppermost in his mind that the safety, comfort, and well-being of the passengers who entrust their lives to him are his first and greatest responsibility.

He will never permit external pressures or personal desires to influence his judgment, nor will he knowingly do anything that could jeopardize flight safety.

He will remember that an act of omission can be as hazardous as a deliberate act of commission, and he will not neglect any detail that contributes to the safety of flight, or perform any operation in a careless or reckless manner.

Consistent with flight safety, he will at all times operate his aircraft in manner that will contribute to the comfort, peace of mind, and well-being of his passengers, instilling trust in him and the airline he represents.

Once he has discharged his primary responsibility for the safety and comfort of his passengers, he will remember that they depend upon him to do all that is possible to deliver them to their destination at the scheduled time.

If a disaster should strike, he will take whatever action he deems necessary to protect the lives of his crew and his passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration website contains the following statement:

Our Mission

Our continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.

Our Vision

We continue to improve safety and efficiency of flight. We are responsive to our customers and are accountable to the taxpayer and the flying public.

Our Values

· Safety is our passion. We are the world leaders in aerospace safety.

· Quality is our trademark. We serve our stakeholders, our customers, and each other.

· Integrity is our character. We do the right thing, even when no one is looking.

· People are our strength. We treat people as we want to be treated.

There are many in the airline industry who believe that careless misinterpretation and potentially harmful ignorance of federal aviation regulations that enables horrific and reckless scheduling of aircrew members resulting in crew fatigue, while usurping the authority of the captain, coupled with the incapacity of senior level airline management to recognize the inherent dangers in the situations that they have created as a result of poor decisions has created a potential recipe for the next major commercial airline disaster. Airline employees do, but need a voice in government to speak out on their behalf, as well as the millions who travel by commercial air.

“Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”

~ Captain A. G. Lamplugh circa 1930 ~

Friday, June 12, 2009

FAA is still ignoring the warnings

FAA is still ignoring the warnings

By: Barbara Hollingsworth
Examiner Columnist | 6/11/09 3:52 PM

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials have failed to act on some 450 recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to improve aviation safety, acting NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker told members of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee yesterday.

The panel is investigating the fatal crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo.

"Some have been ignored for as many as 10 to 15 years," Rosenker added.

The list includes two recommendations specifically designed to prevent mid-air collisions with gliders. During the last two decades, nine people died and three were injured in preventable mid-air collisions between motorized aircraft and gliders. There have been dozens of near-misses that could have taken many more lives.

But that's not all the FAA has been ignoring. The agency charged with ensuring the public's safety in the skies has not heeded warnings by highly qualified and experienced pilots, some of whom were forced out of the cockpit in retaliation for reporting their concerns.

Rosenker cited the problem of pilot fatigue as a major contributing factor in what Dorgan called a "stunning set of failures" in the Colgan crash. But in 2003, when former United Airlines captain Dan Hanley filed a federally mandated Airline Safety Action Report (ASAP) after listening to overworked pilots talking in a London bar about falling asleep on transatlantic flights and letting the aircraft basically fly itself, he was "immediately taken out of the schedule" and medically grounded on trumped-up psychiatric grounds in retaliation, ending an unblemished 35-year career as a naval and commercial aviator.

Pilots who are still flying told The Examiner that they have heard of similar medical groundings, which they admit have a chilling effect on their willingness to report serious safety problems they encounter in the air. But so far, no pilots have been called to testify before the Senate subcommittee.

Newly appointed FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told senators that his agency is upgrading training standards for pilots and plans to require all commercial carriers to have ASAP programs in place.

But Babbitt also defended the FAA's past treatment of whistleblowers. "I am convinced the FAA took appropriate action," he said, even though experienced pilots like Hanley, with decades of flying experience, were forced out of their jobs for raising exactly the same safety concerns Babbitt now promises to address.

Department of Transportation inspector general Calvin Scovel disagreed with Babbitt, telling subcommittee members that he has "concerns regarding FAA's failure to protect employees who report safety issues from retaliation from other FAA employees."

In other words, instead of rewarding airline pilots and even its own employees for speaking up about aviation safety issues, the FAA punishes them. This kind of culture is poisonous in an agency whose mission is to safeguard the flying public.

It was also quite surprising that during Wednesday's hearing, neither Rosenker nor Babbitt mentioned a 2007 Airworthiness Directive the FAA issued on the Bombardier Model DHC-8 series that warned of "erroneous/misleading altitude and airspeed information" from pitot static probes, devices that measure airspeed. If the probes malfunctioned on the Colgan DHC-8, Capt. Marvin Renslow may not have known his correct airspeed.

"Pilots learn on the second day of flight training not to get too slow," Keith Karnofsky, a former Eastern Airlines pilot and flight instructor. Karnofsky, who lives in Buffalo and runs the blog, told The Examiner:

"The [Colgan flight's] speed degraded from 180 to 130 knots in 25 seconds. Unless [Capt. Renslow] wanted to die, it couldn't have been him. There are characteristics of this airplane that would have made rapid speed loss highly probable" - characteristics the FAA was aware of more than two years ago.

Aviation "is a business in which one mistake is one too many," Babbitt told subcommittee members. But if that's the case, the FAA is well over the acceptable limit.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dorgan should question FAA on glider exemption, whistleblower pilots

Dorgan should question FAA on glider exemption, whistleblower pilots

By: Barbara Hollingsworth
Examiner Columnist | 6/8/09 6:31 AM

Sen. Byron Dorgan’s Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security will hold hearings this week and next, reportedly focusing on the Feb. 12 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo that killed 50 people.
Federal Aviation Administration flight inspector Christopher J. Monteleon told National Transportation Safety Board investigators in March that egregious safety problems he observed at Colgan a year earlier were never addressed.

These hearings to be chaired by the North Dakota Democrat are a start, but the subcommittee should not stop there. The FAA is still ignoring legitimate safety concerns, while many whistleblowing pilots have been forced into retirement for offering similar warnings.

The Examiner has run several articles regarding the FAA’s so-called “glider exemption,” which allows gliders to fly in shared airspace without transponders, making them invisible to other pilots. However, despite nine deaths, numerous near collisions and two NTSB recommendations, the exemption remains on the books.

The FAA still has not certified a $400 prototype device utilizing off-the-shelf electronic components that could conceivably eliminate the problem, even though its own study at Boston’s Logan International Airport found that even commercial and corporate aircraft with transponders routinely come within 20 seconds of crashing into each other.

Michael Schumann, a glider pilot from Minneapolis, has offered to testify before Dorgan’s subcommittee, but so far he has not been invited. “I don’t think they want to talk about collision avoidance,” he told The Examiner.

That would be bad enough if it were the only other aviation safety issue that’s being ignored by the FAA. But I personally talked to four former commercial airline pilots who all told me they were forced out of their jobs at major carriers for pointing out potentially fatal problems.

Under FAA Regulation 121.533, pilots are forbidden to operate aircraft they feel do not meet federal safety standards. But when they did their duty and reported their concerns, they were grounded and their medical certificates were suddenly revoked - even after decades of flying military and commercial aircraft without incident.

“They use the Employee Assistance Program [which provides mental health coverage] to silence aviation safety matters,” said one former Continental Airlines captain, who was forced into retirement shortly after refusing to fly a plane from Paris that had sustained structural damage from an electrical fire. Four days later, he learned, that same plane was still in service, with neither the crew nor the passengers aware of the danger.

Another former Continental pilot told me he was grounded after a 17-year career after complaining about a fellow pilot who ordered him to ignore an apparent malfunction of the aircraft’s automatic landing system causing the plane to overshoot. “I disobeyed him. Under FAA regulations, that’s part of the emergency authorization granted to the captain.” He claims his medical records were later falsified in retaliation.

A similar fate befell two other airline captains with military training, decades of flying experience and impeccable safety records who both said they were forced out of their jobs at United and Northwest by trumped up mental health diagnoses after pointing out hazardous conditions they believe directly endangered the lives of their passengers.

I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly the kind of pilot I want in the cockpit. You’d think members of Senator Dorgan’s subcommittee would be most anxious to hear from them as well.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is the Examiner’s local opinion editor.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


June 7, 2009
4204 Lakeside Way
Newnan, Georgia 30265

Senator Byron Dorgan – Chairman
Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
U.S. Senate
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20510


Dear Senator Dorgan,

I write this letter to you today as an addendum to the letter forwarded to your office dated May 31, 2009, as I have since then been informed by your committee staffer Rich Swayze that it would be included as part of public congressional record associated with your upcoming June 10th hearing concerning the FAA oversight role of commercial air carriers.

In my May 31st letter to you, I advised your committee of my willingness, as well as that of other airline pilots, to testify in open or closed committee hearings concerning the alleged systemic and ongoing suppression of airline pilots when reporting concerns of air safety, which denigrates the safety of the travelling public. In recent phone discussions with Mr. Swayze, he indicated that FAA whistleblower Chris Monteleon was being summoned to Washington by your subcommittee to provide testimony regarding his recent allegations that were broadly detailed by numerous print media outlet journalists. Mr. Swayze did not however indicate to me whether other pilots and I would be afforded the same invitation, and it is for this reason that I specifically write to you today.

In reviewing my attached affidavit, you will note that in 2003, after many frustrated attempts to address numerous safety issues of concern via appropriate protocols and legal channels within my union and to company management personnel in an attempt to keep these issues ‘in-house’ while United Airlines was in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, I resorted to inclusion of the FAA-assigned Principle Operation Inspector (POI) in hopes of drawing his oversight authority of all aspects of United Airlines operations into the equation. This drastic measure was employed by me only after I realized that all previous efforts were futile and my overriding concern for public safety regarding the apparent stonewalling of previous face-to-face and phone conversations, reports, letters, and emails had been thwarted by both company and union personnel. It should also be noted that prior to my decision to resort to this legal and mandated federal communicative process, I had drafted a letter that I had intended to send to United Airlines Chief Executive Officer Glenn Tilton, but was advised by a union lawyer and another individual in a conference call of July 27, 2003 that I would become ‘unemployed’ as a captain if I were to send the letter.

Attached, you will find a copy of an Aviation Safety Awareness Report dated September 13, 2003 that I submitted in accordance with the United Airlines 2003 Flight Operations Manual (FOM), which delineated the specific administrative processes and guidance associated with the Aviation Safety Awareness Program (ASAP), which is inherently encompassed by Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 121, Operating Requirements: Domestic, Flag, and Supplemental Operations. You will note that within this report, I iterated then what I have restated herein.

In a subsequent phone conversation on September 19, 2003, I queried the ALPA Central Air Safety Committee Chairman who had served as the ALPA representative of the ASAP Event Review Committee (ERC) if, in fact, the FAA POI who had also served on the ERC to review this ASAP report and, if so, his remarks during said meeting. This individual indicated to me that the POI had read my ASAP and expressed concern by stating that he would investigate this matter further sometime in the future.

Recognizing my success in drawing the POI into the equation while believing that I had at last broken the communications logjam that I had experienced the past eighteen months, on September 18, 2003, I subsequently submitted additional ASAP reports that outlined all my previous safety and security concerns that had been stonewalled, including issues that I had addressed in the drafted letter to Mr. Tilton, but was never sent by me for the reasons stated above.

On September 23, 2003, I received a phone call from my JFK Assistant Chief Pilot advising me that I had been removed from schedule because of the ASAPs that I had submitted. Kindly refer to my attached affidavit for details of the tragic consequences and sad conclusion to this story. The subsequent suppression of these details the past five years by the previous White House, members of congress, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Justice, and the mainstream media gives further testament to the sorry state of affairs regarding suppression of information by pilots concerning the safety of the travelling public. Recent media revelations of the same at Colgan Air were the ‘straw that broke this old pilot’s back’, as well as many others in the airline industry and the FAA.

Because I have not yet been notified by your office as to whether whistle blowing pilots will be permitted to testify in either open or closed committee hearings, but being advised that my May 31st letter to you would be included as part of public congressional record, it is respectfully requested that this letter with attachments be included in my file as well. I would be more than happy to fly to Washington at my own expense to meet face-to-face with committee staffers in the very near future to provide additional material evidence and testimony, as well as a list of credible witnesses who have already agreed to provide supporting testimony to my allegations as stated in my affidavit.

Additionally, an open letter to President Obama dated June 7, 2009 is forthcoming to your office and request is hereby made that this letter also be included as part of my public testimony for inclusion in congressional records. Thank you for your consideration of these critical safety issues.

Very respectfully submitted,

Dan Hanley
Former United Airlines B-777 Captain

Encl: My letter to your office dated May 31, 2009
My Aviation Safety Awareness Report dated September 13, 2003
My affidavit dated February 16, 2009

Cc: President Barack Obama
Senator John Rockefeller – Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science and
Calvin L. Scovel III – Inspector General, Department of Transportation
Ray LaHood – Secretary, Department of Transportation
J. Randolf Babbitt – Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
Richard Swayze – Staffer, Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
Glenn Fine – Inspector General, Department of Justice
Eric Holder – Attorney General of the United States
Robert Mueller – Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Kenneth Kaiser – Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division
Robert Grant – Special Agent-in-Charge, Office of the Chicago FBI
Senator Claire McCaskill – Member, Senate Subcommittee on Transportation
Senator Johnny Isakson – Member, Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
Senator Saxby Chambliss
Senator Charles Grassley – Ranking Member, Committee on Finance
Senator Daniel Akaka – Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security/Govt Affairs
Congressman Jerry Costello – Chairman, House Aviation Subcommittee
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland – Member, House Aviation Subcommittee
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Transportation
Security and Infrastructure Protection
Barbara Hollingsworth – Reporter, Washington Examiner
Matthew Wald – Reporter, New York Times
Mary Williams-Walsh – Reporter, New York Times
David Cay Johnston – Author and former New York Times Investigative Journalist
Rocci Fisch – Senior Editor, Washington Post
Tom Devine – Legal Director, Government Accountability Project
David Hunter – Chairman, Project on Government Oversight
Gabe Bruno – Member, FAA Whistleblowers Alliance

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Open Letter to Senator Dorgan

May 31, 2009
4204 Lakeside Way
Newnan, Georgia 30265

Senator Byron L. Dorgan - Chairman
Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
United States Senate
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


Dear Senator Dorgan,

I write to your office today regarding your upcoming June 10th subcommittee hearing on behalf of several former airline pilots whose airline careers were truncated as a consequence of their attempting to address aviation safety issues within their individual airlines via normal communicative channels legally encompassed by Federal Aviation Regulations Part 121, but were ignored, suppressed, or terminated from employment at their airlines. It has come to our attention the past few years that our cases are not isolated incidents of alleged government and airline wrongdoing, but has occurred numerous times over many years.

Because our careers were ruthlessly destroyed in this manner, while realizing that this method of suppression still exists within the industry, it is for this reason that it is hoped that you will permit others and myself to testify before your subcommittee on June 10, 2009, or at least consider this correspondence with attachments for inclusion in subcommittee documents as part of federal public records. As you well know, each airline has assigned an FAA Principle Operation Inspector (POI), whose oversight function is to ensure that all aspects of air carrier operations are conducted in a manner commensurate with the FAA mission statement:

“Our continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.”

In light of the fact that it was widely reported in the media that in the very recent past, Colgan Air pilots who attempted to report safety concerns at their airline were allegedly either fired, punished, and suppressed for speaking out while allegedly the FAA delayed processing of their Federal Aviation Administration Whistleblower Protection Reports, gives further evidence that this problem is systemic throughout the airline industry, which endanger the lives of the travelling public and aircrew members, and must necessarily be addressed by your subcommittee and others.

Additionally, as you may or may not realize, last year the pilot unions at Delta, UsAir, and American Airlines cancelled their Aviation Safety Awareness Programs (ASAP), an internal safety communicative process established to address pilot concerns within their individual airlines that implicates their assigned POI, as a result of recriminations suffered by reporting pilots. Several months ago, Delta Airlines reinstated their ASAP, but UsAir and American pilots have not yet done so. We can both agree that the travelling public would be outraged to learn that the US Airline Pilots Association, the union representing the 5,200 pilots at UsAir, cancelled ASAP just twenty-four days prior to Captain Sullenberger’s heroic and successful ditching of his A-320 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

Please be advised that I am in contact with numerous active airline pilots and retirees from all air carriers across the industry who have personally expressed their safety concerns regarding these matters to me and their desire to publicly address these same issues, but feel threatened and intimidated if they were to do so, given what has happened to those like me whose careers were destroyed by alleged collusion between airline management, the FAA, and possibly the pilot union at their carrier.

In my particular case, although it commenced in mid-2003 in the midst of the United Airlines bankruptcy, it must be emphasized that I was in fact addressing legitimate safety concerns in my ASAP reports, and allege that my reports were suppressed by United Airlines upper echelon management as a direct result of financial pressures being exerted in bankruptcy court, which denigrated the unions’ ability to represent my concerns. Please know also that I have credible supporting evidence and witnesses who will attest to this fact. The relevant issue here is thus. Unless I am mistaken, federal bankruptcy law does not trump Federal Aviation Regulations in the reporting of issues that address commercial aviation safety involving the safe carriage of passengers on commercial jet aircraft. If this is the case, then federal regulations must be amended to reflect this fact to preclude other pilots from reporting safety issues when perhaps their airline is in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings sometime in the future.

I have appended my personal affidavit, which has also been forwarded to Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and recently confirmed Federal Aviation Administrator J. Randolf Babbitt, as well as my home state of Georgia representatives Senator Saxby Chambliss, Senator Johnny Isakson, and Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, and a whole host of other government officials that have been copied on this letter and more.

On January 25, 2009, after the UsAir 1549 ditching, I wrote to Mr. Scovel the attached letter requesting a copy of an FAA Whistleblower Report that I had filed in April 2006, to which I had not received a response. On February 12, 2009, I received the attached email response from his office advising me that there was no record of my submitted report, while advising me to contact the FAA on this matter. Because of the almost two year delay since my first report, I filed a second FAA Whistleblower Report that only contained my affidavit and received an immediate email response from DOT that I have included as an enclosure, but have reiterated below:

“We have reviewed the information that you provided and entered your complaint into the OIG Complaint Center Operation's System, and will be directing an inquiry. Your hotline case number is 09IH-C24-000. Please refer to this number in all future correspondence with this office. The complaint process is sometimes lengthy due to the high volume of complaints our office receives and the time and effort required to ensure that all inquiries thoroughly address raised allegations. It is our policy not to provide updates during an open inquiry. When our inquiry is completed we will notify you in writing of our results. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”

My concerns regarding aviation safety and the FAA oversight role in this matter are thus. Since my original 2006 report was ignored and supposedly lost, and since there has already been an almost two year delay, given that I have recently been advised that this review process ‘is sometimes lengthy due to the high volume of complaints’, will I be required to wait an additional two years before highly time-sensitive issues concerning the suppression of whistleblower complaints both within the airline, as well as the FAA, are thoroughly investigated by the DOT Office of Inspector General wherein I receive an appropriate government response? The court of public opinion will judge harshly should the next major commercial aviation air disaster involving a wide-body hull loss was the result of a previously reported safety issue that may have been suppressed by airline management and/or the FAA. I pray that this does not happen and hope that your subcommittee will address this very issue.

As mentioned previously, I am in contact with other airline pilots who would be willing to testify before the subject subcommittee hearing, but could also provide written testimony with supporting documentation, witnesses, and depositions for inclusion in committee records in lieu of public testimony. I have left voice mail with your senate staffer Frannie Wellings yesterday; whom I was informed was your subcommittee staffer that was receiving this information. Her voice mail recording indicated that she would be in North Dakota till June 1st and I was not certain of the deadline for submission of materials, hence I have written you today.

Please recognize that my aviation career commenced over forty years ago and crash-landed to an ending over five years ago, and from my first walk around a Cessna 150 in 1968 and throughout my Naval and commercial aviation career, safety has been engrained in my soul as a pilot, as has it been for all pilots throughout the industry. While recognizing that commercial aviation, unlike that of military aviation, is a bottom-line oriented commercial enterprise, airline managers and the FAA consistently resound in their public remarks that safety is their first and foremost priority in the conduct of their businesses. This smacks of hypocrisy, given what we have observed of late at Colgan Air, UsAir, and American Airlines and the testimony of many other pilots who have been suppressed or their careers ended for speaking out on public safety issues. Is the current actual level of quality of safety that passengers have been been promised by airline managers and the FAA truly commensurate with their corporate and mission statements? We think not.

Kindly recognize that my intent in addressing these issues is not to seek publicity or celebrity, reinstatement in my previous position as a United Airlines B-777 captain or financial remuneration of any type, but to address critically germane and time-sensitive issues of safety in the industry that others and I strongly feel must be addressed by your subcommittee. I could have turned my back and walked away from a 35-year career in aviation five years ago, but my conscience will not allow it, given what I have learned. Passenger lives are at risk and, although I may be ‘retired’ from the left seat, I will always be a pilot at heart and do not want to see other pilot’s careers truncated like mine and others.

In closing, if others and myself are not permitted to testify in either open or closed sessions of your subcommittee hearing, please include this correspondence with enclosures as part of your hearing documentation as part of public federal record. On behalf of over 60,000 airline pilots in the U.S., as well as the many other stifled pilot whistleblowers, thank you for holding this very much needed hearing on the FAA oversight of commercial air carriers. My involvement in this is but my small parting token gift in the name of aviation safety as a pilot in closing the final chapter of my long forty year career in aviation. I will patiently await a response from your senate subcommittee staff.

Very respectfully submitted,

Dan Hanley
Former United Airlines B-777 Captain and Naval Aviator

Encl: My affidavit dated February 16, 2009
Letter dated January 25, 2009 to Department of Transportation IG Calvin L. Scovel III
Email dated February 12, 2009 from the office of Department of Transportation IG

Cc: Senator John Rockefeller – Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Calvin L. Scovel III – Inspector General, Department of Transportation
Ray LaHood – Secretary, Department of Transportation
J. Randolf Babbitt – Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
Francis Wellings – Staffer, Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and
Glenn Fine – Inspector General, Department of Justice
Eric Holder – Attorney General of the United States
Robert Mueller – Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Kenneth Kaiser – Assistant Director, FBI Criminal Investigative Division
Robert Grant – Special Agent-in-Charge, Office of the Chicago FBI
Senator Claire McCaskill – Member, Senate Subcommittee on Transportation
Senator Johnny Isakson – Member, Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations,
Safety, and Security
Senator Saxby Chambliss
Senator Charles Grassley – Ranking Member, Committee on Finance
Senator Daniel Akaka – Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security/Govt Affairs
Congressman Jerry Costello – Chairman, House Aviation Subcommittee
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland – Member, House Aviation Subcommittee
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Transportation
Security and Infrastructure Protection
Barbara Hollingsworth – Reporter, Washington Examiner
Tom Devine – Legal Director, Government Accountability Project
David Hunter – Chairman, Project on Government Oversight
Gabe Bruno – Member, FAA Whistleblowers Alliance