CENTENNIAL, Colo. – July 31, 2023 – In a decision issued July 28, 2023, Federal Administrative Law Judge Theodore W. Annos held that Aviation Maintenance Technician Mark Wheeler had engaged in protected whistleblower activity by communicating to his supervisors and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that Delta Air Lines’ tooling equivalency process was not in compliance with federal standards. One of Wheeler’s communications concerned Delta’s failure to comply with an FAA Airworthiness Directive for over fourteen years. Wheeler’s reports concerned the maintenance of aircraft engine wiring harnesses, which are related to the electrical systems that control airplane functions.
The FAA thanked Mr. Wheeler for his report, concurred with his determination of non-compliance, and advised that it would take “appropriate action to address the matter.”
Delta did not thank Wheeler for his report. Subsequently, when fellow aircraft mechanics were recalled from a COVID-related furlough, Delta declined to restore Wheeler to his regular forty-hour work week. Judge Annos found that it was “undisputed” that Delta had taken an adverse action against Mr. Wheeler. The issues of Delta’s liability and damages remain to be determined in a full trial pursuant to the AIR 21 whistleblower statute.
“Failing to comply with an FAA Airworthiness Directive for over fourteen years is jaw-slackening” commented Bret Oestreich, President of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), which represents aviation maintenance technicians at numerous airlines, including Southwest, Alaska, and Spirit. “If there is any non-compliance related to an aircraft’s electrical system, that plane is unairworthy, period. That plane should not be in the National Air Space; it should be on the ground getting fixed.”
“Delta needs to overhaul its maintenance culture,” stated Wheeler’s attorney, Samuel Seham. “An aircraft mechanic who identifies violations of FAA safety standards should receive a commendation, rather than suffer an adverse action.”
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association is a craft oriented, independent aviation union. AMFA represents licensed and unlicensed technicians and related employees actively involved in the aviation industry. These technicians and related employees work directly on aircraft and/or components, support equipment, and facilities. AMFA is committed to elevating the professional standing of technicians and to achieving progressive improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions of the skilled professionals it represents. For more information about AMFA visit www.amfanational.org.