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Corrupt FAA Administrator Nominee Advanced For Senate Vote

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Old July 13th 19, 06:57 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
external usenet poster
Posts: 3,929
Default Corrupt FAA Administrator Nominee Advanced For Senate Vote

FAA Administrator Nominee Dixon lied to the Senate committee charged
with confirming him and, had a whistleblower pilot reporting safety
issues at Delta fraudulently declared unfit for duty. Later the FAA
validated the reported safety issues.


Senate Republicans say yes.


FAA Administrator Nominee Advanced For Senate Vote
Kate O'Connor July 11, 20192

Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and
Transportation voted 14-12 along party lines in favor of former Delta
Air Lines executive Stephen Dickson becoming the next administrator of
the FAA on Wednesday. Dickson was nominated for the position last
March. As previously reported by AVweb
the nomination process was slowed when allegations that retaliatory
actions may have been taken against a pilot who raised safety concerns
while Dickson was in a leadership position at Delta were discovered.
The allegations are currently the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, which
Dickson did not disclose to the Senate committee.

“After Mr. Dickson’s hearing, new information came to the committee’s
attention that involved employees reporting possible safety violations
at Mr. Dickson’s former employer while he was serving as a senior vice
president,” committee chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said in a
statement https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings.
“The committee has since conducted an extensive review, including
multiple follow-up conversations and meetings with Mr. Dickson. We
have studied hundreds of pages of legal documents. It is clear that
Mr. Dickson was not a named party in any of these matters and was not
personally alleged to have retaliated against any of his fellow
employees who raised safety concerns.”

To be confirmed as the next head of the FAA, Dickson will still need
to receive a majority vote from the full Senate. That vote has not yet
been scheduled.


Headwinds For Dickson As Next FAA Admin
Marc Cook July 2, 20195

It’s been more than four months since former Delta Air Lines executive
Steve Dickson was nominated to take over for Dan Elwell at the FAA.
But The New York Times is reporting
that Senate Democrats on the Commerce Committee are “looking into
claims that Mr. Dickson was involved in retaliating against a pilot
who raised safety concerns, with some senators now suggesting he may
be unfit for the [FAA] job.”

The story surfaced in early June via CNN
and suggests that Dickson may have sent a Delta pilot who had reported
safety concerns “to a psychiatrist,” which had the effect of removing
her from flight duties. Dickson defended the evaluation as a “sound
course of action.”

Regardless of the politics, the delay in confirming a new FAA
Administrator comes at an arguably difficult time for the agency. It
is under severe scrutiny after allegations that the Boeing 737 MAX’s
MCAS software was not vetted properly and that the traditional system
of checks and balances broke down.

Previously, AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker said that “Steve Dickson
is a solid choice to lead the FAA. His in-depth knowledge of our
aviation system, keen awareness of general aviation as well as the
challenges before us make him the right choice to lead the agency. I
am hopeful the Senate will move to confirm Mr. Dickson as quickly as
possible.” Elwell has been the FAA’s Acting Administrator since
January 2018.


Trump Pick to Lead F.A.A. Faces Scrutiny From Senate Democrats
Democrats are looking into claims that Stephen Dickson, President
Trump’s nominee to lead the F.A.A., was involved in retaliating
against a pilot who raised safety concerns at Delta.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

Image Democrats are looking into claims that Stephen Dickson,
President Trump’s nominee to lead the F.A.A., was involved in
retaliating against a pilot who raised safety concerns at Delta.
Democrats are looking into claims that Stephen Dickson, President
Trump’s nominee to lead the F.A.A., was involved in retaliating
against a pilot who raised safety concerns at Delta. Credit Bill
Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

By David Gelles
July 2, 2019

President Trump’s choice to lead the Federal Aviation Administration
is facing resistance from Senate Democrats, adding more uncertainty to
an agency already under pressure after the deadly crashes of two
Boeing jets.

Stephen Dickson, whom Mr. Trump tapped to lead the F.A.A. in March,
retired from Delta Air Lines last fall after 27 years at the company.
A former pilot who rose to become senior vice president for flight
operations, Mr. Dickson was initially seen as a safe pick to head the
F.A.A., which has been without a permanent administrator for over a

But in recent weeks, Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee, which
has the power to advance Mr. Dickson’s nomination, have seized on Mr.
Dickson’s involvement in a whistle-blower case at Delta. The Democrats
are looking into claims that Mr. Dickson was involved in retaliating
against a pilot who raised safety concerns, with some senators now
suggesting he may be unfit for the F.A.A. job.

Republicans on the committee are still publicly supporting Mr.
Dickson, and could vote to advance his nomination to the full Senate
as early as next week. But the party-line split, a rarity for this
agency, raises the prospect that the F.A.A. could become yet another
partisan battleground.

Subscribe to With Interest
Catch up and prep for the week ahead with this newsletter of the most
important business insights, delivered Sundays.

The tensions over Mr. Dickson’s nomination are an unwelcome
distraction for the F.A.A. The agency is under fire for its role in
certifying the Boeing 737 Max and then being too slow to ground it
after a second crash involving the jet in March. It is now devoting
significant resources to getting the Max, which has been grounded
since March, flying again. It is also working to enact many new
regulations included in the F.A.A. Reauthorization Bill passed last

[Boeing’s Dreamliner plant is said to face a federal inquiry.]

Senate Democrats are concerned about Mr. Dickson’s role in a case
involving the Delta pilot Karlene Petitt, which was first reported by
In 2016, Ms. Petitt presented Mr. Dickson and other executives with a
report that she said documented unsafe conditions, including
inadequate training and overworked pilots. Instead of taking her
concerns seriously, Ms. Petitt said that the company retaliated
against her.

In a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
Ms. Petitt alleged that soon after she raised her safety concerns, she
was interviewed by a Delta investigator. Based on feedback from that
investigator, Delta decided to have Ms. Petitt examined by a
psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed a bipolar disorder, leading
her to be banned from flying for more than a year.

Two subsequent evaluations by other psychiatrists reversed that
diagnosis, and Ms. Petitt was cleared to fly again. The F.A.A.
conducted an investigation of Ms. Petitt’s safety complaints and
substantiated some violations by Delta. Ms. Petitt is seeking damages
in excess of $1 million, and her claim is pending before an
administrative law judge at the Labor Department.

Though Mr. Dickson was involved in Ms. Petitt’s case and sat for an
extended deposition, he did not mention the case in responses to a
he submitted as part of his application to be the F.A.A.
administrator. The questionnaire asked if he or any company he was
involved with was a named party in a lawsuit. Mr. Dickson noted that
Delta was involved in many legal proceedings, but did not mention the
Petitt case.

“Given the current climate of safety oversight at the Federal Aviation
Administration, I find this omission deeply concerning and potentially
disqualifying,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said in
written questions
to Mr. Dickson that were made public last week.

Senator Maria Cantwell, the commerce committee’s ranking Democratic
member, said Mr. Dickson’s “failure to disclose this matter to the
committee is of major concern,” adding that “the facts related to the
whistle-blower claim are troublesome and suggest at least the
possibility that the claim of retaliation has merit.”

Mr. Dickson defended himself in written responses to the committee
released last week.

“I have not previously and will never tolerate retaliation of any kind
to any employee who raises safety concerns,” he responded. “I fully
understand the importance of safety being the top priority at the

Mr. Dickson stood by his previous assessment that referring Ms. Petitt
to a psychiatric referral was a “sound course of action.”

“The referral was made based on a credible report about statements the
pilot made to company officials and behavior she exhibited, which
raised legitimate questions about her fitness to fly,” he said.

The F.A.A. has faced criticism for being slow to ground the Boeing 737
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Image The F.A.A. has faced criticism for being slow to ground the
Boeing 737 Max.
The F.A.A. has faced criticism for being slow to ground the Boeing 737
Max. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

He added that he did not mention the case as part of his application
because he was not a named party in the complaint.

None of the Republicans on the committee mentioned Ms. Petitt’s case
in the written questions to Mr. Dickson released last week. The White
House defended him, as well.

“President Trump chose Steve Dickson to head the F.A.A. because of his
almost three decades of experience at Delta where he oversaw global
flight operations,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. “The
White House has complete confidence in his nomination and expects him
to be confirmed.”

Delta, the F.A.A. and members of the commerce committee declined to
comment on the case or Mr. Dickson’s nomination. Mr. Dickson did not
reply to requests for comment.

The F.A.A. has been without a permanent leader since January 2018,
when Michael Huerta stepped down at the end of his five-year term.
Daniel Elwell, a former American Airlines pilot who had served as
deputy administrator, has been acting administrator since then.

Though Mr. Trump previously floated the idea of naming his personal
pilot, John Dunkin, to the role
Mr. Dickson was ultimately picked.

The split on the commerce committee is now injecting politics into an
agency that has typically escaped partisan disputes.

“It is important that the F.A.A. be a nonpartisan organization,” said
Mr. Huerta, the former F.A.A. administrator. “Whether you are a
Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, everyone wants
aviation safety.”

Despite the growing concern among Democrats, the commerce committee
chairman, Roger Wicker, could bring Mr. Dickson’s nomination to a vote
as early as next week. If the vote were held along party lines, with
Republicans supporting Mr. Dickson, his nomination would advance to
the full Senate.

The F.A.A. is also under pressure from the House transportation
committee, which is investigating the Max crashes. Last month,
Democrats from the committee sent Mr. Elwell and the transportation
secretary, Elaine Chao, a letter expressing frustration with the

“We are concerned about the slow pace of the F.A.A.’s response,” they
wrote. “To say we are disappointed and a bit bewildered at the ongoing
delays to appropriately respond to our records requests would be an

The transportation committee, which recently held a hearing on the
Max, has requested documents from Boeing as well. Though no Boeing
executives have been called to testify yet, the committee is expected
to hold more hearings in the coming months, and Boeing executives may

The House inquiry is just one of many investigations set in motion by
the two 737 Max crashes. The Justice Department has opened a criminal
inquiry into Boeing’s development of the Max, and recently expanded
its investigation to include production of the 787 Dreamliner in
Charleston, S.C.

The Transportation Department’s inspector general is also looking into
how the Max was certified. As Boeing developed the Max, some at the
F.A.A. were briefed on MCAS, a new anti-stall system that contributed
to the two accidents. But critical officials were left in the dark
about the final design of the system. While the F.A.A. office in
charge of aircraft certification was aware that the system was made
more powerful late in the design process, the officials in charge of
determining pilot training were not.

The F.A.A. also acceded to a request from a Boeing employee to remove
mention of the system from the pilot’s flight manual for the Max.
Before the first crash, most pilots were not aware the new system

A version of this article appears in print on July 1, 2019, Section B,
Page 3 of the New York edition with the headline: Senate Democrats
Question Trump’s Pick to Lead F.A.A.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper |
Related Coverage
After Boeing Crashes, Sharp Questions About Industry Regulating Itself
March 26, 2019
After Boeing Crashes, Sharp Questions About Industry Regulating Itself
Trump Picks Former Delta Executive Stephen Dickson as F.A.A. Chief
March 19, 2019
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F.A.A. Approval of Boeing Jet Involved in Two Crashes Comes Under
March 19, 2019
F.A.A. Approval of Boeing Jet Involved in Two Crashes Comes Under


FAA nominee OK'd retaliation against pilot whistleblower, lawsuit says
Curt DevineDrew Griffin-Profile-Image
By Curt Devine and Drew Griffin, CNN

Updated 10:06 PM ET, Mon June 3, 2019
New questions surrounding Trump's FAA nominee

FullscreenNow Playing New questions...

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
(C) holds a document as she speaks during a House Oversight and Reform
Committee holds a hearing on "The Trump Administration's
Child Separation Policy: Substantiated Allegations of
Mistreatment." July 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. The hearing comes
just ahead of a planned multiday Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) operation to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrant families
in several cities across the U.S. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
AOC to House committee: This is a manufactured crisis

Fireworks erupt at House hearing

Graham to Trump: Look long and hard at climate science
(CNN)A Senate committee is investigating President Donald Trump's
nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson,
for his involvement in a case in which a Delta Air Lines pilot alleged
the company retaliated against her -- including sending her to a
psychiatrist -- after she shared safety concerns with him.

The case, which has not been previously reported, involves Dickson's
time as a senior vice president at Delta Air Lines and a Delta pilot
who argues the company retaliated against her after she met with him
in 2016.

Dickson did not disclose the case on his nomination questionnaire to
the Senate Commerce Committee.

As Delta's then-head of flight operations, Dickson approved sending
the pilot, Karlene Petitt, to a psychiatrist weeks after she gave him
and another flight operations manager a report that listed what she
described as FAA violations by Delta, according to documents.
The psychiatrist diagnosed Petitt with bipolar disorder and the
company grounded her for more than a year. Two subsequent examinations
found that she does not have that disorder, and she is currently
flying for Delta.

Petitt is suing Delta in a Department of Labor administrative case
that remains pending.

In a deposition, Dickson said he had ultimate responsibility over the
decision to refer Petitt for a mental evaluation and called it a
"sound course of action." Dickson retired from Delta last year.
Petitt's attorney, Lee Seham, told that CNN Dickson allowed what
amounted to retaliation against his client.

"This was all a terrible mistake, but it was a terrible mistake that
went on for a year and a half because of the lack of diligence that
Captain Dickson accepted," Seham said.

Commerce committee staffers are currently examining the case, which
they learned of after Dickson's confirmation hearing on May 15,
according to two committee aides.

RELATED: FAA officials in hot seat as world awaits Boeing 737 Max fix
"Since holding the nomination hearing with Mr. Dickson, new
information has come to the committee's attention that merits further
examination. The committee has been reviewing this information and I
have asked the Department of Transportation and the White House to do
the same," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, the committee's

A Democratic committee aide described the case as concerning,
particularly because it was omitted from Dickson's questionnaire.
CNN made repeated attempts to contact Dickson but could not reach him
for comment. The White House has not responded to request for

On his Senate questionnaire, Dickson stated, "During my Delta
employment, from time to time and in the ordinary course of business,
Delta was involved in various judicial, administrative or regulatory
proceedings relating to its business, although I was not a named party
in any such actions."

On another section that asked for "additional information, favorable
or unfavorable, which you feel should be disclosed in connection with
your nomination," Dickson responded: "None."

Delta denies that the company retaliated against Petitt by referring
her to a medical examination after she raised concerns.

"Our utmost responsibility is to provide safe and secure travel for
our customers and our employees. The very core of our safety program
is employee reporting. Every single Delta employee is encouraged and
empowered to report potential concerns and we do not tolerate
retaliation against employees who raise concerns," Delta spokesperson
Catherine Simmons said.

Dickson, who is poised to lead the FAA in the midst of controversy
surrounding the agency's prior certification of the Boeing 737 Max,
has decades of aviation experience as a former Air Force and Delta
pilot who became a senior Delta manager responsible for flight safety
and pilot training until his retirement last year.

Initial complaint and bipolar-disorder diagnosis

Petitt's ordeal began more than three years ago when she compiled a
list of concerns about Delta. In addition to being a pilot for
decades, Petitt has a PhD in aviation.
Petitt had witnessed a variety of events and practices involving Delta
employees, training and scheduling practices that she believed
violated FAA standards.

She compiled her concerns into a report that described "numerous areas
where safety culture and ... compliance conflict with the FAA's (2013)
outlined requirements and the airline's core values," which she
presented to Dickson and Delta's then-vice president of flying
operations, Jim Graham, in January 2016.

In a deposition, Petitt said that Dickson said during that meeting,
"Some people like to sit in the back of the room and throw spit wads,"
which she interpreted as dismissive of her claims. Dickson said in a
deposition he did not remember making that statement.

A Delta employee-relations manager then conducted an interview with
Petitt in March 2016 about some of her claims, during which Petitt
became frustrated, and her eyes filled with tears, according to her
attorney. That manager reported that Petitt believed "something bad
eventually will happen either to her or to a Delta flight," according
to documents.

Graham held a teleconference with that manager and others and decided
to ground Petitt and mandate that she receive a psychiatric
evaluation, with Dickson's approval, according to court documents and
Petitt's attorney.

The mental health evaluation by a Delta-hired psychiatrist resulted in
Petitt's bipolar-disorder diagnosis, which rendered her unable to fly.
During this time, the FAA sent Petitt a letter in September 2016 that
notified her an investigation had substantiated one of her safety
concerns. The FAA determined Delta had failed to count employee
"deadheading," where the airline provides an employee with a flight to
another location, as flight time for computing daily and weekly flight
limits, which Petitt said could affect pilot fatigue. The FAA did not
substantiate three of her other allegations.

While Petitt remained grounded, a panel of doctors from the Mayo
Clinic rejected Delta's psychiatric evaluation. Due to the
disagreement, Delta's psychiatrist and the Mayo Clinic doctors
selected a neutral medical examiner who in turn determined Petitt was
medically fit. She began flying for Delta again in 2017.
Petitt's attorney Seham said he has no doubt that the decision to
ground Petitt, overseen by Dickson, was linked to the safety report
she shared, which he said amounts to retaliation by Delta and sends a
troubling message to the company's pilots.

"What's the impact of safety in terms of the message to 12,000 pilots
that after you submit a safety report you're off to a psychiatrist?"
Seham said. "Captain Dickson did nothing in terms of stopping what

Seham added that he questions the thoroughness with which Dickson and
Delta as a whole investigated Petitt's safety concerns.

During a deposition, Dickson said he took Petitt's safety allegations
"very seriously" and that he appointed his colleague Graham to
follow-up and oversee a review of her claims.

Dickson also said that his meeting with Petitt served as a catalyst
for a company safety audit, though when asked during that deposition
about specific determinations reached on some of Petitt's claims,
Dickson said he did not remember or was not aware.

Delta said a third-party auditor reviewed the company's safety
processes in 2016 and provided positive feedback, and that the issue
raised by Petitt of not properly counting deadhead time toward flight
limits had been addressed and corrected by the time the FAA
investigated it.

A senior White House adviser tells CNN that Dickson has been
cooperating with the committee.

"President Trump chose Steve Dickson to head the FAA because of his
almost three decades of experience at Delta where he oversaw global
flight operations," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a
statement. "The White House has complete confidence in his nomination
and expects him to be confirmed."

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