Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
Moments before a single-engine aircraft and a helicopter collided over the Hudson River near Manhattan in 2009, an air-traffic controller who should have been advising the plane’s pilot was on the phone, joking with an airport worker about a dead cat.
Nine people, including three teenage boys, died. The Teterboro, New Jersey, controller, whom safety investigators said was distracted and partly to blame for the accident, still works for the Federal Aviation Administration. Although the agency tried to fire him, his punishment was reduced to a suspension, a transfer and a demotion.
What happened to the controller isn’t surprising, according to data obtained by Bloomberg News under the Freedom of Information Act. More than four of every 10 air-traffic workers the FAA tried to fire over almost two years kept their jobs or were allowed to retire, the data show. That included two-thirds of those targeted for firing over drug or alcohol violations.
The FAA’s firing rate, as a percentage of its total workforce, is similar to that of other federal agencies, where disciplinary terminations are also rare, government data show.
Federal workers have due-process protections to prevent wholesale firings when a new administration comes to power. Union contracts provide another layer of protection.
The full article can be found here.