Senate Investigating Trump’s FAA Pick for Whistleblower Retaliation, Failure to Disclose Lawsuit

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CNN – “A Senate committee is investigating President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson, for his involvement in a case in which a Delta Air Lines pilot alleged the company retaliated against her — including sending her to a psychiatrist — after she shared safety concerns with him.”

Dickson had a nomination hearing (C-SPAN) on May 15th before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Until now, the case had not been reported.

Nor did Dickson disclose on his disclosure questionnaire to the Senate Commerce Committee that he is named in the lawsuit stemming from the allegations from the Delta pilot, Karlene Petitt, who has been a pilot for decades as well as holds a PhD in aviation, that Dickson and Delta “retaliated against her after she met with him in 2016” over a list she had complied into a report about safety issues, some, she was concerned, that might violate FAA standards, while he was a senior vice-president and head of flight operations for Delta Air Lines.

According to the lawsuit, Dickson’s and Delta’s response was to ground Petitt and ‘recommend a mental health evaluation’ that ultimately produced a bipolar-disorder diagnosis from a Delta-hired psychiatrist.

As Delta’s then-head of flight operations, Dickson approved sending the pilot, Karlene Petitt, to a psychiatrist weeks after she gave him and another flight operations manager a report that listed what she described as FAA violations by Delta, according to documents.

The psychiatrist diagnosed Petitt with bipolar disorder and the company grounded her for more than a year. Two subsequent examinations found that she does not have that disorder, and she is currently flying for Delta.

Petitt is suing Delta in a Department of Labor administrative case that remains pending.

Petitt had witnessed a variety of events and practices involving Delta employees, training and scheduling practices that she believed violated FAA standards.

She compiled her concerns into a report that described “numerous areas where safety culture and … compliance conflict with the FAA’s (2013) outlined requirements and the airline’s core values,” which she presented to Dickson and Delta’s then-vice president of flying operations, Jim Graham, in January 2016.

In a deposition, Petitt said that Dickson said during that meeting, “Some people like to sit in the back of the room and throw spit wads,” which she interpreted as dismissive of her claims. Dickson said in a deposition he did not remember making that statement.

Dickson said in his confirmation hearing that “he is committed to restoring public confidence in the agency and finding out what happened with the certification of the Boeing 737 max plane.”

Commerce Committee staffers are now examining the information that was only learned about after Dickson’s nomination hearing on May 15, describing the case as “concerning, particularly because it was omitted from Dickson’s questionnaire.”

On his Senate questionnaire, Dickson stated, “During my Delta employment, from time to time and in the ordinary course of business, Delta was involved in various judicial, administrative or regulatory proceedings relating to its business, although I was not a named party in any such actions.”

On another section that asked for “additional information, favorable or unfavorable, which you feel should be disclosed in connection with your nomination,” Dickson responded: “None.”

Delta denies that the company retaliated against Petitt by referring her to a medical examination after she raised concerns.


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