Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

FAA suspends two after kid performed JFK Airport control tower duties

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 12:50 p.m. ET
A Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller and supervisor were placed on administrative leave Wednesday after allowing a young child to direct flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 17.

“This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA’s own policies, but common sense standards for professional conduct," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. "These kinds of distractions are totally unacceptable. We have an incredible team of professionals who safely control our nation’s skies every single day. This kind of behavior does not reflect the true caliber of our workforce.”

The agency also suspended all unofficial visits to air traffic control towers pending an investigation of the incident. FAA officials will review its policy on allowing visitors into the towers.

The child communicated with at least five pilots, clearing some of the flights for takeoff, the agency said.

Here's a partial transcript of one exchange between the young boy and a pilot:

JFK TOWER: JetBlue 171 contact departure.
PILOT: Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job.

An adult male voice then speaks:

JFK TOWER: That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.

Feb. 17, a Wednesday, fell during a week-long Presidents' Day vacation for New York area schoolchildren.

In another instance, the boy ended communication with a Mexican pilot by signing off, "Adios." That's not exactly official FAA protocol.

Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said: "We do not condone this type of behavior in any way. It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day in the advancement of aviation safety."

The JFK incident follows serious disagreements between NATCA and the National Transportation Safety Board regarding last summer's mid-air collision between a small plane and a tourist helicopter over New York's Hudson River. NTSB initially blamed the crash on the behavior of an air traffic controller and his supervisor in a nearby New Jersey control tower, but has yet to issue its final conclusions. (The FAA did not weigh in on the matter.)

The news will likely do nothing to boost already poor morale at FAA. A Government Accountability Office study released in December concluded that the agency ranks so low on government employee satisfaction surveys that it may struggle to recruit and retain enough employees in the coming years.

RELATED: Chat with an aviation expert about the JFK incident at 2 p.m. ET

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 3, 2010; 7:08 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Eye Opener: Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill?
Next: The Federal Eye on PBS NewsHour about the Postal Service (Video)

Comments

The kid was more productive than Congress.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | March 3, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

"The kid was more productive than Congress."
Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot

AMEN to that!! Give that man a cigar.

Typical overhype BS, making it sound like a child was truly at the helm in the tower. So an air traffic controller let his kid say a couple words on the mic, BFD!!! Don't we have far more important shiznit to worry about these days than some kid who got a thrill of a lifetime because his dad let him talk to a pilot??

Posted by: franklinone | March 3, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure the parent was just letting his kid see what he does at work and was supervised.


Posted by: honeybee1 | March 3, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Oh, lighten up! It's not like the kid was running the radar. This reeks of pure politics.

The parent involved should be given a verbal Dude/chill Reprimand and the kid a set of wings.

Posted by: robl | March 3, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

The kid was more productive than Congress.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That's true, if Congress had been in the tower none of the airplanes would have mase it over 5000 feet before runnning into another plane. The plans landing would run out of gas and had to crash into the sea. Then afterwards Obama would come out make a statement it was Bush's fault and raise taxes for improving to clour of clouds

Posted by: teeballou | March 3, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

The comments above are very cavalier, I wonder what they would have been if something tragic had happened.

Posted by: bushaj | March 3, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

didn't any other employee in the tower speak up?

didn't any pilot call someone? call the cops this sounds like criminal malfeasance

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | March 3, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Comments seem to suggest that this was/is OK... well you really can't fix stupid.

Posted by: whocares666 | March 3, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

The kid did a better job than the Democrats. If it was Reid, he would have crashed all the planes. Go kid Bunning!

Posted by: kbalimtas | March 3, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Wow, the people outraged about this are probably the same ones that think that x-raying our shoes is a good idea. The just not getting it crowd needs to lighten up. I'm sure there are some legitimate things to be upset about at FAA, for example aren't the air traffic control computers still woefully out of date?

Posted by: Booyah5000 | March 3, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

"Pending investigation..."?

Please tell me these controllers will be fired instead of some mild censure and then a return to work.

Controlling multi-million dollar aircraft carrying hundreds of people is serious business.

This is one of the reasons this country is in trouble. People let their kids controll aircraft, others can't be bothered to worry about the security of the president, others can't seem to connect pilot training with crazed Muslim bombers and we just shrug our shoulders and move one.

Excellence doesn't just happen by chance it happens by choice.

Posted by: krankyman | March 3, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Wow what a big deal! Let's POLITICIZE IT!

I mean what if that kid was on the mike and one of those big jets had an UNCOMMANDED ACCELERATION EVENT?!

Posted by: byxnet | March 3, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

krankyman: Pilots control aircraft.

Posted by: byxnet | March 3, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Most of you who posters who think this is overblown are displaying an incomprehensible ignorance and lack of regard for what is at stake. What if the child decided (like children so often will) to be cute and say something different then what he was told to say/read???

As a relative of a pilot and an air traveler myself, I say it's time for daddy or mommy to find a new line of work.

Posted by: wahoo3 | March 3, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

For those who think this is no big deal, would you like your surgeon's child to "take over" when his parent is supposed to performing open heart surgery or brain surgery or any kind of surgery on you? I certainly wouldn't. I am appalled, not only at the negligence of the air traffic controllers, but also at the people who posted here thinking that this is unimportant. What may deserve what you get, but I (and others who believe as I do) do not.

Posted by: marmac5 | March 3, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, this was just a "go to work with dad thing." If you think this is scary, you should have seen the regulations my dad let me pass back when worked at the SEC!

Posted by: Publ1us | March 3, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Marmac:
"What may deserve what you get, but I (and others who believe as I do) do not."

Way to convey your point, chief!

Posted by: Publ1us | March 3, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

That's true, if Congress had been in the tower none of the airplanes would have mase it over 5000 feet before runnning into another plane. The plans landing would run out of gas and had to crash into the sea. Then afterwards Obama would come out make a statement it was Bush's fault and raise taxes for improving to clour of clouds

Posted by: teeballou | March 3, 2010 8:52 AM
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Ever notice the only people talking about blaming Bush are Obama haters. They are the first to talk about someone blaming Bush. I wonder if that means they truly believe that Bush caused the current problems our country has?

Posted by: catmomtx | March 3, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

But nothing bad did happen.

Posted by: Alsatian1 | March 3, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Some of you all are so uptight you couldn't pass gas! The father was in control...let the kid tell one plane it was ok for departure. You make it sound like he was controling all the flights...just shows you own stupidity.

Posted by: snowbucks | March 3, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"JetBlue 171 decrease altitude by 14,000 feet"

"But we're at 11,000 right now"

"Don't talk back. Do you want a time out?"

Posted by: JamesMeager1 | March 3, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

This is the generation coming up these days. You get what you ask for.

Posted by: quartercircle | March 3, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, the Dems in Congress and Obama would have would have caused a catastrophe-this was just a Dad having some quality time with his son, give the kid a break-we've got more serious issues to deal with. Unless of course if the kid was black. Then he and his Dad ought to placed under the jail

Posted by: gurudev16 | March 3, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"This is USAirways 1549. Bird strike. We're going in the Hudson."

"Mommy says not until a half-hour after youre done eating."

Posted by: JamesMeager1 | March 3, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"LAKEHURST TOWER! THIS IS THE HINDENBURG! WE'RE... "

"AWESOME!!!!!!!1111!!!!!!!!"

Posted by: JamesMeager1 | March 3, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

In reality, it's unlikely that their was any genuine risk in this situation. Without any evidence to the contrary, I would assume that the controller was making all the decisions, instructing the child in what to say, and listening to the pilot's response to make sure that the communication was understood correctly. And from the small transcript provided, it was clear that the pilot didn't see a problem here.

That's not to say that this is something that should be allowed--and I'd expect that there are already rules prohibiting it. But let's not blow it up into something it's not. This is not a crisis in our air traffic control system. And pending the results of the investigation, it's unlikely that there was any danger.

Posted by: ElJocko | March 3, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

who cares? It's not like this kid was alone in the tower. He was just speaking on the radio.

Posted by: netsurf12 | March 3, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

snowbucks: someday you will grow up and wear big boy pants and understand what professional conduct means and why it is important. Until then, zip it.

Posted by: wahoo3 | March 3, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like the FAA is not a big fan of "take your kids to work" day.

Let's get real, it's obvious that the kid was under the direct supervision of his dad. It's not as if the dad sent the kid to work and stayed home. Tell the dad not to do it again, and that's the end of it.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | March 3, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I know one thing: not one once of attention nor one action will be taken by this white house.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | March 3, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Fire all controllers responsible, there is no margin of era in this type of position,
even the slightest mistake can cause death. These controllers want to be stupid then look for a job as a clown, the control tower environment is not a place to pratice their stupidity skills.


Posted by: mysay4 | March 3, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"Air Force One requesting permission for low-level fly-by of the Statue of Liberty"

"No way! That's stupid! You'll get a spanking!"

"Put an adult on the phone, someone we can intimidate"

Posted by: JamesMeager1 | March 3, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

The comparison to a surgeon giving his kid the scalpel is utterly ridiculous. Surgery requires a trained touch and muscle memory; one twitch of the hand could prove fatal. In contrast, all this kid had to do was repeat what his father told him to say. Everyone needs to lighten up. Presumably the father was standing by, prepared to take control of the microphone in a second should an absolute emergency pop up. And does anyone honestly care if the kid said "adios" to the Mexican pilot instead of "roger" or whatever it is that they are officially supposed to say? The intent is perfectly clear, and "adios" is one of those universally-understood words.

Posted by: marclips | March 3, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Lighten up! The reason the FAA has low morale is because of up-tight bureauocrats who turn the smallest incidents into national security issues. There was no danger posed to passengers or airliners. Seriously? People argue for the right to keep guns in unlocked locations, but then get all bent out of shape over a Dad who lets his kid talk on a radio with probably 5-7 other adults in the room watching?

Posted by: millenberg | March 3, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

There should be no investigation. Both the employee and the supervisor should be "fired" immediately.

Posted by: brit89 | March 3, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

As a Father of three young boys I think it's great. Safety was never an issue and that's just the truth. Only in America can you be shunned as a parent for taking your kid to work and enlightening him or her to the exciting world ahead and rewarded to be an inner city thug with no job and 8 kids that you have no idea exist. I say thank you to this Father for wanting to raise your child and have a relationship with them. Whether you want to believe it or not, these are the leaders that will make a difference for us.

Posted by: MacSky | March 3, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I would much rather have an 11 year old take Reid's place...

On second thought...he's already acting like one .

Posted by: travisg2 | March 3, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

C'MON MAN.... This stuff is only news if the kid causes a runway incursion of some type. I do however like the break in the so called protocol with Adios! Lastly they should be happy the kid was interning seeing how they have such a rediculously low retention rate.

Posted by: Debonair31 | March 3, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

This such a classic example of making a big deal out of nothing. The father was obviously right there with him obviously doing the traffic control himself and telling his kid what to say. Nothing bad happened, the pilots who'd have the biggest reason to complain were totally in the spirit of it and amused. So why does anyone care? We all need to relax.

Posted by: jabalong | March 3, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The FAA should realize that things of this nature would happen when it allowed NATCA to control the FAA starting back in the 1980's. Since that time there has been a lack of discipline concerning supervisor/controller mis-understandings as NATCA's policy of protecting even the weakest controllers supercedes any disiplinary measures management might want to impose. This is but one other case of the cart pushing the horse.

Posted by: stansga | March 3, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I laffed and laffed.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 3, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The controller and his supervisor should be dismissed immediately.

For those who thing its no big deal, a few years ago the pilot of a Russian passenger plan let his kid fly the plane; the result, a crash killing almost all on board.

Lets put it this way, if being a controller is so easy a child can do it, then controllers are way over paid and over staffed.

Posted by: fjh3q | March 3, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

EVERY SINGLE ADULT in that tower, and their supervisors, and their supervisor's supervisors, should get a ten, no, a FIFTEEN minute time out!!!

Posted by: JamesMeager1 | March 3, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Great, so now even air traffic control towers are supposed to be "kid-friendly." Where does it end?

Posted by: drumcrn1 | March 3, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Amazing. The economy is crashing, and those involved got off freer than this person who didn't cause any crash.

Get a grip, clearly a parent was showing a child their job - that's exactly what the FAA needs if they want to recruit people. Okay, maybe not the highest professionalism - but they aren't robots and neither are the pilots - sounds like they could use any boost in morale they could get and instead of turning it into a positive PR spin of look how family friendly we are the FAA turns it into look how we can act like a bunch of thugs to our employees.

The grinches at the FAA gets an F.

More importantly, if every incident involving the FAA is made into a highly politicized event showing that the United States is AFRAID of everything that can ever possibly happen even though it didn't - then the terrorists have won, without dropping a single bomb.

Posted by: cmanocchio | March 3, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Well Well Well, today has come and gone when we allow this kind of behavior to be expressed in our FAA towers. Great for the parent who brought his child to work and showed him some of his “RESPONSIBILITIES “and I quote his RESPONSIBILITIES!!!! If some tragedy had happen I think most of the comments would have been WHAT A DUMB PARENT OR HE SHOULD BE FIRED. So if you think this action should be dealt with lightly think again. I hope the parent who guards the Nuke’s doesn’t decide to let his child play with the buttons. YOU DONKEY’s

Posted by: access11 | March 3, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

OH for the one's that don't know what a DONKEY is. Ask the child's parent

Posted by: access11 | March 3, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

What is sad is we spend soo much time criticizing congress without realizing that we behave just like them. Congress is just a reflection of us. We come on web blogs everyday fighting, criticizing and basing all of our feelings on if someone is a democrat or republican, just like congress does, yet we dont see that we are congress, the same human beings that are on web blogs taking shots at other based on partisan political leanings are the ones sent to washington to govern.

Posted by: ged0386 | March 3, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

What is sad is we spend soo much time criticizing congress without realizing that we behave just like them. Congress is just a reflection of us. We come on web blogs everyday fighting, criticizing and basing all of our feelings on if someone is a democrat or republican, just like congress does, yet we dont see that we are congress, the same human beings that are on web blogs taking shots at other based on partisan political leanings are the ones sent to washington to govern.

Posted by: ged0386 | March 3, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

There is a time and place for children in the work place, I am thankful to my colleagues and likewise I am sure. For those of you who agree with these antics
if you have children I encourage you to laugh now because you will cry later!

Posted by: mysay4 | March 3, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

bushaj wrote at March 3, 2010 8:53 AM :
“The comments above are very cavalier, I wonder what they would have been if something tragic had happened.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But nothing happened.

“But what if something tragic had happened?”

But nothing happened.

“But what if something tragic had happened?”

But nothing happened.

What if the sky fell and the seas boiled over?

They didn’t.

Question.

Fact.

Etc., etc., etc.

Posted by: cullisongs | March 3, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Might be nice if this article did more than scratch the surface and delved into whether there was a breach of rules or regulations and/or a true risk to the public. Little wonder it is inhabited with Nervous Nellies when modern journalism isn't about informing, only stirring the pot.

Posted by: SarahBB | March 3, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps there were children present, perhaps not. When I was a kid I knew what parents did for a living. Most children I went to school with had no earthly idea. This leads to kids who have no sense of direction and no idea what they wish to do when they grow up. They do not know what options are available for them so they choose "firefighter" or "nurse", only a few sticking to those to the end. This is an example of the FAA blowing things ALL out of proportion. If this was a parent / child situation on a vacation day, the parent was present, the parent would have been in charge and I'll bet the child parroted what the parent told them to say. In effect the decisions were made by FAA personnel not children so everyone needs to chill a little bit here. No wonder FAA morale is so low, they're the whipping post for every ill in avaiation. Let's develop programs to enhance their image, lets replace old, faulty, equipment and let's pay these folks enough so people want to work for them. I know what Napoleon Bonaparte would do - he'd fire the people at the FAA Headquarters and start over. Much ado about NOTHING.

Posted by: dfwenigma | March 3, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Lighten-up people. This was a GROUND CONTROLLER, not an AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER. The youngster was under complete control. Sounds like the union is bellyaching over a non-union worker, who is underage, being "exploited."

I heard the audio and this youngster was living a dream, while under the control of the proper people.

The "Pleasure Police" are out in force, again.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | March 3, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

BFD. The kid was exposed to a career path and had a positive experience. I'm certain he was guided every step of the way by everyone directly involved with situation. There have been no reports of the pilots complaining that they recieved directions from a child, and I am sure that they were made aware the child would be giving those direction prior to it happeneing. Controllers make several communications with a particular pilot during the course of a take proceedure. This kid just gave the final one. No one was put at risk in slightest degree.
This child was not truly "controlling" anything, his father was.

Posted by: KJR1 | March 3, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I am old enough to remember being allowed into the cockpit as a child on a transatlantic flight. Not only allowed in the cockpit, but was also allowed to sit in the pilot's seat for a few minutes. Then I was given a set of TWA "wings" and sent back to my seat. It was the most thrilling thing I had experienced in my young life.

And nothing bad happened.

I believe that that is what needs to be remembered here: Nothing Bad Happened. Y'all worry too much.

Posted by: pete1013 | March 3, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

This series of posts shows (a) Most Americans still have their heads on straight, although (b) a couple of us still suffer from terminal righteousness and (c)most people can maintain the humor to deal with the fuddy duddies.

Good job, kid. You did what you were told to do, and everything still worked.

Posted by: IGiveup1 | March 3, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

As someone who has more than 3500 hours in fighter aircraft, and worked with Air Traffic Controllers during my entire career. I can attest to the fact that they are some of the most professional, hard-working, and stressed employees in the world. I will guarantee that the situation was supervised every second, and the kid had the thrill of his life. I have flown reporters, combat photographers, Heads of Government, and numerous other dignitaries on "gee whiz" rides. I alway let them fly a little if they wanted. Never did I not realize that I was in charge and responsible for everything that happened. On the other hand, a true professional already knows that. This, in my opinion, is really overblown, and not an issue to anyone who knows anything about pilots and Air Traffic Controllers. Give the kid a break! And his Dad.

Posted by: drickert | March 3, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, this is George Bush's fault.

Posted by: pgr88 | March 3, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Explains why they budget 30 minutes of sitting on the tarmac time on every flight from JFK.

No probs with the kid doing the talking, but seriously, JFK, speed up the process, yeah?

Posted by: mattsoundworld | March 3, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

To be fair, the article printed only a portion of the communication. From his response, it seemed the pilot had been communicating with this kid at some length. I'm not familiar with what "contact departure" means...but this kid could have been communicating with the pilot throughout much of his taxi. Who knows? The response "awesome job" leads me to believe that he pilot knew he was talking to a kid, and that he had actually had a conversation of some length before signing off. I guess I would need to know more about pilot/tower communication to know what could have possibly been going on in the plane at that time.

Posted by: Rainier1 | March 3, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, this is George Bush's fault.

Posted by: pgr88 | March 3, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse
------------------------

With an assist by the doggone fire ants (pronounced 'dagum far ants').

Posted by: mattsoundworld | March 3, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

FAA find something WORTHWHILE to do !

More parents should take their children to work for a day, and nothing was wrong with it. Take a pill. Take him to Capitol Hill next, he'd do a better job there than anyone else does.

Posted by: citigreg | March 3, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I don't believe there was any danger, and I am sure the child was completely supervised, BUT I think taking your child to that kind of work on a snow day is appalling. Air traffic control requires serious concentration, and a child asking where the bathroom is or that he's hungry or that he's ready to go home is a distraction that could prove disasterous.

Posted by: Etta- | March 3, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

For those who think this is no big deal, would you like your surgeon's child to "take over" when his parent is supposed to performing open heart surgery or brain surgery or any kind of surgery on you? I certainly wouldn't.

Posted by: marmac5 | March 3, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse
---------------------------------

Taking over brain surgery = talking to pilots ON THE GROUND?

Yeah, ok.

In reality land, if there were an analogy to brain surgery it would be like the surgeons kid coming in before surgery with a fake stethoscope and an etch a sketch and 'pronouncing' you ready for surgery.

Posted by: mattsoundworld | March 3, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

For those of you who think this is no big deal, I believe you are wrong. As a pilot, I never break any rules. It is that simple. I follow my checklists faithfully, I follow the FAA rules faithfully, I follow my company rules to the letter. There is no room for error. Aviation accidents are extremely unforgiving, and something as simple as an incorrect takeoff clearance could kill a couple hundred people in an instant. This controller's standards are obviously very low and if he will do this, he will do other things that are distracting and unsafe. He should be fired and so should the supervisor who allowed it.

Posted by: voldenuit123 | March 3, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

It's all great fun til somebody loses an eye!!

Posted by: voldenuit123 | March 3, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

When I was a kid growing up in Falls Church (about 1968 or thereabouts), my best friend and I used to hang around airports a lot because we were both nuts about airplanes. One day we were at Washington National (now Reagan National) and my friend picked up a telephone mounted on the wall next to a secure door. He talked to someone on the other end, and a few minutes later, one of the ATCs came out and escorted the two of us up to the control tower. He gave us a nice little tour of the place. We got to watch the guys at work "pushing tin", and also got to visit the radar room. It was awesome! And no worries about security, or accidentally breaking anything. Just a terrific experience for a couple of wide-eyed kids.

Posted by: enogabal | March 3, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Where's the OUTRAGE? Everybody knows that in an airplane you are constantly a split second from fiery death, and it's only the nerve and talent of those heroic Air Traffic Controllers, with their furrowed brows and full ashtrays, that hold chaos in the skies at bay!

Posted by: byxnet | March 3, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

All I can say to the posting of the "pilot" above is that there are many, many dead pilots who followed their checklists "faithfully," and all the rules faithfully, instead of thinking. I doubt if Sully who landed in the Hudson had a "checklist" for what he did. By the way, Sully was a former fighter pilot who was taught to think, not just blindly following what some engineer wrote in a checklist. Checklists are useful decision guides, except when they are not.

Posted by: drickert | March 3, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

People are such hypocrites. The same ones complaining the country is going to hell in a hand basket are saying this is no big deal. Seems like some folks are only conservative when it suits them.

Posted by: mstov | March 3, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Having a child in the control tower talking to pilots is so inappropriate. How can you people not see that? It isn't cute at all. The parent should be fired. End of story.

Posted by: Diner65 | March 3, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey, I'm just happy that at least ATC hasn't been outsourced to India ... if I was the pilot, I'd rather talk to this obviously bright and ambitious kid than someone with a Mumbai accent!

Posted by: linux_fan | March 3, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

My kids have flown my airplane with me in the left seat for years. At the local Air Force Base there are student air traffic controllers. I get crazy instructions all the time. These are immediately over ruled by their supervisors. I think it was great that the kid got a chance to see what the old man does for a living. Lighten up people.

Posted by: sutton1 | March 3, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

The country is going to hell in a handbasket because of people who think this is a big deal.

Also I'd be surprised if there wasn't a ditching checklist. There are some important things to remember for ditching, like putting the gear up. A checklist will help you remember that in a stressful situation. Captain Sully, in his military flying career, would have had a lot of practice memorizing emergency procedures (like ditching) and simulating their execution in the airplane.

Anyways. Pilots control aircraft.

Posted by: byxnet | March 3, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Reagan finally got what he wanted.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 3, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

What about professionalism? What about not inflicting your precocious little darlings on the rest of us? What you see as oh-so-cute might look obnoxious, rude and inappropriate to others. That's why the English language has two separate words---"child" and "adult". Sometimes it's hard to tell which is which.

Posted by: drumcrn1 | March 3, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

CHILDREN SHOULD BE OUTLAWED!

Posted by: castnerm | March 3, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Yes, FAA guys should take a chill pill. Was this a bad idea? Oh, probably. Was there any danger involved? No, way...the dad was right there running things. Am I glad a dad is loving his son? Certainly. The guy should be told "Let's not do this again" and then move on. The fake outrage and over reaction by the FAA regulators is both predictable and pathetic.

Posted by: Drew95 | March 3, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

This is the stupidest thing I ever heard I am quite sure the kid just signed off w/pilots see what parents do for a living I sincerely doubt the kids were at the helm lets everybody get a grip sheez what a bunch of crap

Posted by: lildg54 | March 3, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Also.....are there any PILOTS out there who are complaining about this? Or only a bunch of Chicken Littles?

Posted by: sutton1 | March 3, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

My kids have flown my airplane with me in the left seat for years. At the local Air Force Base there are student air traffic controllers. I get crazy instructions all the time. These are immediately over ruled by their supervisors. I think it was great that the kid got a chance to see what the old man does for a living. Lighten up people.

Posted by: sutton1 | March 3, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm a pilot and listening to the audio, it is obvious the real controller was in command the entire time, just letting his son speak a few words (which he clearly was prompted to do). You can hear the (presumed) Dad interrupt to give the more rapid fire controls when needed. He was also clearing planes for takeoff and not directing approaches or landings (which is far more intensive). I agree, BFD.

Also, remember that all pilots are in sole command of their own aircraft, so if a pilot who had received a takeoff clearance from a kid was uncomfortable with that clearance, he is under no obligation to follow it. He can simply say "unable" and the controller must deal with the consequences. If a pilot said "unable" and we heard the kid respond, then I would be worried.

And the dig about "adios" not being standard radio terminology...absolutely true, but pilots use non-standard terminology all the time (e.g. "good day", "have a good one", "thanks", "cheers", etc.).

Posted by: peter44 | March 3, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Do you have nothing else to print? This is idiotic.

Posted by: KDSmallJr | March 3, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Who complained? If someone involved complained because it interfered with their work or they felt it jeopardized safety, then it doesn't really matter what any of us think, that's what happened.

Posted by: sarahabc | March 3, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

It is not unusual to see children smuggled into secure areas. The funniest thing to see is when they have to get through full-size turnstiles with their oversized parents.

Posted by: member5 | March 3, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

A plane full of innocent people is not a child's toy! The point you all seem to be missing in your tirades about being too harsh is that if there was an emergency and a pilot (think of one who has limited English skills) needed split second assistance, a child was on the audio. This isn't a game. If you lost a loved one because someone put a child in a critical transportation security position, you would be the first to sue.

Posted by: etriscari | March 3, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

How would those making light of this incident feel about being wheeled into surgery to find the surgeon's child in the operating room gowned and scrubbed along with the parent - would that be 'no big deal' also? Professionals do not, even in jest, put their children into life-involving professional processes AT ALL.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | March 3, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Ok, so here's the deal. It's not that we actually think the child was giving commands. The problem comes if the pilots don't understand what the child is saying.

Posted by: lesliej1 | March 3, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

As I am unaware of what rules and protocols actually do exist for Air Traffic controlers, it is hard to say if this should be a sittuation in which the "guilty" should be fired or not.

I do seriously question what a child was doing in the tower in the first place and how anyone could reasonably believe his presence could be of no distaction to anyone else on the tower. Just because the parent might be able to guide his or her offspring successfully through the motions of the job doesn't mean his simple presence doesn't increase the risk to the tower as a whole's abilty to do the job with full attention where it belongs.

Posted by: kablis | March 3, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The morons getting all worked up about this need to go back to the sanctity of their couches and be fed more fear from cable news.

Posted by: TheDerek | March 3, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Father: Tell the pilot to turn right immediately.
Controller (son): What?
Father: Tell the pilot to turn right immediately
Controller (son): Where's the button?
Father: Right there - now tell the pilot to come right immediately.
Controller (son): The button doesn't work.
Father: Oh crap - never mind son. Let's find another plane to play wth - OK??
Co

Posted by: thornegp2626 | March 3, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

OK, I am still waiting to hear from ONE pilot or ONE air traffic controller who is worked up over this.

And yes, I learned how to do surgery assisting in the operating room as a teenager, and to fly an airplane by sitting in the right sat as a child.

Posted by: sutton1 | March 3, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Was the boy in the union? So he did a job for a much lower pay scale than what the union had negotiated.
Folks - that's where the stink is. Someone did the work for free that the union had deligently negotiated a high salary for. Both father and son will hang for this. Y'all watch.

Posted by: MDL7 | March 3, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Much ado about nothing...my dad was in the U.S. Navy, he'd let me drive his submarine all the time. I even shot off a couple torpedos at an unsuspecting cruise liner!

What's the big deal? :-)

Posted by: Kcrl1 | March 3, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Well that's one less future air traffic controller thanks to a bunch of sissies getting their panties in a bunch. The father was clearly there and while it was a bad idea it wasn't dangerous.

Air Traffic Controllers take at least 5 years to train and we have a horrid shortage of them.

Posted by: theobserver4 | March 3, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Maybe some parents don't take their work seriously and think it is "a child's play". That may have been the case here. I am waiting for Obama to have her two daughters address Congress or introduce a new bill.

Posted by: fridaolay | March 3, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Reading these comments is profoundly frustrating. Before you pass judgment, please have some idea what you're talking about.

Do you really think there's just one single microphone in the tower and the child is the one and only person with access to a radio?

Do you believe that if ATC had some kind of radio or power failure that airplanes would start crashing left and right?

Do you think that pilots are merely automatons, unable to think or act for themselves?

Posted by: byxnet | March 3, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

When I was a freshman in college my roommate wanted to be a doctor. So, he got a job as an orderly at the closes hospital to our dorm, to see how reality compared to his dream. While working there he became friends with an Ob/Gyn who moonlighted in this emergency room, to pick up extra cash. He said, “Hey Frank, ever delivered a baby?” Frank answered that he was only 18 and hadn’t even tried to make a baby yet. Never the less, his Ob/Gyn friend took him down to DC General where Frank delivered 5 babies that night. Some 40+ years later Frank is an Ob/Gyn successfully delivering babies in North Carolina.

Posted by: Twisty | March 3, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Do you all have any idea how many planes are going in and out of JFK at any given moment? One screwup, even for just a second or two, and you could have a really, really bad problem. This isn't the kind of job that lends itself to Take Your Kid to Work Day. Period.

Posted by: gmg22 | March 3, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Those guys are stressed as it is. Leave them alone. The kid was obviously supervised. The flight was taken care of, probably more than usual. I think a "Good one Chuck, but probably shouldn't do it again." would do.

Posted by: josewashington | March 3, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

This is absolutely ridiculous. Of course, everybody involved in this incident should be fired. I don't know why children are allowed in that tower to begin with. But any idiot who would have their child give planes instructions obviously does not possess good judgement, and I certainly wouldn't want that person directing my plane if I were flying.

What is wrong with people? No one takes airplane security seriously. If we're going to let children into airplane control towers and get on microphones and instruct planes where to fly, then we deserve these terrorist attacks cause we're not even trying to contain security. Think children would ever be able to do this in Israel -- not.

Posted by: dramaticlookcat | March 3, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

we should let kids do more around this town.

maybe something will get done...

the adults are pretty worthless.

Posted by: iamrta | March 3, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong with a kid at the tower when there is an adult supervising? Jefuss H. K-ricet we have fools in washington d**king around and there sure the s**t is no adult supervision there. What makes matters worse is we pay those criminals in DC to act like first graders.

Posted by: seasail | March 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who think this is overblown, look beyond the "talking to the pilots" part. Sure, he was being supervised. But that's the problem: He was being supervised by someone who needs to devote attention to the task at hand, not on babysitting. Air traffic control is something that needs 100% attention...when it doesn't get that, that's when we see near misses on runways, etc. So where was the kid for the rest of the day? A father keeping one eye on his kid while that kid colors all day in the corner of the control tower is only keeping one eye on the planes.

Posted by: sunny617 | March 3, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

If all the kid did was tell JetBlue to contact departure, I'd think a mild reprimand would be in order for the controller. ATC is serious business, and controller's have a huge responsibility, which includes doing it "by the book." The consequences of something going wrong are just too great to allow this type of activity. But allowing the kid to talk to several other flights too, that's kind of beyond the pale. I'd say the controller deserves about a week or two off, without pay.

Posted by: shepherd3 | March 3, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

sunny617 and shepherd3, I could not have put it better myself.

Posted by: jamesgrimes1 | March 3, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, it sets a precedent. If left unattended to, the next incident and the one after that will result in problems that can't be so easily passed off.
Cavalier attitudes when lives are in someone else's hands are not acceptable.

Posted by: aorj | March 3, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey, at least it was only a kid, and the kid was doing exactly what his dad told him. That little kid might someday be a Air Traffic Controller!

Posted by: acarpeneti | March 3, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

1st off, sure, it's definitely not the best idea to have a child in a high-pressure, detail oriented workplace.

That being said, this was not a high risk scenario.

I'd MUCH rather have the guy/gal there with his/her kid enjoying 30 seconds of chatter to break up the monotony in the pilot's day, than I would to have a controller in the chair who is distracted ALL SHIFT by:

going throough a bitter divorce, and looking for extra shifts or a second job [further reducing effectiveness by time spent drifting to thoughts of the way to make ends meet],

where HIS/HER foucus is reduced by frustration and exhaustion [not helping the old focus or effectiveness, still by lack of proper rest and self care],

that NO ONE is aware of or will do anything about [that IS scary, now, isn't it?]

than to obcess and worry about a little well intentioned (if poorly thought out) fun for a pilot, a controller, and a kid.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

But that's just me...I tend to think outside the box.

Closing thought: Reprimand yes, maybe even a 2 day suspension, dramtic response...why waste the time, effort, and deprive yourself of a trained controller?


Peace!

Posted by: ThinkingMan | March 3, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Willing to bet the kid was NOT in the tower "ALL DAY", much less for a half-hour. I'm sure it was a wait until parent/guardian #2 can pick you up kind of thing that happens at ALL levels of employ.

Again, not good policy, but not anything worth trashing a career to prove a point...or do YOU want to fund the training of a replacement controller? Through raised rates, fees, or taxes related to something of this nature?

Duh...

Posted by: ThinkingMan | March 3, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

This just in: FAA voted "Most Family Unfriendly Place to Work."

No wonder morale is so low if this is the kind of reaction (presumably) somebody gets for bringing their kid to work. Somebody rope these people back down to planet reality. I'm sure the child was not unsupervised.

Why don't we just have robots direct air-traffic? It seems the people in power certainly don't want real people with families working there.

This incident seems to be a bit of an over-reaction.

Posted by: theartistpoet | March 3, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

First of all, to the poster that compared it to a doctor letting his child operate...seriously stupid analogy. And the poster that brought up the Russian plane that crashed after the pilot let his kid fly it...much different scenario.

Did anybody notice that not one pilot skipped a beat in responding to this kid? They listen to the words, not the sound of the voice...if the kid said exactly what his parent told him to say, no harm done. The parent could have jumped in at anytime...and do you think the kid would have known what to say to cause any harm to any of these planes? Lighten up!

Posted by: itsme1 | March 3, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm amazed by the level of ignorance displayed in some of these comments. I mean, how can someone who says "I don't know what "contact departure" means proceed, with a straight face, to offer an opinion?

Wow.

FYI, "contact departure" means to change from the control tower frequency (in this case, JFK tower) to the departure frequency (JFK departure). Tower gives you your takeoff clearance, and Departure guides you out of the terminal area (now called Class B).

Based on what I heard in 10 years of flying up and down the East Coast (as a pilot, not a passenger), it was pretty clear the boy was parroting what his dad told him to say; no way would a child that young know standard phraseology. And as far as the "adios" goes, get over it. I've heard air traffic controllers say much more non-standard things, and saying "adios" to a pilot from Mexico is nothing more than a courtesy.

All of that said, though, I think the dad needs to be told in no uncertain terms that his idea was a really bad one and he should not do it again, because there is still the chance of escalation (well, if Johnny was allowed to give takeoff clearances, then my Bobby should be allowed to give approach clearances,...). But that's all; he shouldn't be fired.

Posted by: ajsmithva | March 3, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, them Dems in Congress and Obama would have would have caused a catastrophe-this was just a Dad having some quality time with his son, give the kid a break-we've got more serious issues to deal with. Unless of course if the kid was black. Then he and his Dad ought to placed under the jail....


......Really how do we know this kid's Dad was not an affirmative action hire? Or Hispanic ( Whats up with the "Adios"), maybe they're Puerto Ricans...( gulp)... or an Asian immigrant- you know the ones taking all our skilled tech jobs. Has it been determined if it is actually a boy, maybe it was a girl-eeeuuu!!. Has the kid displayed any indication of his future sexual orientation? It being New York, does the family name end in a vowel-some of those people still don't get it. Just look at the Greeks. Only after all these factors have been determined and only then can we catagorically say it was no big deal...

Just doing my part to politicize every dam thing.... Oh yeah, was the Dad liberal,conservative, moderate, what???

Posted by: gurudev16 | March 3, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

How about keeping the rugrats at home and doing the job you're paid to do? No matter how cute you think your kid is, they can be a distraction and an annoyance to others. How about some boundaries?

If a plane went down because of this "cuteness," those of you who think this was so precociously adorable would be calling for blood.

Not cute, not funny, Just very poor judgment and unprofessional behavior.

Posted by: NoWayNotNow | March 3, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company