Whistleblowing FAA controllers reveal safety risk that could cause planes to collide

The office that protects government whistleblowers says air traffic controllers have exposed a problem that increases the risk of planes colliding or flying dangerous close together.

The Office of Special Counsel released letters Tuesday detailing the safety risk raised by five air traffic controllers in Detroit. The problem affects the safety of planes nationwide.

The counsel said the problem occurs when pilots, air traffic control centers and airline dispatchers revise flight plans that have already been filed. The computers that controllers use don't automatically identify that multiple flight plans have been filed. This can result in a controller clearing a flight for departure based on an outdated plan, and the pilots flying a route not anticipated or planned for by the controller.

The Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed the problem.