Air Controller Accused of Letting Kids Talk With Jets
By MELANIE TROTTMAN And ANDY PASZTOR
The Federal Aviation Administration suspended an air-traffic controller and his supervisor at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, after the controller allegedly allowed his 10-year-old son to radio instructions to pilots.
The FAA is investigating the matter, which occurred on the evening of Feb. 16 at one of the nation's busiest airports. It was reported by Boston television station WFXT-TV on Tuesday.
The day after his son was there, according to people familiar with the details, the same controller brought another youngster, his daughter, into the controller tower, and she also allegedly transmitted some radio messages to aircraft.
"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 Wednesday.
Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, an air traffic controllers union, 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."
According to FAA and air-traffic-controller personnel, the boy apparently amused and impressed tower staffers with his knowledge of air-traffic-control language. One person familiar with the incident said the controller was proud of how much he had taught his son and may have been showing him off.
In the recording, the boy's squeaky voice can be heard relaying instructions to the aircraft, apparently after hearing them from his father; at times, a controller jumped in with additional instruction. "That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school," a male voice in the tower said.
In one exchange, the child can be heard saying, "JetBlue 171 contact departure." The pilot responded: "Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job."