Mark Lund just wants to do his job. As a safety inspector for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, he's assigned to spot potential problems. After he reported safety concerns during an airliner's mechanics' strike, he was relegated to a desk job. But eventually an FAA inspector general's report vindicated him. Read how he and other safety inspectors try to be the "eyes and ears" of the flying public.
Mark Lund was concerned. Northwest Airlines' mechanics had gone on strike Aug. 20, 2005, and the airline had replaced them with substitute employees and managers. Lund, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector in Bloomington, Minn., saw some problems.
A line maintenance manager couldn't find the right switches to test the engines on an Airbus A320. He admitted he had never performed this test on an operating A320 and only recently had been trained on a simulator.
A replacement mechanic was unsure how to close the passenger entry door on a Boeing B757. Another failed to lock the brakes on a jet before checking its brake wear pins.
A DC10 aircraft arrived from Amsterdam with a defective lavatory, which spilled human waste onto vital navigation equipment. Northwest Airlines planned to let the flight continue to Honolulu with the contamination and without fixing the problem until another FAA safety inspector intervened.
Two days after the strike, Lund sent a "safety recommendation for accident prevention" memo, a routine procedure for reporting safety deficiencies, to his supervisors and to FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. He claimed that a "situation exists that jeopardizes life" and recommended that Northwest cut back on its flight schedule until mechanics and inspectors could do their jobs "without error."
Instead of mitigating the public safety risks exhibited at Northwest Airlines, the FAA confiscated Lund's badge that gave him access to Northwest's facilities and confined him to a desk job. Lund then hand-delivered his safety recommendation to Mark Dayton, then the Democratic senator for Northwest's home state of Minnesota. Dayton sent the memo to the inspector general (IG) for the Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees the FAA.
On Sept. 27, 2007, the IG released a report (www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/NWA.pdf
) that criticized the FAA for its treatment of Lund and wrote that the FAA needs "better procedures for responding to and resolving safety complaints identified by its inspectors.
In the report, the IG wrote that the "FAA's handling of [Lund's] safety concerns appeared to focus on discounting the validity of the complaints. ... A potential consequence of FAA's handling of this safety recommendation is that other inspectors may be discouraged from bringing safety issues to FAA's attention."
The report also stated that in August and September of 2005, FAA inspectors responsible for oversight of Northwest Airlines operations identified at least 121 findings related to replacement mechanics' lack of knowledge or their ability to properly complete maintenance tasks and documentation. The FAA concurred with the IG's recommendations to establish better review procedures and resolve deficiencies. But it disagreed with the IG's conclusion that the FAA didn't want to document that some of Lund's concerns were valid, and it maintained that it didn't adopt Lund's recommendations to improve mechanic training because it already was doing so. The IG, in turn, disagreed with the FAA's response citing that the FAA's own investigation team reported Northwest's initial mechanic training program wasn't effective even though it advised Lund that his assertion that the mechanics received inadequate mechanic training was an unsupported, subjective opinion.
The FAA has returned Lund to his original duties as a safety inspector, and he continues to be one set of "eyes and ears of the airline passenger," as he says. For his courage and tenacity in protecting the public, the ACFE has awarded Lund its 2008 Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award.
Lund recently spoke to Fraud Magazine from his home in Cannon Falls, Minn.
What do you see as your responsibilities?
As a safety inspector, it is my duty to ensure public safety. The public is and always has been my customer. Our oath is to the flying public to ensure their safety in air transportation. It is my responsibility to raise safety issues at airlines and recommend appropriate enforcement actions by the FAA.
I represent the passenger and try to be their eyes and ears. What would the passenger say if he or she knew a particular safety problem was occurring or an accident could happen? How can I assure their safety in my review and observations or recommendations in response to the airlines' request for FAA approval?
FAA senior management has implemented a "Customer Service Initiative," which has been attacked in the April 2008 Congressional hearings. FAA senior managers are now also saying that passengers - not the airlines - are their customers. If this is true, then why aren't they asking the public for their opinions in open forums?
Do you believe, as some have stated, that the FAA and some airlines have developed a too-cozy relationship? If so, how is (or was) that manifested in daily procedures?
Absolutely. FAA management has come to view the airlines as their customers and clients rather than treating the flying public as the customer.
The FAA's responsibility is not to meet an airline's bottom line; it's to ensure that airlines are complying with FAA regulations and continuing the safe operation of their aircraft. Somewhere, the FAA has lost sight of this and has been at the beck and call of the airlines - to the point that if the airline alleges a complaint against an inspector to FAA management, the inspector is determined to be guilty.
In my own experience within the FAA Northwest Airlines Certificate Management Office, a fellow inspector was called into the office manager's office. He was told that Northwest Airlines had raised a verbal complaint against him. The inspector was threatened that if Northwest submitted a written complaint, the office manager had no choice but to discipline the inspector. There was no investigation of facts. It was cut and dry. If the airline complains, FAA management agrees with the airline and disciplines the inspector. Needless to say, this thwarted a good inspector and he was never the same since in his efforts to ensure public safety.
Specifically, what did you do after the Northwest Airlines mechanics went out on strike in 2005?
First off, it was no surprise to most of us FAA inspectors that maintenance errors would occur when replacement mechanics took over. It is virtually impossible to replace an experienced maintenance organization in one night with one that has no experience with the airline's maintenance requirements. Many FAA inspectors shared these concerns directly to FAA office management before the strike occurred. FAA management, which had the authority to intervene in the public's best interest, disregarded the experienced inspectors' safety concerns.
When I saw what was occurring, I tried to proactively address these safety concerns by presenting my observations to my immediate supervisors during daily afternoon briefings. The briefing sessions were attended by all available FAA safety inspectors overseeing Northwest Airlines' maintenance actions performed by the replacement mechanics and the reassigned maintenance managers. As each day passed, however, the frustration level of many FAA safety inspectors grew in the briefings as they shared their ongoing safety concern observations with no action by FAA management.
I have used the standard FAA safety recommendation memo process in the past and saw it as my only recourse. If a situation exists that jeopardizes life or property, then a safety inspector is supposed to immediately contact FAA's Aircraft Accident Investigation Branch. I called that office and faxed my memo.
What were some of the things you warned about in your memo?
I wrote in the memo that the situation at Northwest Airlines jeopardized life or property due to the mechanics' strike.
I also wrote that FAA office management had decided not to use the highly regarded, standard computerized data-entry Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS) process for the surveillance and collection of data for safety risk assessment of Northwest Airlines. Instead, it developed its own paper checklists. By using the paper checklists, it was able to keep the inspector's safety findings out of any FAA data collection system, which prevented oversight by the FAA regional office and national headquarters. And the FAA safety analysis branch in Washington, D.C., couldn't analyze the findings because they didn't exist in any nationally accessible database.
What did you propose?
In brief, I recommended in the memo that Northwest Airlines flight operations be reduced based on the availability of the mechanics and inspector workforce to perform assigned duties and tasks without error.
I proposed that an FAA "maintenance error-human factors evaluation team" be assembled to oversee duties of Northwest Airlines operations. Any and all risks identified would be immediately corrected before any expansion or continuation of Northwest Airlines flight operations. The leadership of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) union, AFL-CIO, would be involved. [According to PASS, it represents more than 11,000 employees of the FAA and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment; inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries; develop flight procedures; and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. - ed.]
I also recommended the FAA safety inspectors be given Congressional authority to intervene and halt, if necessary, any observed activity that might impact person or property safety and there would be no retribution or coercion by FAA management.
I proposed that a separate FAA management group, which would include PASS members, would manage surveillance on Northwest Airlines and that Northwest revise its inspector training programs.
What was the agency's response?
The initial response was that it was not going to assign a file number to the case for tracking and investigation purposes. This meant they were not going to act on my safety recommendation.
After your supervisors confiscated your badge and relegated you to a desk job what was your course of action?
It saddens me that my own agency was unwilling to uphold public safety as we are responsible to do. Instead, I was condemned as guilty and removed from my safety assignment.
When I learned that the FAA was not going to act upon my memo - I found this out within a few days - I immediately contacted the office of Minnesota's democratic senator at the time, Mark Dayton. Sen. Dayton telephoned me directly and we spoke for about an hour. I then visited his office in person. He and his staff quickly brought in the OIG investigators.
Another FAA inspector also shared safety concerns with Sen. Dayton's office staff. I am grateful to Sen. Dayton's office staff members for their tireless efforts to ensure the safety of the flying public.
What occurred after Dayton brought the matter to the attention of the inspector general?
Once Sen. Dayton's office involved the DOT's IG, within days, OIG investigators were on the scene conducting a formal investigation. They interviewed me and other FAA safety inspectors at Northwest Airlines. Once the OIG was involved, other FAA safety inspectors stepped forward to share their safety concerns. As the subsequent Sept. 28, 2007 OIG report states, they also said that FAA office management discouraged the use of civil penalties for regulatory non-compliance investigations, which lead to ineffective oversight of the carrier.
The IG's investigation conclusion that the FAA office management discouragement of using civil penalty enforcement actions, leading to ineffective oversight of the carrier, has grave ramifications. The National Traffic Safety Board reports of the Britt Airlines, Continental Express, ValuJet, and Alaska Airline's accidents that killed 212 people in all cite lack of FAA oversight as a contributing factor. Bottom line is, people can die when FAA management does not intervene to ensure public safety when safety inspectors identify and report unsafe conditions at an airline.
Do you feel vindicated by the report?
I actually feel saddened that it took outside involvement to prove the validity of my safety concerns. I am saddened that the FAA, which is tasked with aviation safety responsibilities, preferred to attack me in my public safety duties, than to ensure the safety of the public due the situation at Northwest Airlines.
In my now 18 years of experience with the FAA, it did not surprise me that the agency took no action about the safety concerns that I and other inspectors reported. We only have to look at FAA management's recent history.
The ValuJet accident of May 1996 killed 110 people. A few months before the accident, February 1996, FAA management in the Washington, D.C., headquarters had written a memo of the risk to public safety that ValuJet presented. Of noteworthy in the memo, it was recommended that consideration should be given to an immediate FAR 121 recertification of ValuJet as an airline. What this meant was that ValuJet should be reevaluated and demonstrate that it was in full compliance with FAA federal safety regulations to determine if it should continue to hold an FAA-issued Air Carrier Certificate. A failed recertification could have removed ValuJet's FAA authority to continue operation as an airline. It could have shut down ValuJet. FAA senior management took no comprehensive action to ensure the safe operation of the airline. If they had, they might have been able to prevent that accident and save 100 lives.
The Alaska Airlines' accident of January 2000 killed 88 people. On April 3 of this year, Sen. Jim Oberstar, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, held hearings about the "coziness" the FAA has towards the airlines. An ex-FAA principal inspector who was assigned to Alaska Airlines submitted written testimony as to how they tried to get the attention of FAA's senior management about Alaska Airlines' dangerous safety culture to no avail. The testimonial details many specific events including FAA management's reassignment of safety inspectors off the airline certificate due to false complaints by the airline against safety inspectors. This is what happened in my case. The FAA reassigned the safety inspector who provided the testimonial, eventually reprimanded him, and forced him out of the FAA. Other safety inspectors warned of a pending accident but the FAA reprimanded or reassigned them. My heart goes out to them. They have to be miserably frustrated.
The bottom line for FAA safety inspectors is saving lives. I would rather take the arrows in my back by FAA management than to have done nothing and be responsible for preventable deaths. I can't understand how some FAA managers can live with themselves knowing that they might have been able to prevent accidents. As a public servant charged with upholding the public's trust, it grieves my heart. My highest priority is public safety. My primary customer has always been the public, not the airlines.
Even though the DOT OIG's findings did not surprise me, having the IG validate my safety concerns made me feel that someone else recognized a serious deficiency at the FAA. If anyone who attempts to elevate safety concerns is immediately labeled a "problem employee" and punished, then how will inspectors be able to do their jobs?
The inspector general's report said that the "FAA's handling of [Lund's] safety concerns appeared to focus on discounting the validity of the complaints. ... A potential negative consequence of FAA's handling of this safety recommendation is that the other inspectors may be discouraged from bringing safety issues to FAA's attention." Do you agree with this conclusion, and if so, can you elaborate on your thoughts?
I do agree with the DOT IG report's conclusion. Unfortunately, the FAA was more concerned with discounting and discrediting me and the other inspectors on Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and ValuJet, than addressing our safety concerns we attempted to elevate.
FAA safety inspectors' stifling environment thwarts their ability to ensure public safety. The intimidation, reprisals, and harassment by FAA management against inspectors raising safety concerns prevents the inspector from doing his public safety duties.
The inspector does not have the authority with the airline to mandate a change or restrict an operation. All he can do is report and recommend. What happens to the inspector in this FAA management culture? He shuts down. He goes through his day skimming the surface to justify his job and feel satisfied. He goes through the motions, accepting the unsafe situation as unchangeable, anticipating an incident will occur to bring attention to the matter that will force a change - hopefully, without anyone getting hurt. But that accident did happen at ValuJet and Alaska Airlines and people died.
I understand that after you were removed from inspecting airliners, you stayed at your desk job for six weeks until the OIG brokered a deal that allowed you to return to your former duties in early October 2005. What did you then do after you returned to your inspection duties?
When I returned to my inspection duties in October 2005, I began investigating an incident in which a Northwest Airlines' Boeing 757 blew out its main tires when it landed in Detroit the first morning after the replacement mechanics took over, Aug. 20, 2005. That aircraft is my area of assignment. My investigation concluded that probable cause for the tire failure was a brake failure caused by a brake control cable that a replacement mechanic inadvertently jammed after routine maintenance to an unrelated system. The cable jam just happened to be in the area in which routine work was necessary on the other system. It is a standard maintenance practice to be cautious around control cables. It was apparent to me that replacement mechanics hadn't known about or followed these standard practices.
I initiated a second safety recommendation memo on Oct. 12, 2005, citing this maintenance error as another example of a public safety risk at Northwest Airlines. In this report, I stated that Northwest Airlines isn't a school to train mechanics. Somehow, media sources also obtained this report and quoted some of the specifics in the report.
During this whole time, did you talk with other inspectors within the FAA about your situation or other people within the government?
During the investigation, I worked with my union, PASS, and heard about similar situations with other inspectors around the country. Many encouraged me and shared similar stories. The common thread is that we all work within a culture perpetuated by the FAA in which the airline is the customer and safety inspectors shouldn't impede them in any way.
Of course, the FAA should nurture, assist, and support safety inspectors to enable and empower them in performing their jobs. Once FAA management has rebuffed them, safety inspectors were and are fearful of elevating their concerns. To this day, many inspectors continue to call me and express their support and gratitude for shedding light on the FAA's serious deficiencies.
As the media released information, I also received telephone calls from pilots at Northwest Airlines thanking me for my efforts to keep their planes safe. Pilots from other airlines called to tell me about their safety concerns; I gave them possible courses of action for resolution. It was a hopeless situation for me to hear their stories; some had called the national FAA safety hotline to no avail.
At the request of the OIG, the FAA is now modifying the procedures it uses to review safety allegations raised by inspectors. Do you see some differences in the way the agency now handles safety recommendations from its inspectors?
Although the FAA has now implemented a new additional voluntary program to improve its procedures, there is no evidence of changes thus far. Many inspectors are still very disappointed with the FAA's continuous denial that these issues are systemic and its contention that these are isolated issues and problems.
I'm convinced that safety inspectors don't trust FAA managers to support their cause of public safety. A review of safety reports available in FAA's new safety reporting system shows me nothing of substance reported. I personally will not use it until FAA executive management demonstrates convincingly that they are sincere about protecting the safety inspector from retaliatory acts. One very significant way they could demonstrate their honest commitment is to make whole the Alaska Airline FAA inspectors who shared their safety concerns before the accident - restore them and make right any retributions taken against them.
What does (and can) happen when a safety inspector launches a formal investigation?
Typically, when a safety inspector observes a safety issue - large or small - in order to open a formal investigation, a supervisor must "green light" any formal investigation. The supervisor has the authority to determine when and if a safety inspector launches a formal investigation.
If FAA management thwarts an inspector's attempts to raise and deal with an unsafe situation, management can make it very miserable for the inspector.
FAA management has become very good at stacking unjust cause against an inspector and establishing a trail for disciplinary actions that eventually leads to dismissal or resignation from employment with the FAA.
The inspector can become ineffective as a safety inspector if management threatens him with discipline or the implication that he won't be promoted. He can then become ineffective and passive in the performance of his duties and can actually cause an increase in an unsafe situation with the airline. In an effort to get along with FAA management or the airline, he might grant approval or capitulate to the airline's request - all to keep everyone happy regardless of any safety ramifications.
Do you think you might have helped strengthen the resolve of other safety inspectors?
I hope other inspectors are encouraged by my actions and of those who have come forward, but I also hope that other inspectors would not have to go to this extraordinary level just to have their safety concerns addressed. I know that far too many safety inspectors are trying hard to work within the parameters of the system, but it's still very difficult to come forward. Hopefully, because of my actions and that of other whistle-blowers, changes will be made and others will not have to resort to such measures.
The PASS union has told me that I have been a catalyst for other inspectors. I do know that the best benefit in public safety is not databases and data analysis in attempts to identify safety risks. These have benefit over time and on a broad national scale. However, the most immediate and proactive cause for public safety is the safety inspector in the field doing the hands-on surveillance - kicking the tires, if you will. Here is where the safety issue is immediately stopped as it is observed. Here is where the culture and "tone" or "feel" of the airline gets known. The most important public safety element of the FAA is the integrity of the experienced safety inspector. Just let them do their jobs.
Before joining the FAA in 1990, you worked as an aircraft electrician for the U.S. Navy and as maintenance director for a small airline in Minneapolis. How does that affect your inspection efforts today?
God has blessed me abundantly in my aviation career. He has lead each step of the way, and it has been full of surprises. It gives me goose bumps looking back and seeing His hand on my life. It was not some childhood wish to be an FAA safety inspector. I joined the Navy because I did not know what else to do. The Navy selected me for aviation and my career as an aircraft electrician began. I loved the work but hated shipboard life.
I pursued an aviation career after the Navy, attending a two-year avionics program and was immediately hired by a growing regional carrier in Wisconsin. I then made a career move to eventually become the director of avionics for another fast-growing regional carrier in Minnesota.
My civil regional airline experience with two growing airlines provided tremendous and fast growth for me. I was blessed to have worked for a vice president of maintenance who was a retired FAA safety inspector. He was a man of integrity and upheld safety first in aircraft maintenance. I traveled the world with him evaluating and buying aircraft for the airline's use. I gained experience in airline regulations as well as repair station regulations.
He was my mentor and facilitated my career with the FAA. It has been my experience that working within a growing regional airline prepared me well for the job I do with the FAA. The airline process and requirements are the same whether having 50 or 500 aircraft. The small airline environment allows experience with all aspects of airline maintenance and an understanding as to how departments need to work together to produce a safe operation.
The drawback I have seen with inspectors from the large mega-airlines is that they have spent most of their whole career with that airline and, in most cases, had no understanding of the airline operations and requirements of the FAA. This limits their objectivity in methods of compliance for federal safety regulations.
Joseph T. Wells began the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners to train people to deter fraud, waste, and abuse, and to embolden fraud examiners to be sentinels in the workplace. What advice would you give to the members of the ACFE as they try to "fight the good fight"?
I would encourage ACFE members to always maintain high standards. Do not allow others to deter you and do not be discouraged by those who lose sight of your mission. You are the one who has to live with yourself.
It is important that you establish yourself with a sound behavioral history. Your pattern in the workplace has to be consistent. You have to be honest and of high integrity. Do not be stiff and unemotional. Have fun. Be confident. Be friendly and offer advice to those of lesser experience. Be available to others. Show honest emotional concern when others share their concerns with you.
Be diligent and thorough in your investigations. Collect all data, and then be objective in your analysis. If you have a case, it should stand on its own. If you do not have a case, then let others know it. You have not failed.
And lastly, pursue all elevations of your concerns or findings in a professional manner. Try to work within the established chain of command. Establish yourself as working within the system and give opportunity for those to respond. If they meet your expectations, you have done an honorable job. If you must go outside your organization, then you must ensure that you will be working at a level that has the ability to affect your outcome. Stay professional and hold your concern from the media until you have no other option. As in a card game, you do not want to publicly show your cards until the last of your strategies has been played. Always play the game fairly even though others may lie and cheat. Their just reward will always occur in the end.
This must have been a long process for you. What has motivated you in your persistence?
My motivation throughout this long process has only been to be able to do my job. Safety inspectors simply want to make sure that airlines are in compliance with FAA regulations and are operating safely. My brothers and sisters at PASS are committed to the safety of the flying public and we will remain so. Any actions that we take are to improve efficiency and safety in air travel.
My ultimate motivator, of course, is preventing aircraft accidents that kill people. I have a personal connection with one accident as a team member of the FAA National Safety Inspection Program (NASIP) team that was assigned to evaluate the airline immediately after.
The Sept. 11, 1991 crash of a Britt Airlines aircraft - doing business as Continental Express Airlines - killed 14 people in Eagle Lake, Texas. It's a classic example of a dangerous airline safety culture. The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) report found that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of Continental Express maintenance and inspection personnel to adhere to proper maintenance and quality assurance procedures for the airplane's horizontal stabilizer deice boots [that de-ice wings in flight], which led to the sudden in-flight loss of the partially secured left horizontal stabilizer leading edge and the immediate severe nose-down pitch-over and breakup of the airplane. Contributing to the cause of the accident was the failure of the Continental Express management to ensure compliance with the approved maintenance procedures and the failure of FAA surveillance to detect and verify compliance with approved procedures.
FAA regulations require an airline to comply with approved aircraft maintenance procedures, to have a competent mechanic workforce, and have aircraft that are airworthy after maintenance actions. Another regulation requires an airline to have an inspection and maintenance program that ensures that all this does occur. If the airlines I mention in this interview had complied with these regulations then the accidents would not have happened.
NTSB member John K. Lauber, in a dissenting statement about the cause of the Continental Express accident, said, "The National Transportation Safety Board determines probable causes of this accident were (1) the failure of Continental Express management to establish a corporate culture that encouraged and enforced adherence to approved maintenance and quality assurance procedures, and (2) the consequent string of failures by Continental Express maintenance and inspection personnel to follow approved procedures for the replacement of the horizontal stabilizer deice boots. Contributing to the accident was inadequate surveillance by the FAA of the Continental Express maintenance and quality assurance programs."
I agreed with Mr. Lauber's findings. Frankly, I was surprised that an NTSB member would counter the team's conclusion, which almost never occurs. An airline has an unsafe corporate culture when there are a number of organizational breakdowns, as in this case, and the other examples in his statement. Mr. Lauber's findings are very similar to the FAA inspectors' safety concerns about Alaska Airlines' dangerous corporate culture.
The NTSB report also faults the FAA for the inadequacy of its NASIP inspection. It cites that the FAA should have done more observations of in-progress maintenance and shift turnover procedures because these were areas that should have had focus due to the improper maintenance that lead to the accident. This is personal to me because our FAA NASIP team was told by the team manager that we were not to observe or pursue any area within the airline that might be related to the accident. FAA management restricted the NASIP inspection in its scope. The FAA manager went to great effort to discount team member findings as they gave them. I experienced first-hand, early in my young, two-year career, FAA management's strong desire to protect an airline's reputation even after an accident that killed 14 people.
FAA senior management continues to speak out on the value of collecting safety data for analysis and determination of safety risk. However, in my opinion, there is already plenty of data to evaluate and analyze safety risk and make improvements within the FAA and airline process. FAA management is unwilling or has no desire to respond and take measures to eliminate or mitigate the safety risks I mention in this interview.
Experienced and knowledgeable safety inspectors who the FAA has categorized as whistle-blowers have assessed the airlines' safety risks they've observed. They've presented these concerns to the senior FAA levels. They've done their work despite personal retaliatory acts against them.
The process for me actually has not ended. I will continue my diligence to ensure public safety of the airlines I am assigned to. Being part of this honorable ACFE award presentation has been stressful for me. It is going to expose me in a greater manner to the public eye, something I have tried to stay out of. It is going to expose me to the scrutiny of FAA management.
I commit this ACFE Sentinel Award to my fellow safety inspectors who, as myself, have struggled repeatedly to uphold their public safety duties.
In special recognition, I want to highly commend those safety inspectors who lost their jobs, were reprimanded, or reassigned because of the safety concerns they raised on Alaska Airlines before their accident. Some have had their FAA careers destroyed by FAA management because of their tenacity to bring forth their safety concerns on Alaska Airlines. They have committed the ultimate sacrifice in their duties to ensure public safety and continue to suffer because of the public trust they choose to stand firm on. Again, I say, they need to be restored and made whole.
Would you have done anything differently?
Looking back, the easy part of this job is to look away from potential safety concerns. FAA management demonstrates a preference for the smooth road - no problems, no issues, no additional work. They are the ones who have authority to act and enact change within the airline. This is work for them as well. It is easier to just go along.
This ordeal has been very difficult for me and my family to endure, but I do take comfort in believing that I helped to put the wheels of change in motion at the FAA. The FAA cannot continue to say that it will make changes - it has to act. Changes must be made in order to ensure safety inspectors have the resources and support they need to do their jobs.
If my carrying the safety torch has caused other inspectors to come forward for the benefit of public safety, than yes, it is worth it. I want to thank the ACFE for its gracious selection of me for your Sentinel Award. It was an unexpected surprise when [Education Manager] Allan Bachman called me. He patiently went through the FAA government ethics process with me to ensure proper approval of myself in the acceptance of this award.
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