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Whistle-Blowing at the FAA, Followed By a Few Threats

The Chicago Tribune today provides a handy recap thus far of today's testimony in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, provided by Federal Aviation Administration officials who blew the whistle on the FAA's lax safety measures. Chief among the highlights from the hearing -- billed as Critical Lapses in FAA Safety Oversight of Airlines: Abuses of Regulatory "Partnership Programs" -- are the revelations from Dallas-based FAA inspector Douglas Peters, who, says the paper, "choked up in emotion when he described a conversation he had with an FAA manager in June 2007 about Peters' concerns over 'unethical actions' by FAA personnel in the case of inspections not being conducted on 47 Southwest Airlines planes." It gets more troubling from there. Reports the Trib's Jon Hilkevitch:

The manager, Robert Hedlund, agreed to look into issues that Peters raised in a memo. But walking over to a bookshelf in Peters' office where he keeps family photos, Hedlund picked up a picture of Peters' son standing near a plane and said, "This is what's important, family and flying."

On his way out the door, Hedlund added: "You have a good job here and your wife has a good job [at an FAA facility in Dallas]. I'd hate to see you jeopardize yours and her careers trying to take down a couple of losers."

There's also this today, from The Dallas Morning News: "An FAA inspector from North Texas, Bobby Boutris, told lawmakers today that Southwest disclosed the error to an FAA manager last year but continued to operate the jets for 10 days." Southwest honchos Herb Kelliher and Gary Kelly are also on the agenda for today's hearing, which you can listen to via the House's Web cast. --Robert Wilonsky

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