FAA controllers reveal flaw that could cause collisions

The government's own watchdog agency is calling for Congress and the White House to make the skies safer.

Five Federal Aviation Administration controllers in Detroit have pointed to a flaw in the nation's air traffic control system that could result in planes flying too close to each other, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

The air traffic control system does not automatically flag when multiple flight plans are filed for the same flight, which could occur as the result of departure delays or changes in routing or air speed. That could lead to erroneous flight plans that essentially leave pilots and controllers to operate off different playbooks.

"It's like somebody you are looking at in the left turn lane when you are coming up at the intersection, he is headed to the left and you expect a left turn and he makes a right turn in front of you," said Vincent Sugent, one of the five whistle-blowers working at an airport in Detroit.

An FAA investigation found these multiple flight plans were occurring regularly-- most commonly during inclement weather -- and introduced "a safety risk into the air traffic control system." Even though the agency has known about the problem since at least 2012, Sugent said the errors still exist.

Computer glitch causes massive flight delays

In July 2014, hours after departing New York's JFK Airport, controllers noticed an airliner flying a route based on an old flight plan the pilots were given by the airline.

In 2013, at least 288 duplicate flight plans were identified at Detroit's airport alone.

Steven Wallace, former director of the FAA Office of Investigations, said it is concerning that he had not heard of the problem before. Although he said the safety risk is low, he expressed an urgency to address the problem.

"Nothing catastrophic has happened. I think there really haven't been any seriously close calls. This is the best place to be," he said. "The best time to fix the problem, catch it early."

The FAA told "CBS This Morning" it believes the risk associated with the issue is low and it has developed a corrective plan, but not all of it will be in effect until next year.