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Friday
Apr152011

Resigning FAA Official Defended Lavish 2009 Conference

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- The Federal Aviation Authority official who resigned Thursday after a series of air traffic controllers were found sleeping on the job was also featured in an ABC News investigation into a controversial $5 million FAA conference in 2009.

Hank Krakowski, formerly the chief operating officer of the FAA's Air Traffic Operations, attended the Atlanta conference which critics said was little more than a chance to throw a lavish party.  Krakowski defended the conference to ABC News' Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, saying the three weeks of meetings and social events were necessary to train managers on the new contract that went into effect months earlier.

Three groups of managers attended the conference in one-week spans.

The costs the event incurred were worth it, Krakowski said, "because we have to get the frontline managers onboard with what we're trying to do."

At the time, FAA whistleblowers questioned why, if the meetings were so important, they were held more than two months after the contract had been enacted.

"It seems a little extravagant," said one whistleblower in a message to ABC News then.  "One would think a PowerPoint or even a videoconference would suffice."

Undercover video taken at the conference showed FAA managers drinking heavily and making the rounds of Atlanta bars after a day of meetings.

One FAA manager told an ABC News undercover reporter, "Anytime you get a bunch of FAA guys together, it is nothing but a party."  Another said, "It beats being at work."

Krakowski submitted his resignation to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt Thursday as the FAA continues to investigate five incidents of possible napping air traffic controllers in recent weeks.

In his announcement of the resignation, Babbitt said, "Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety.  This conduct must stop immediately."

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