FAA staff and tour co. ties alleged after 3 chopper crashes

The chairman of a key Senate committee is asking the Transportation Department's Inspector General to investigate misconduct allegations at the Federal Aviation Administration's Hawaii field office.

They involve an allegedly close relationship between an FAA manager and a helicopter tour company involved in three crashes during the past two years. Three people were killed in one of the crashes, which happened in April of last year.

Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, says in a letter dated that a whistle blower reported the allegations to the committee staff.

In a letter calling for the probe, Wicker said the allegations include managers directing that investigative reports be altered, and management retaliation against an employee who reported the problems.

The committee says in a fact sheet on the case that its own investigation isn't complete, but it “raises significant concerns about the efficacy of FAA oversight in Hawaii.”

The FAA said Friday that it has been investigating on its own and already is taking steps to address problems that have been substantiated. It pledged to cooperate with the office of Inspector General Calvin Scovel.

The probe isn't the first time the FAA has been accused of being too cozy with aviation companies that it regulates. Legislators have said the agency gave too much inspection authority to Boeing Co. when it certified the 737 Max passenger jet to be able to fly.

The plane has since been grounded after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people.

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