This is an exclusive report originally published by The Current Report and airing on TNT Radio 1/12/23.
As if the future of the FAA didn’t already look increasingly bleak, without a leader since March 2022 and the looming confirmation of embattled FAA nominee Phillip Washington, hand-picked by President Biden despite his lack of aviation experience, on Wednesday, the aviation industry was dealt another blow when a nationwide ground stop was forced due to a computer outage.
The 90-minute halt to all U.S. departing flights, reportedly due to a computer issue, resulted in approximately 10,000 flights delayed and over 1,300 canceled according to FlightAware, the first since in two decades, similar to the 9/11 terror attacks.
The computer issue had prevented airports from filing updated safety notices that warn pilots of potential hazards such as runway closures, poor weather and construction, bringing flights to a temporary halt. The FAA released the following statement:
“At this time, there is no evidence of a cyberattack. The FAA is working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again.”
Republican Rep. Sam Graves, the new chair of the House transportation committee and a pilot, issued a strong statement against the FAA, saying this outage “highlights a huge vulnerability in our air transportation system.”
The ground stop came just a few weeks after the holiday travel chaos caused by winter storms and the unprecedented last minute cancellation of all flights by Southwest Airlines left thousands of stranded and disgruntled passengers – and one airport specifically, Denver International, run by the hand-picked Biden FAA nominee, bore the brunt of it.
Biden hand-picked Washington last July to head the FAA despite the knowledge of multiple on-going local and federal criminal investigations which have resulted in setbacks and lengthening the confirmation process.
Washington’s history with the Biden administration goes back to 2020 where he lead the transition team for Transportation, which included the FAA, with no aviation experience at the time. Only in the past year has he delved into the industry sliding into the CEO spot Denver’s International Airport.
To many, including members of the Senate Committee Washington’s lack of experience presents numerous red flags when considering the experience of former heads of the FAA who have been CEOs of major airlines and/or have extensive aviation experience in the military.
After yesterday’s FAA ground stop, Senator Robert Wicker, Senior U.S. Senator for Mississippi, ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released this statement:
Today’s FAA action to halt all U.S. flights underscores this agency’s first mission is safety. But Phil Washington, President Biden’s pick to lead @FAANews, has no safety or aviation experience. We can’t leave the flying public’s wellbeing up to chance. We need a new nominee.”
On September 14th, 2022, as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department descended upon multiple locations serving criminal warrants including LA Metro Headquarters, mainstream media has led us to believe the corruption at LA Metro under Washington was merely a “dispute” between former LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and disgraced former supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
The Current Report broke the story of the raids and the LA County Sheriff’s Department served criminal warrants on LA Metro Headquarters shortly after 7 AM.
Washington was named in the criminal warrants along with then LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and her friend and CEO of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans. The local criminal investigation spanning three-years under the supervision of Undersheriff Tim Murakami, resulted in Sheriff deputies executing warrants at multiple locations which included the homes of Supervisor Kuehl and Giggans. Deputies seized documents and evidence to support allegations of fraud, abuse and Pay-to-Play at LA Metro.
Shortly after the warrants made national news, sources inside the White House told The Current Report members of the Secret Service delivered copies of the warrant to President Biden who sources say, ordered an investigation as to why the FBI was not involved.
Multiple DC agencies and watchdog organizations reached out to The Current Report shortly after Washington’s nomination in July after making startling discoveries online of Washington’s alleged criminal activities including the counterfeit mask cover-up exposed by The Current Report. Our story led to two federal investigations.
The criminal warrants naming Washington immediately prompted Senator Robert Wicker, to release a statement contacting The Current Report shortly before its official release:
“When Mr. Washington was nominated in July, I expressed my skepticism surrounding his lack of experience in aviation. Now I am deeply troubled to learn the nominee was named in a search warrant that ties him to allegations of corruption at LA Metro,” Wicker said. “The committee’s vetting process will require additional scrutiny and review into his leadership at LA Metro. I anticipate that this nominee’s credibility will also be a key focus of the committee.”
Washington, backed into a corner once the news of the warrants hit Washington DC, was confronted at the Air Line Pilots Association conference. “All the allegations are false,” he said. However, The Current Report published emails supporting Washington had knowledge of the Peace Over Violence contract contrary to his statement to the ALPA.
In July, when Washington’s confirmation was announced, Senator Cantwell made the following statement:
“America’s aviation industry is facing important challenges in a competitive global marketplace. Now more than ever, FAA must set the gold standard in aviation safety. This starts from the top. I expect and will require strong leadership from the next FAA Administrator. I look forward to careful consideration of Mr. Washington’s nomination during the confirmation process.”
On November 1st, Cantwell met with whistleblowers regarding Phillip Washington’s alleged misconduct and corruption at LA Metro.