The Mountain States Legal Foundation has launched a class action lawsuit against the FAA over an abrupt change in its air traffic controller hiring practices. As we’ve reported, two years ago, the agency announced that rather than give preference to graduates of college ATC programs, it was administering a “biographical” test as the first qualifying step to becoming a controller. Hundreds of college graduates failed to get past that step, including Andrew Brigida, an Arizona State grad who scored 100 percent on the FAA’s Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) test, which used to be the FAA’s primary measuring stick for controller aptitude. The suit alleges the change resulted from the FAA’s desire to increase racial diversity in controller ranks and that violated the class’s constitutional rights.
“In abandoning years of hiring the most qualified and adopting a ‘test’ that is the epitome of psychobabble, the FAA told our clients their skills are less important than their race and the public that its racial agenda is more important than aircraft safety,” said William Perry Pendley, MSLF’s president. Legal counsel is Michael Pearson, a Phoenix attorney and former air traffic controller who has been vocal in his criticism of the new hiring regime. He released documents to the media supporting his allegations that an FAA employee helped select candidates cheat on the biographical test to ensure their acceptance into the FAA training program. The FAA declined comment on the suit.