When midnight rolled around and flight traffic thinned out, air-traffic controllers guiding planes in the busiest U.S. corridor whipped out laptops to watch movies, play games or gamble online.
Controllers on break inflated air mattresses and napped on the floor. Some left before their shifts were over. They cursed at managers, refused to train new controllers, and flouted rules requiring them to pass on weather advisories to pilots.
“It was blatant and in your face,” Evan Seeley, a former manager in the Ronkonkoma, New York, tower who came forward last year, said in a phone interview yesterday.
Those and other allegations made by Seeley were corroborated by investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to reports released this week by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an agency formed to help and protect whistle-blowers inside federal agencies.
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner sent a letter on May 8 to the White House and Congress detailing findings in Seeley’s case and six other verified whistle-blower complaints, saying the FAA and Department of Transportation were slow to address them or hadn’t acted.
In New York, investigators found a facility in which FAA managers were unwilling or afraid to discipline controllers’ union members, the reports said. Supervisors who tried to enforce the rules had their cars vandalized or were threatened. The result was widespread violations of rules that undermined safety, reviews by the special counsel and FAA found.
Seeley, who’d worked in Fort Worth, Texas, before coming to New York in February 2010, said he was shocked by what he saw.
“The advice from the seasoned front-line managers was: you keep your head in the sand,” he said. Read more at Bloomberg.com