Payback in the Control Tower

An air traffic controller who reported controllers were putting aircraft in danger while playing games reports that she has been ostracized and that her life has been put in danger from a co-worker.

Becoming a whistleblower is probably never easy. An employee of the Federal Aviation Administration says that her job became unbearable after she reported safety problems at an air traffic control tower in Dallas.

In August, we reported that labor negotiations were beginning between the FAA and and air traffic controllers union and that there were serious problems reported in the Wall Street Journal at one of the world’s busiest air traffic control towers that may have an impact on the negotiations.

A whistleblower in the Dallas/Fort Worth TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) reported that a group of controllers known as the "T-Boys" liked to play games using airplanes under their control (The term is allegedly a short-hand version of testerone boys). The whistleblower reported that one controller would direct a plane toward the same spot that another aircraft was also headed for. The loser in the game was the first one to order their airplane to turn away.

An internal agency report found an unusual number of operational errors at the facility and concluded that the errors were the result of poor work practices and weak supervision. In one instance, a controller told a business jet to fly toward the same spot as a commercial flight. The planes passed within 500 feet of each other. A similar event in 2004 occurred when a controller sent a commercial jet straight toward a business jet and the planes came within seven seconds of colliding.

A controllers union representative told the Journal that no one would put passengers lives in jeopardy in that way and that the agency should prosecute to the full extent of the law "If they’ve got the goods on them."

But the case doesn’t end there and will apparently be going on for awhile. The whistleblower in this case was Anne Whiteman. Whiteman says that when she raised her concerns, her fellow federal employees tried to pay her back.

She recently went on the Oprah television show where she talked about being ostracized and threatened by other controllers.

According to Channel 8 in Dallas, Whiteman says "I can’t work there anymore."

Whiteman says she has endured verbal harassment, practical jokes that put planes in jeopardy, and an assault on her life while she was driving to work.

Whiteman says that she saw one of her co-workers while going to work in her car. "I stopped at a light to let him go ahead, and he waited for me, and as I went down the road he picked up speed and swerved right in front of me to run me off the road."

The Office of Special Counsel and the Department of Transportation have both opened investigations and she is reportedly still working at the airport but in a different job.