Anne Whiteman has worked at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport for 21 years. She was the first woman certified at that airport to work in the radar room, responsible for making sure that airplanes under her watch were guided in for a safe landing. But the job that filled her with so much pride would ultimately push her to the edge and test her courage.
After witnessing a frightening incident between two other radar operators in which they allowed two planes to come within 300 feet of each other—the standard separation of aircraft is 1,000 feet—Anne says she alerted officials at the Federal Aviation Administration of the dangerous conditions. She was quickly labeled as a snitch, she says, and became the subject of severe harassment. "I couldn't get anybody to understand that this wasn't about me being picked on," Anne says. "This was about the safety of air traffic. This was about innocent people's lives. This was about a system that had gone awry."
Anne says the more she tried to prove her allegations, the worse the harassment grew. She says that her life was threatened, she was physically harassed and assaulted, and she was moved out of the radar room and into the control tower as an air traffic controller. Through it all, quitting was never an option. "I mean, I make the best of it at work," Anne says. "I love the people I work with in the control tower. They could not have been any nicer."
Anne filed a report about the practices of the air traffic controllers at the Dallas airport with the Inspector General Office of the Department of Transportation. An investigation found that some operational errors—when two aircraft come too close to each other—were indeed being covered up and a report was submitted to a Congressional subcommittee and the office of the President of the United States. However, Anne remains dissatisfied with the resolution and disciplinary action taken as a result of the investigation.
On October 6, 2005, Anne Whiteman will receive the Special Counsel's Public Servant Award for her contribution to public service and airline safety. For more information visit www.osc.gov.