One of the things we talk about in the Current Topics in Aviation course I co-teach at Vaughn College of Aeronautics is how to report safety issues without being labeled a whistleblower or, worse, being fired. It’s an important issue for anyone entering a field where safety is so important and the “penalties” for being labeled a whistleblower can be high. Even the federal Whistleblower Protection Act covers only a small segment of the industry: airlines and their contractors. Some states might also have some protections for workers.
Federal Aviation Administration
The issue of FAA delays in approving letters of authorization (LOAs) for operations such as RVSM continues to fester. At this month’s NBAA Convention, the FAA’s Roger Sultan will join attorney David Norton of Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton to help pilots and aircraft operators understand the LOA process, learn how recent changes might accelerate LOA approvals and give feedback about their experiences obtaining LOAs.
The FAA is conducting a 30-day review of contingency plans and security protocols for its major facilities, after a “criminal action by a contractor knocked out communications equipment” at the FAA air route traffic control center (ARTCC) in Aurora, Ill. on Friday, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced yesterday at an Air Traffic Control Association conference in Maryland.
The FAA plans to restore its Chicago air route traffic control center (Artcc) to normal operation by October 13 following a fire that damaged the facility’s communications equipment and led to the disruption and cancellation of thousands of flights. The agency has also tasked its Air Traffic Organization (ATO) and unions to review contingency plans for major facilities in the wake of the September 26 fire, which was allegedly set by a disgruntled contract worker.
A fire, thought to have been started by an arsonist, early in the morning on September 26 immediately closed the Chicago En Route ATC Center (ZAU) in Aurora, Ill., shutting down air traffic at Chicago O’Hare and Midway International airports, as well as at a half dozen business aviation airports in the area. A Chicago flight services briefer told AIN on September 27 that ZAU will remain closed until September 30.
The Professional Airways Safety Specialists union described the damage to the center’s equipment as “substantial.”
The FAA’s September 26 approval of a half dozen exemptions for some TV and film production companies to operate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) stopped just short of complete approval of those operations in the national airspace system. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the UAS to be used in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security.
The comment deadline has been extended 90 days, from October 8 to January 6, on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in July that seeks to amend qualification standards for some flight simulation training devices (FSTDs), specifically those capable of reproducing extended flight envelope and adverse weather training.
The FAA granted the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority category-one safety status last week after conducting inspections to ICAO standards of the country’s aviation infrastructure and regulatory framework. The new status will allow Ethiopian carriers direct access to the U.S. from Africa.
The FAA has received more than 2,000 comments about its proposed policy regarding the non-aeronautical use of airport hangars. In response to the flood of comments and extension requests from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and others, the FAA extended until October 6 the comment period for the proposal, which states that hangars are to be used only for storage or maintenance of aircraft.
The FAA Van Nuys FSDO has named Dukes Aerospace of Northridge, Calif., in an Unapproved Parts Notification advising “all aircraft owners, operators, manufacturers, maintenance organizations, and parts suppliers and distributors regarding improper maintenance performed on aircraft components.”
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