Atlanta FAA Inspector Pleads Guilty and Sentenced After Carrying a Firearm on a Flight
On June 25, 2015, Ernest E. Abbott, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI), Atlanta Division, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Atlanta, Georgia. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for knowingly entering an aircraft and airport area in violation of federal security requirements. He remains on bond in the State of New York for local firearms violations. He is also suspended from his position as an ASI.
The charges resulted from Abbott's conduct while on duty in January 2015 when he used an officially issued Atlanta Airport Security Identification Badge to bypass the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoint at the Atlanta International Airport. He boarded a flight to LaGuardia International Airport, Queens, New York, while carrying a firearm in his carry-on baggage. The following day, TSA officials detained Abbott at a Security Checkpoint at LaGuardia after they declined to allow him access to the sterile area without being screened. Abbott he was found to be in possession of the firearm. During the subsequent OIG investigation we obtained video footage of Abbott intentionally bypassing screening at the Atlanta Airport by using his airport credentials. He subsequently flew in the aircraft cockpit jump seat enroute to LaGuardia with the undeclared firearm in his possession. The investigation showed that Abbott did not have New York Airport Security Identification, which was why he was required to undergo TSA screening before boarding his return flight. The weapon was discovered in his carry-on baggage.
Following this incident, FAA officials implemented a nation-wide temporary restriction from employees using Airport Security Identification Badges to access airport sterile areas.
We conducted this investigation with the TSA, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the FAA.