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
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