FAA Recklessly Endangering Safety of Its Employees in Detroit

DETROIT, MI – The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), the union that represents more than 11,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, is frustrated over the FAA’s lack of response to multiple facilities in the Detroit area plagued with mold, asbestos, radiation and other hazards. The FAA has knowingly failed to address the many problems at these facilities, ignoring the conditions for nearly a decade in some cases.

Currently, PASS knows of six facilities containing equipment essential to the safe control of aircraft in the Detroit area that have been repeatedly cited for being in various states of disrepair. In some facilities, water has penetrated the buildings and caused damage to floors, walls and ceilings, thus rendering them unstable. As a result, there have been at least two incidents of employees falling through the floors. In addition, many of these facilities have mold infestations, which are raising concerns about the health of employees who are required to maintain the equipment inside. “Despite an FAA policy that requires them to remediate mold and asbestos wherever it is discovered in FAA facilities, the FAA has turned a blind eye to the situation for years,” said Gil Alfaro, a local PASS representative.

In another example of FAA neglect, in October, PASS learned of leaking radiation at the Detroit Radar facility (QDT) and reported it to the FAA. However, it took the FAA two months to acknowledge the problem and its response to the situation has been abysmal. “These facilities are literally rotting away under the feet of the employees who must maintain them,” said Alfaro.

Several FAA sources have indicated that these problems are not unique to the Detroit area. In fact, PASS has reported similar safety issues at other facilities around the country, including Burlington, Vermont, where employees were knowingly exposed to PCBs, a mixture of chemicals demonstrated to cause a variety of adverse health effects, and radiation. Local FAA management in Detroit indicated that they have requested funding to repair problems at some of these facilities, but those requests have been largely ignored. Given the seriousness of the conditions at these six facilities, PASS has formally requested safety documents for all Michigan facilities.

“I am deeply concerned that management continues to apply a band-aid where a cast is needed,” said Luke Drake, PASS regional vice president. “The sheer negligence demonstrated by the FAA in ensuring the safety of its employees is inexcusable. We are constantly being told that employee safety is the FAA’s number one priority, yet each time PASS raises safety concerns, the FAA does nothing about the problem and continues to knowingly expose employees to recognized hazards for extended periods. It seems that when it comes to employee safety, the typical FAA response is to downplay the significance of the problems and allow employees to suffer the consequences.”


PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org.

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