A soon-to-be-released report by the US Transportation Department's Inspector General (IG) will reveal that managers at the Dallas-Fort Worth terminal approach control centre (Tracon) had "routinely and intentionally" misclassified controller operational errors as pilot deviations over a 21-month period starting in November 2005.

Furthermore, the US Federal Aviation Administration reveals that the same issues had been identified four years ago by the same whistleblower, and promised changes had not been carried out. "It's clear from the IG report today that our commitment was not executed upon appropriately," the FAA says.

On learning of the IG's report late last year, the FAA in January reassigned an air traffic facility manager and assistant manager at the Tracon.

Hank Krakowski, chief operating officer for the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, said the most serious of the errors included instances where controllers did not alert the pilots on parallel approaches of runway changes requiring one of the aircraft to cross in front of the other. Rather than correctly filing such incidents as controller errors, the facility managers had been classifying the events as pilot errors.

Krakowski, during a 25 April press conference, said the IG report will make clear that events at the Dallas-Fort Worth Tracon were the exception rather than the norm. Other Tracons sampled by the IG, he says, showed a misclassification rate of about 3%, compared to 20% for Dallas-Fort Worth.

According to the FAA, the IG discovered that 52 of 62 errors reported over the 21-month period at Dallas were improperly filed as pilot deviations rather than controller errors.

In addition to reassigning the two managers, Krakowski said the FAA will complete an end-to-end review of the error reporting process and deploy an automated software programme to help Dallas and all other Tracon's to gather data on operational errors where separation standards are breached.

The mechanism for classifying and evaluating errors will also be elevated from the Tracon level to headquarters level.

Source: Flight International