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Project on Government Oversight

Whistleblower Office Vindicates FAA Whistleblower, But Questions Remain On Hundreds Of Improperly Closed Cases

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September 29, 2010

The federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) yesterday announced that it substantiated the findings of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) whistleblower Robert Spahr.  Spahr, who is an aviation safety inspector, reported to the OSC that the FAA’s flight standards district office in Pittsburgh and the FAA Eastern Division Regional Office violated regulations by failing to take action against three entities regulated by the FAA.

CNN’s Allen Chenoff reports that “Erie Aviation, a repair station operator that services commercial airlines; C.J. Systems, which pilots helicopters for hospitals around the country; and Air Charter Service, an operator of private charter flights,” were the three entities FAA failed to take action against.  Enforcement actions should have been taken in response to mechanical deficiencies and false entries in aircraft logs, according to the OSC.

But questions still remain about OSC’s previous work with whistleblowers, including those at the FAA and Federal Air Marshal Service (the subject of a 2008 POGO report).  Under Scott Bloch, the former Special Counsel who pled guilty to lying to Congress, literally hundreds of whistleblowers’ cases were closed without investigation.

A few weeks ago, CNN featured another FAA whistleblower in that agency’s Eastern Division who says he’s been a victim of OSC’s dereliction of duty.  Richard Wyeroski, a former FAA safety inspector in the Farmington, N.Y., office, told OSC that his FAA managers did not want a runway incursion incident at Long Island MacArthur Airport reported in order “to keep incursion numbers down.” Runway incursions occur when aircraft are not where they are supposed to be on a runway, and can result in near misses of aircraft and even aircraft collisions.  The development of mechanisms to prevent runway incursions has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted List for years.

Wyerocki said he “was harassed for reporting this serious runway incursion through the Program Tracking Reporting System” maintained by FAA.

“Wyeroski says his supervisor also tried to prevent him from earning this aviation inspection certificate and then terminated him in late 2002, falsely claiming Wyeroski had lied on his certificate application,” according to a CNN transcript.

The FAA did not respond to CNN’s request for a comment.  Days after the CNN segment on Wyeroski ran, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., wrote to the William Reukauf, the Acting Special Counsel, asking for a “full investigation” into Wyeroski’s allegations.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.