Obama Administration Put Diversity Over Safety in Hiring Air Traffic Controllers

by Jim Quinn

The FAA has for decades been one of the most trusted institutions in government and for good reason. Commercial air travel has been the safest in the world in part because of the FAA’s high standards. But under the Obama administration that began to change radically without anybody paying attention.

The Obama administration pressured the FAA to meet abstract diversity goals. Nobody bothered to explain why diversity is a relevant criterion for air traffic controllers. No one will explain it now. We called the FAA today and we got silence when we asked that question, which is the most basic question. But it didn’t matter.

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Starting in 2014 the FAA added a biographical questionnaire to the application process. Applicants with a lower aptitude in science got preference over applicants who had scored excellent in science. Applicants who had been unemployed for the previous three years got more points than licensed pilots got. In other words, the FAA actively searched for unqualified air traffic controllers. That is insane and they knew it was insane when they did it but they did it anyway.

Today we obtained new information, it is an internal email written by an executive at the firm that devised the FAA’s biographical questionnaire. In that email, the executive admits that the test he devised has nothing to do with finding the best air traffic controllers. If you want good air traffic controllers, find people with experience, that was his advice. The FAA ignored this and used the biographical screen anyway. They didn’t care about finding the best air traffic controllers. Compared to diversity, your safety meant nothing to them.

We reached out to Greg Martin, who is the FAA’s top spokesman. We wanted to know why the FAA would ever use totally irrelevant criteria such as what people look like in order to hire for a job as vital as air traffic control. We couldn’t get an answer. We also asked the acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell to come on this show and explain exactly what was going on and why he was too cowardly to appear. So was the previous administrator, Michael Huerta, he was the one who originally signed off on the policy. He’s also a coward. But we are going to keep pushing until we get an answer.


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