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Sun, Jan 04, 2009

FAA And Whistle-Blowing Air Traffic Controller Reach Settlement

FAA Didn't Adequately Respond To Complaints About Air Safety

A settlement between the Federal Aviation Administration and a former Memphis air traffic controller has been reached, thanks to the intervention of the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates whistle-blower complaints.

Peter Nesbitt, an ATC veteran of over 20 years, claims he was retaliated against by FAA managers for filing complaints over what he felt were unsafe practices that led to near-midair collisions at the Memphis International Airport (MEM).

Nesbitt alleged that routine procedures for aircraft operating on intersecting runways with intersecting flight paths at MEM created undue hazards to the safety of the flying public.

After sending letters to the National Transportation Safety Board and Congress, and filing a report to NASA's confidential aviation safety reporting database, Nesbitt was taken off ATC duty, assigned office work, and forced to participate in a remedial program for training controllers.

Nesbitt's complaints were investigated by the Office of Special Counsel, which in turn advised the DOT's Mary Peters that the complaints were valid and that the FAA hadn't taken adequate action on them.

The OSC also requested an investigation by Calvin Scovel, the DOT's Inspector General, into conditions at MEM that "create a substantial and specific danger to public safety."

The settlement reinstated Nesbitt to ATC duties at his former pay level, granted his requested transfer to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (where he worked before Memphis), and paid for both his relocation and legal expenses, the Associated Press said.

The FAA has since changed procedures at MEM that reportedly now provide adequate spacing between aircraft, creating a safer flying environment.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.osc.gov, www.dot.gov

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