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Michigan senators hold briefing with FAA

Posted at 7:02 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 07:02:19-05

(WXYZ) — The 7 Investigators were the first to expose a dangerous landing practice at Detroit Metro Airport. In the wake of that investigation, top officials in Washington have now been briefed by the FAA about this problem.

RELATED: Whistleblower speaks out again about unsafe DTW landing system that's still being used

Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) asked for a briefing from the FAA. The briefing was held Wednesday morning and included Sen. Peters, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). The airport is in Rep. Tlaib’s district.

The briefing was not open to the public, but sources tell the 7 Investigators that FAA officials were pressed on several aspects of the landing system in question.

At Detroit Metro Airport, for landings on the westernmost runway, pilots have to approach at an angle. To do that, they’ve been using an antenna system that’s supposed to provide course information, but an air traffic control whistleblower says the landing system on that runway is not safe.

That antenna system is called an Instrument Landing System, or ILS, Yankee offset localizer. A veteran air traffic controller says its placement at Metro Airport results in the signal getting interrupted, especially when planes taxi right in front of it.

That signal interference can cause pilots to have to abort their landings.

“They could actually hit in poor weather,” said now-retired Air Traffic Controller Vincent Sugent. Sugent filed a federal whistleblower complaint in 2018 about the FAA’s use of the ILS Y offset localizer at Metro Airport. The report was made public after a lengthy investigation in 2020.

“I was concerned for the safety of the flying public and the pilots,” Sugent said.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel agreed with Sugent’s concerns, and wrote a letter to the President saying, “I urge the FAA to further review the safety issues associated with the ILS Y approach procedure and take the steps necessary to resolve them.”

Congress was also sent that Special Counsel report back in August.

The 7 Investigators reached out to Michigan’s elected leaders who sit on committee’s that have oversight over the FAA to see what they’re going to do about this issue.

Senator Gary Peters sits on the Aviation subcommittee for the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“Whistleblowers play an important role in oversight—we must ensure their claims are thoroughly investigated and procedures are followed to ensure their protection. In light of the Special Counsel’s conclusions, I instructed my office to follow up with the FAA and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, as well as third party stakeholders to ensure safety procedures at DTW are strong and being followed accordingly.”

The 7 Investigators also contacted Rep. Brenda Lawrence, because she sits on a Transportation Sub-committee. She has agreed to talk us about this on Monday.