Aviation Attorney to Tucker Carlson: FAA Is Putting Diversity Ahead of Safety

Friday on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” aviation attorney Michael Pearson warned host Tucker Carlson the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was putting diversity ahead of public safety with its hiring practices for air traffic controllers.

Carlson explained how the FAA rewarded job applicants on a biographical questionnaire with extra credit for answers demonstrating the applicants’ possible contribution to diversity over those that might show candidates as more qualified for an air traffic controller opening.

Transcript as follows:

CARLSON: Well, it’s hard to think of a tougher or more important job than being an air traffic controller. Go ahead and try, it will take you a while.

Every day, more than 2.5 million Americans fly in or out of US airports, along with, of course, many billions of dollars of cargo. At any one time, there are about 5,000 aircraft above the United States.

On 9/11, for example, air traffic controllers guided every one of them to a safe landing in a little over an hour. Go ahead and try that.

It’s the kind of job where even a small mistake could lead instantly to the deaths of hundreds of people. Not surprisingly, the hiring standards for air traffic controllers were long among the most selective of all federal jobs.

Applicants typically needed to complete military service or pass the FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative Program. After that, they sat for a specially-designed exam that tested for relevant job skills, skills like math ability and complex problem-solving.

Only those with the highest scores made the cut. The system was designed to choose the best. And for decades, it worked.

Then, during the Obama administration, activist bureaucrats decided that the pool of air traffic controllers wasn’t diverse enough. They never explained why diversity ought to matter in air traffic control or why it was more important than traditional goals like competence and public safety.

The FAA, without a vote, just scrapped the old hiring system and replaced it with a diversity-friendly version. Most people have no idea this happened.

The FAA now requires many of its applicants to fill out what they call a biographical questionnaire before another other screening. Those who answer the questions in a way that diversity monitors don’t like cannot be considered for hiring, not matter how much experience they have or how well they may do on the other portions of the testing.

The biographical questionnaire is all important. So, what is in this biographical questionnaire? Well, we can answer that question because we’ve got a copy of it and we also got information about how it is scored. And it’s shocking!

For example, one question asked test-takers to name their worst grade in high school. The preferred answer for that is science. In other words, if you can’t do science, the FAA is especially eager to hire you as an air traffic controller. You get 10 points for being bad at science, according to the scoring sheet.

Another question asked about work history. According to the FAA, the best answer to that question is you haven’t worked at all in the past three years. You get 10 points for not working.

Apparently, unemployed people make the best air traffic controllers. This is demented, by the way, but it’s real. So do applicants who played a lot of sports in high school. They’re rewarded too.

By contrast, applicants who say they know a great deal about air traffic control get only five points. Trained pilots get two points.

Once again, applicants who haven’t worked at all, who have been unemployed for the past three years, get 10 points. Pilots, 2 points. This is insane. And it’s dangerous. It’s also indefensible.

We asked the FAA’s top spokesman why applicants for an air traffic control job would get more points for playing high school sports than for flying planes or knowing a lot about air traffic control.

His response, “I’m trying to find that out as well.” Well, not actually trying very hard, it turns out. We still haven’t heard back with a real explanation and, of course, we won’t because there isn’t one, other than shut up, diversity.

But we won’t shut up. This is too important. Lives are at stake.

Joining us now is Michael Pearson. He’s a lawyer representing a man who is suing the FAA for its updated hiring practices. Mr. Pearson, thank you for coming on.

MICHAEL PEARSON, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Thank you, Tucker. Glad to be here.

CARLSON: Why would the FAA award extra points for incompetence in science, for example?

PEARSON: Well, the biographical questionnaire and biographical assessment, the first version of it, was made to screen out people with experience. It wasn’t meant in any form or function that I can find, and I’ve been looking at this for almost four years now, including looking over many documents we had to fight the FAA for several years that they kept hidden to answer that question.

The test was basically meant to screen out people with aviation experience. There’s even worse questions and answers on the test, but you did a pretty good job of portraying some of the questions and answers on the test.

CARLSON: I don’t understand. I mean, just to restate for our audience who are so numb to this kind of thinking that it may not penetrate, we’re not talking about hiring a sociology professor or some other totally irrelevant job like that.

Talking about air traffic controllers – OK? – who are the linchpin of public safety and transportation. Why would the FAA want people with less relevant skills in air traffic control for air traffic controllers?

PEARSON: Because a group within the FAA, including the human resources function within the FAA, including the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, determined that the workforce was too white.

They had a concerted effort through the Department of Transportation of the Obama administration to change that. And quite frankly, they’re sacrificing, and have sacrificed, safety at the altar of political correctness.

What happened offends not only the conscience but also federal law. And we’re exposing that.

CARLSON: But why would this go on for years without anybody in elected office saying anything about it?

Because just once again – and I’m hard to shock because I do this stuff for a living – we are lowering the standards and intentionally hiring people who are less competent for one of the most critical jobs in the federal government? Lives are hanging in the balance. Why would no one in Congress do anything to stop this?

PEARSON: Well, our law firm, along with Mountain States Legal Foundation, filed the initial lawsuit, and then the group of schools got together, over 30 collegiate training institutional schools got together and actually went to Congress.

And there have been members of Congress. Rep. Randy Hultgren, Rep. Frank LoBiondo have ally held hearings on this. The problem of it is that the union, NATCA, controls a large PAC and they fund a lot of politicians, and nothing will get past in aviation without the blessing of the controllers union.

And their position radically changed when the Obama administration came in. And my belief is that favors were changed. Now, I’m not saying that lightly. I was an air traffic controller at four of the busiest facilities in the country for almost 27 years, along with being an attorney and a professor.

So, when I say these things, it’s not based only on experience, it’s also based upon documentary evidence and proof I have.

At the end of the day, everyone flies, including members of Congress, who fly quite often. And I think the ones that actually heard the story were offended by it because it’s in their backyard. It’s a safety interest for them.

This is not a partisan issue, quite frankly, because, again, it’s the safety of the national airspace that’s at risk here. And I can tell you from training well over a hundred, probably 300 controllers in my lifetime as an FAA controller, that there is a difference.

This is akin to the Veterans’ Administration hiring doctors and trying to tell the public that the best physician is one that never went to medical school and that the VA could train them better. And that’s exactly what’s occurred here.

And to be very straightforward, the mainstream media has not covered it actually and has covered up this issue and has not revealed what’s going on. And it’s a shame. And it’s not only shameful. It again sacrifices public safety.

CARLSON: It goes without saying that people at the FAA we spoke to were such cowardly worms, and I don’t say that lightly, that they wouldn’t come on and defend this, but I hope someone forces them to.

Very quickly. In 10 seconds, a rhetorical question, did the Obama administration ever show with data that somehow increased diversity in the ranks of air traffic controllers would make the public safer? Did they make that case?

PEARSON: Absolutely not. And there’s published data out there that says it’s a total farce and incorrect. There’s no data to support that. This is social engineering at its finest at the sacrifice again of public safety.

CARLSON: It’s totally demented. And we’re going to ride this until it’s made right because lives are at stake. And we’re not overstating it. Thank you very much. You’re knowledgeable – the knowledgeable person on this. And we appreciate talking to you.

PEARSON: Happy to be here. Thank you.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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