judge finds head of faa STEVE DICKSON’s testimony ‘less than credible’ IN WHISTLEBLOWING PILOT CASE


Judgement dated 21st December 2020

‘The Tribunal finds less than credible Captain Dickson’s deposition testimony as it found many of his responses evasive.’

Judge Scott R. Morris


In a major victory for airline crew, pilot Karlene Petitt today finally won her long-standing legal battle against her employer, Delta Airlines and awarded record-breaking damages,

It is a case that has startling similarities to my own case against Thomas Cook airlines and one I have been following extremely closely since 2016. When the full details of both stories do emerge it will expose and explain the apparent collusion between union, regulator and airlines to silence whistleblowers within the aviation industry.

The case centred around First Officer Petitt reporting serious safety concerns to senior management at the airline. This included a direct presentation to the now Head of the FAA, Steve Dickson.  At the time Dickson was a Senior Vice President at Delta. Subsequent to her presentation, in the full knowledge of Dickson, the airline took retaliatory action against Ms Petitt. This took the form of compelling her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. This resulted in a diagnosis that she suffered a bipolar mental disorder, which would permanently ground her.

In the forty-five-page safety document, Ms Petitt highlighted serious concerns in that Delta had breached legislation and safety requirements which included:

  • Pilot fatigue, and flight and duty time abuse.
  • Falsification of training records.
  • Inadequate training and errors in training manuals.
  • Retaliatory line checks for pilots who raised safety issue



During the trial, it was established that in one incident, Ms Petitt’s husband had been seriously ill in hospital. As mandated, Ms Petitt informed the airline that, due to her concern for her husband ‘I have been here all night long for a week.  I haven’t slept for a week. I am in no condition to fly.’ Deltas response was ‘That doesn’t pass the sniff test’. 

On another occasion, Petitt was contacted by Delta just before midnight to report five and a half hours later and position from Florida to Seattle via Atlanta. Upon arrival in Seattle, Petitt was then expected to immediately operate an Airbus 330 across the Pacific to Incheon, South Korea. This resulted in Petitt landing at Incheon having been on duty for approximately twenty-four hours. The resulting duty time was significantly in breach of the legal  maximum duty time designed to protect passengers and crew. Delta, however, informed Petitt that as they would not account for the time spent positioning, the duty was within legal limits. This is a direct breach of FAA legislation. 


part one - Tercio de varas

The first book in the trilogy begins by following the unique journey of Captain Mike Simkins from touring Europe as a drummer and performing with some of the most prominent musical artists of the late ’80s, to becoming a commander on the world’s most advanced passenger aircraft.

Ultimately, the wings were pulled from the butterfly of a dream career when, Mike stood alone to confront a multibillion-dollar aviation establishment when he refused to place profit before safety.

PArt TWO - Tercio de banderillas

A Delta airline pilot is ‘diagnosed’ as being mentally unstable to fly weeks after presenting serious safety issues to senior management. The book details the events behind Karlene Petitt’s record damages award against Delta airlines.

Will the pilot union BALPA and the regulator the CAA, support a legal case of epic significance to the safety of airline passengers and crew in the UK? 

Two out of the three Airbus A330 pilots are asleep at four thousand feet on final approach into Manchester.

The second book in the series is released spring 2021

part three - Tercio de MUERTE

Crews admit that they are knowingly flying duties in the full expectation they will suffer fatigue. They are committing these criminal acts due to the “Bullying” culture at one of the UK’s biggest airlines.

The CAA is provided with irrefutable proof that duty times are knowingly falsified to make it appear they conformed with strictly laid down maximum times and that pilots are flying at the equivalent effectiveness of a drunk driver. Their response? ‘Get over it.’ BALPA the union suppress a report where the depths of the criminal activities are finally exposed. 

The third book in the series is released summer 2021.  

‘Don’t ever call in fatigued at Delta Air Lines, that’s the other F word, it would be better to call in drinking’

It was also disclosed during the trial that during a conversation with a Delta scheduling manager, the manager stated ‘Don’t ever call in fatigued at Delta Air Lines, that’s the other F word, it would be better to call in drinking.’

‘At Delta we have the power to do what we want.’

Ms. Petitt’s safety report also included specific incidents illustrative of efforts by management to suppress employee reports of safety-related incidents and concerns, This included the following statements by Delta senior Flight Operation management:

  • “If there was a better way, Delta would already be doing it.”
  • “Stop writing emails, there is nothing you can say that they don’t already know.”
  • “You should stop all this writing and drink more beer.”
  • “At Delta we have the power to do what we want.”
  • “You’re not the first person who gets multiple retaliatory line checks.”


In his findings, Judge Scott R Morris commented on the credibility of the Delta airlines management and Dr Altman. The Tribunal had asked Altman the basic question if he knew where to find the medical regulations in Federal Aviation Regulations. He could not identify it. This resulted in the Judge concluding that ‘to not know such a basic piece of information undermines his general credibility.’

‘With respect to Kelly Nabors, a manager who had initially interviewed Ms Pettit, the Judge noted that under cross examination she answered, “I don’t remember”, on 52 occasions.

The Judgement stated that during the trial, Delta’s Vice President of Flight Operations Captain Graham’s testimony was of ‘dubious credibility and that the now Head of the FAA, Steve Dickson’s evidence was less than credible with many of his responses evasive.

‘DIAGNOSED bipolar’

Following the presentation of her concerns to the senior Delta management Ms Petitt was instructed to attend a psychiatric evaluation at the behest of the airline. Delta had instructed the psychiatrist Dr Altman to conduct the evaluation. Altman found, without any previous history of mental issues, Ms Petitt to suffer from a bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that would permanently ground her.


During the trial, it emerged that Delta had paid Dr Altman $73,000 to conduct the psychiatric evaluation. Ms Petitt had sought a second opinion at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. The Mayo clinic totally debunked Altman’s diagnosis.

In way of comparison, it was disclosed that Ms Petitt paid only $3,200 in medical fees.  Delta Airlines was unable to explain the financial discrepancy between the two examinations.

The Judgement stated it:was not alone in seeing through the facile tactics used by Respondent {Delta Airlines} in this case.’ Dr Steinkraus of the Mayo Clinic commented on the weaponization of the medical evaluation process. He stated:

‘the evidence does not support presence of a psychiatric diagnosis but does support an organizational/corporate effort to remove this pilot from the rolls.’


In his summing up, the Judge confirmed that Delta has failed to establish evidence of the existence of legitimate, nondiscriminatory grounds for its decision to put Ms Petitt through the psychiatric evaluation process. It was found that Delta did engage in an adverse employment action with discriminatory intent.

With reference to damages the Judge stated:

The Tribunal finds that the other AIR-21 cases where compensatory damages were awarded are not adequate comparators; the harm Respondent inflicted in this case is far worse. The Tribunal finds that the compensatory damages in this case are beyond those previously provided by other Tribunals.257 Given the level of past, present and future harm Complainant will suffer because of Respondent’s conduct, the Tribunal finds that $500,000 in compensatory damages is warranted. The Tribunal has considered not only the harm to her reputation, the embarrassment and emotional hardship she has endured over an extended period of time, but also has considered the realistic loss of future opportunities for promotion she will inevitably face going forward in Respondent’s employ.’ 


Following my success against Thomas Cook, among the many messages of congratulation I received, was one from an an American pilot. Her name, Karlene Pettit. In her message she stated:

‘You give the industry hope.’

‘Seriously!!! The world needs more people like you!!!

She continued;

‘I am facing a bit of a battle myself, but I can’t talk about it.’  

Curiosity got the better of me, and I began to research the details of the case. It did not take long to conclude Karlene was a Delta pilot who had filed a lawsuit against her airline for retaliation that ensued after she had reported safety concerns. The similarities between my and Karlene’s case are startling.  In part two of Pulling Wings From Butterflies, Karlene’s case is examined in detail.

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