From The FAA: W-Hot Line?

The Aviation Safety Hotline was set up to provide an outlet for anyone to express concerns about unsafe aviation situations without fear of reprisal.


The FAA can divert attention away from the complainant where OSHA can’t. Often OSHA investigates the discrimination side before the FAA gets involved on the safety side; this isn’t a problem. However, OSHA isn’t as smooth with the anonymity-thing; it can’t research airworthiness paperwork or have access to aviation sites, so its requests for information may not be as subtle. So if pursuing a WBPP, your name may come out.

If the employee wants to file with the DOL, he/she has 90 days from when the FAA and the DOL consult each other. The DOL investigation takes up to 60 days and according to the gravity of the violation, the inquiry could include the inspector general (IG). When the IG gets involved, the investigation can get intense.

The ASH program is aimed at all, including general aviation. The ASH was set up to ‘provide an outlet for anyone to express concerns about unsafe aviation situations without fear of reprisal’. ASH is geared to allow reporting on issues including, but not limited to: maintenance improprieties, aircraft incidents, suspected unapproved parts, and Federal Aviation Regulation violations.

When one accesses the website at www.faa.gov/contact/safety_hotline, they can either phone or email a report in. The fields on the email form allow one to keep their identification anonymous by requiring only the email address (for response) and a message; the name and contact phone are optional; the phone number for telephone submission is (800) 255-1111. The anonymous approach may soon be eliminated to keep from becoming a frivolous hotline and concentrate on serious issues.

The ASH is researched similarly to the WBPP; it is investigated by an impartial regional office, which is assigned randomly to any one of the eight regions. The answers are routed back through AAE-001; this provides control and guarantees a timely response. AAE-001 tracks all questions and issues for ASH, assuring no issue goes stale.

Consumer hotline

Another avenue (formerly the Public Inquiry Hotline) called the Consumer Hotline (CH) is not a complaint hotline, but allows the public an outlet for questions. You may be concerned about the impact of aircraft engine noise on your cattle or perhaps you think chicken wire is a valid cure for bird ingestions in a 737 engine. CH ‘responds and refers inquiries from the public about aviation matters’; issues that go through this avenue are handled differently from the WBPP or ASH.

A question or concern going through the CH process has to be directed; Aircraft Maintenance won’t answer operations questions and vice versa. An issue is researched by staff members who specialize in that particular field. Some questions can be answered with a simple phone call and a review of the regulations. Then you have issues that, in order to provide the attention the question deserves, demand that time be taken to pursue the question to its accurate conclusion. These topics may take time and might be re-prioritized if events dictate the use of resources. However, all subjects are directed and all issues are answered; unfortunately, the answer(s) may not be what was sought. Also, reference the point made previously about anonymity and how it affects response time to the questioner. The CH is being revised to possibly eliminate anonymous issues and filter valid problems from non-FAA issues.

So whichever direction you go with a complaint, take your time and think it out. What are you looking to do? Be patient, these things take time, if they’re to be done right. And if you do see something strange or weird … please tell my father-in-law to sit tight; I’ll be by to pick him up.

Stephen Carbone is an aviation industry veteran of 28 years. He works at the Boston regional office in the Flight Standards Airworthiness Technical Branch. He holds a master’s degree in aviation safety systems.
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