Bad air traffic control procedures in Florida are creating 'hazardous' risks of mid-air plane collisions, according to a whistle-blower complaint that was confirmed by investigators

Air Traffic Control Tower

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Air traffic controllers in Florida have not complied with FAA safety regulations, leading to a greater risk of planes colliding in mid-air, according to a new report from the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

The OSC report stems from a whistleblower complaint from an air traffic controller at the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Hilliard, Florida.
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According to the complaint, air traffic controllers at the Jacksonville ARTCC station were not following the FAA's rules for how to transfer a plane or helicopter from one air traffic sector to another. They allowed aircraft to move closer to each other - at the same altitude - than is typically allowed, the complaint said. With aircraft so close to each other, air traffic controllers would have "very little time and space to react and prevent a possible collision," the OSC wrote in its report.

When the ARTCC managers found out about the breach in protocol, they reportedly failed to take corrective action. Instead, they rewrote the station's standard operating protocols to make them reflect the controllers' actions. The rewritten protocols did not meet FAA standards, the whistle blower complained.

Although the FAA launched an investigation and corroborated the whistle blower's complaint, the agency did not do anything to change the ARTCC's procedures again, or to enforce its safety standards, according to the OSC report. The OSC reports that was the case even though controllers and supervisors interviewed as part of the investigation all called the changes "hazardous" or said the procedure change "introduces risk."
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The employees also described the center as having a "culture of noncompliance with certain elements of required coordination," the OSC said in a letter to the Trump administration.

The OSC did not state why managers decided to change the procedure, rather than take corrective action, nor why the FAA had not acted on the results of its investigation. The FAA did not return Business Insider's request for comment.
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