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Air traffic controller suspended

5:30 p.m. Update: An air traffic controller at New York's Kennedy Airport has been suspended after he allowed two children to radio instructions to several pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday the children did so over two days in mid-February.

The first night, the controller brought his young son to work and let him squawk a few routine messages over the radio to pilots waiting to take off.

The FAA says the controller brought a different child the next evening.

The agency has placed the controller and a supervisor on administrative leave as it investigates. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt called the episode a "lapse in judgment."

The few quick exchanges between the children and jets waiting to take off from JFK became public after they were recorded and posted on the Internet.

-- Associated Press

Original post: New York's JFK Airport seems to be a rich source of news this week.

Earlier we reported that there will be delays at JFK Airport over the next few months while the main runway undergoes repairs (and fares may be going up, too). Now, there is a report that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident last month where a child apparently directed pilots from the air traffic control center at JFK, one of the nation's busiest airports, according to audio clips.

"Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic," the FAA said in a statement. "This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees." The agency declined to comment beyond the statement.

Recordings from mid-February -- during a weeklong winter break for many New York schoolchildren -- were posted last month on a Web site for air traffic control-listening aficionados.

The child can be heard on the tape making five transmissions to pilots preparing for takeoff.

In one exchange, the child can be heard saying, "JetBlue 171 contact departure." The pilot responds: "Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job." The child appears to be under an adult's supervision, because a male voice then comes on and says with a laugh, "That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school." In another exchange, the youngster clears another plane for takeoff, and says, "Adios, amigo." The pilot responds in kind.

The FAA said the control tower is a highly secure area for air traffic controllers, supervisory staff and airport employees with a need to be there. FAA spokesman Jim Peters said children of the tower's employees are allowed to visit but would need to get approval from the FAA first.

The union representing air traffic controllers condemned the workers' behavior.

"It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and everyday in the advancement of aviation safety," the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in a statement.

That gives you something to think about the next time you board a shuttle to the Big Apple.

-- Associated Press and staff reports

By Michael Bolden  |  March 3, 2010; 9:57 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Airports  
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Comments

no harm done, and its never too early to start learning,planes were on the ground,not moving, hats off to parents really careing, commercial pilot

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

As a pilot, I for one would welcome a friendly voice from NYC area controllers.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | March 3, 2010 11:03 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 11:32 AM | Report abuse

WHAT is WRONG with you people?!?!?! As I have been saying way too much lately... Has this country gone MAD??? I guess I have my answer. Do you actually think that is is funny/cute to have a child directing air traffic EVEN if he is supervised??? EVEN if the planes are on the ground??? One of you actually said "No harm done"??? Hats off??? What if harm HAD been done??? And you were on the flight? I think you would change your comments REAL fast... Madness... That's all I have to say...

Posted by: sailing65 | March 3, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I WANT THEM ALL FIRED!! WHO IN THE HAM SANDWICH DO THEY THINK THEY ARE TO PLAY WITH PEOPLE'S LIVES THAT WAY?!!! THERE ARE NO IF ANDS OR BUTS, THAT THIS BEHAVIOR IS OFFENSIVE TO ANYONE WHO'S EVER BOUGHT AN AIRLINE TICKET! WE WILL KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THIS SITUATION TO MAKE SURE IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! NO APOLOGIES AND NO REFERENCES FOR FUTURE EMPLOYMENT FOR EITHER OF THEM WITH ANY AIRLINE!!!!!

Posted by: GLORIASMITH1 | March 3, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Whoa there! I think someone mixed up the regular and the decaf this morning on you, Gloria.

I was cracking up at the your last sentence. No references for future employment for the kid? Sounds like he is a bit young to be pulled out of the work pool. Perhaps we should bring back the firing squads, too?

It's certainly an error in judgment. But this doesn't deserve a hang'em high attitude. The only people objecting so strenuously are the ones not involved in the situation.

Posted by: webmaster13 | March 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

to sailing65 and GLORIASMITH1 - with respect...

Take your meds.

Posted by: robl | March 3, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

As a pilot, I think that NYC area controllers, have one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, and are the best in the world at what they do. When I was five years old, I "drove" the elevator in the Washington Monument (when it was still manually operated), but do you think that I was really in control of it? People need to relax. The kid used proper phraseology (and yes, controllers in Lubbock, TX actually close out their ATC communications with "adios" as well), and did a great job. The kid was not "directing" anything.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | March 3, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely NOT OK to allow a child to give air traffic commands to pilots. It doesn't matter if his father was right beside him coaching him. It's not cute. It's not funny. It's not safe.

What's wrong with this picture? Plenty. How quickly people forget about the Russian Aeropostal pilot that allowed his kids to take the controls of his Airbus 310. The result - all 75 crew and passengers on board killed because the kids messed with the controls and the plane crashed. It shouldn't have. Daddy was there beside them coaching them through, but it crashed anyway. Where are people's brains these days?

Posted by: sjcsando | March 3, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

media attention is always the balance of optimal judgement, yet when a youngster is given oppertunity to experience live contact with a hero in aviation , the experience will remain a prominent motivation, a parent wishing the best is not to be exploited for this, if we adhere to rules ,then life is detined to involve robots, bu then many of are now not too differant from mechanized beings !!

Posted by: sideboom | March 3, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Get this kid a job at Metro! I bet he's at least smart enough to be able to dispatch trains better than Catoe!

Posted by: thetan | March 3, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

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