A civilian Navy engineer who spoke out about potentially deadly safety violations and other problems that threaten the lives of Navy pilots says he was fired in June in retaliation for raising concerns.
Glenn Schwarz, a civilian aeronautical-engineering technician, claims that his supervisors put him in a highly technical and sensitive job calibrating equipment for weapons systems testing and aircraft support even though he lacked the skills and qualifications for the job, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
Mr. Schwarz also claims that on-the-job training managers failed to comply with Navy regulations at the Metrology and Calibration (METCAL) laboratory and across the Fleet Readiness Center-East (FRC-E) where he worked. His lawyer told The Washington Free Beacon that Mr. Schwarz’s placement in a job for which he was unqualified reflected a broader problem at those facilities – one that could be putting the lives of service men and women in danger.
“Glenn is one of several employees at the METCAL lab who apparently lack either the proper education, training, or experience to properly do the job and this is an accident waiting to happen because of it,” his lawyer told The Washington Free Beacon.
Mr. Schwarz claims that his firing on June 8 was an act of reprisal for blowing the whistle on the Navy’s deficiencies. His termination has been suspended for 45 days while the Office of Special Counsel, an internal government watchdog, investigates his claims.
“Safety concerns are running high across U.S. military communities in recent days after a Marine Corps KC-130 crashed in rural Mississippi a week ago, killing 16 people aboard and spreading debris for miles. The Marine Corps has officially said only that the aircraft ‘experienced a mishap’ but provided no details on whether it was related to maintenance problems or pilot-error,” The Washington Free Beacon reported.
Mr. Schwarz’s allegations also come amid a rash of problems affecting F-18 aircraft, the backbone of the Navy’s aviation operations. Recently, Navy officials reported an escalating number of “physiological episodes” affecting fighter pilots due to pilots inhaling gas fumes and “unscheduled pressure changes.”
Navy investigators have found 382 cases of such incidents to date, but whether the problems stem from regulatory violations at the METCAL and FRC-E facilities remains undetermined.
John Cochran, a professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at Auburn University, told The Washington Free Beacon that he is troubled by news that Navy personnel could be disregarding regulations governing the qualifications for workers in highly technical jobs.
“The regulations are written for a purpose, of course, and the purpose is to maintain a certain level of safety,” he told The Washington Free Beacon. “And if you have violations of those—any one little violation—the wrong type of violation at the wrong time—could cause an accident.”
“I don’t know all the regulations as far as what the Navy has on the books, but the smallest thing can sometimes cause a major problem—that’s the bottom line for aircraft,” he added. “We’ve had some of these aircraft for a long time, and they’re very reliable in most cases. But if you don’t follow the regulations, then you’re risking a lot.”