FAA Workers Abuse Free Travel Program: Use Commercial Flights for Vacations

By Larson, Ruth | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 22, 1996 | Go to article overview

FAA Workers Abuse Free Travel Program: Use Commercial Flights for Vacations


Larson, Ruth, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Weekend getaways to Las Vegas and free trips to Europe for Federal Aviation Administration employees are among the travel abuses cited in a new report by the Transportation Department's inspector general.

A little-known government rule requires commercial airlines to provide free transportation for FAA workers conducting safety checks or other official duties. But a review of the program suggests many employees are using those free travel privileges for vacations or family visits.

"Our review found that ATC [air traffic control] evaluators, safety inspectors and ATC specialists . . . used their positions and tickets for personal gain," the report said.

"Employees gained access to the jumpseat [a spare seat in an airliner cockpit] to visit family, take weekend trips and vacations, travel to military reserve duty sites and commute to work."

"The abuses were quite widespread," Inspector General A. Mary Schiavo told The Washington Times. For example, 62 percent of the safety evaluators and 35 percent of safety inspectors used the trips for personal travel.

For air traffic controllers, "The numbers were so high that we stopped counting after the preliminary survey, but the majority - at least 83 percent - were for personal gain," she said.

The audit found that FAA employees took 247,840 free flights between January 1993 and April 1994, riding in the cabins or cockpits of commercial airliners.

FAA Administrator David R. Hinson promised to crack down on the frequent fliers. "I will not tolerate abuse of agency programs by employees - not now or in the future," he said in a statement.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees FAA funding, called the free trips "absolutely wrong" and promised to review them during April hearings on the FAA.

"The program can be defended if it's done on a training day, to familiarize people with a particular aircraft," he said. "But when people go to Las Vegas or Florida - especially during certain times of the year - then . . . I think people are using this for their own personal airlines."

The FAA already has implemented 18 of the report's 26 recommendations, including tighter controls over the trips, ethical training for employees and an annual audit of the program. …

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