Airline Traffic Controller Bring kids to work

JL - posted on 03/04/2010 ( 14 moms have responded )




FAA Suspends Two After Kids Radio Pilots at JFK.

Authorities suspended the controller and a supervisor Wednesday after a recording of the radio calls was posted on the Internet, then reported by a Boston television station.

"This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA's own policies, but common-sense standards for professional conduct. These kinds of distractions are totally unacceptable," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. "This kind of behavior does not reflect the true caliber of our work force."

During his visit, the boy got to squeak out a few more instructions to pilots before signing off, including telling the crew aboard a departing Aero Mexico flight, "Adios, amigos."

On the recording, which lasts about a minute, the elementary-school-age boy appears to repeat instructions fed to him by his father. At no time does the child tell aircraft how to maneuver in flight.

At the time, pilots appeared delighted.

"I wish I could bring my kid to work," one said.

Nevertheless, the FAA said it has also barred unofficial visits by friends or relatives to FAA air traffic operational areas while it reviews its policies.

Radio transmissions between air traffic controllers and pilots are routinely streamed live on the Internet. A user of one popular Web site devoted to controller talk,, posted a recording of the child's radio calls not long after they happened on Feb. 16 – a date when many New York schoolchildren were on a midwinter break.

The boy made five transmissions to pilots preparing for departure, according to the recording.

"JetBlue 171, cleared for takeoff," the boy says in his first call. His father follows that up with a more detailed instruction for the aircraft, which was headed to Sacramento, Calif.

He then offers an explanation to pilots on the air: "This is what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school."

In a second exchange, the boy instructs the same JetBlue flight to contact departure controllers. The pilot responds: "Over to departure, JetBlue 171. Awesome job!"

There are a few more similar exchanges. A pilot laughs. The boy can be overheard giggling.

Based on the flight numbers called out during the exchange, the episode appears to have happened in the early evening, when JFK is often bustling with international flights.

The FAA offered scant detail on its investigation and would not reveal the name of the controller or supervisor. Control towers are highly secure areas, although the agency does sometimes give employees permission to bring their children for a tour.

The union representing air traffic controllers condemned the worker's 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.

LiveATC founder Dave Pascoe, a pilot and radio enthusiast, said he was sickened at the thought that the controller could be disciplined.

"I absolutely believe that this is being blown out of proportion," he said. "This is just a completely controlled situation. A child was being told exactly what to say."

He added: "I think it's just fantastic that this guy cared enough to take his kid to work. How many parents take their kids to work these days?"

The episode comes less than seven months after a controller at an airport in nearby Teterboro, N.J., was placed on leave for his actions in the moments leading up to a deadly crash between a helicopter and small plane over the Hudson River.

The controller was recorded joking on the phone with his girlfriend as he dispatched instructions to the doomed plane. He ended the call when he realized the plane had dropped out of radio contact, just seconds before the crash.

Personally, I am not comfortable with certain types of jobs having kids at work....and I include air traffic controller in this list of places where kids should not accompany mom and dad at work. I do think the people involved should definitely be reprimanded and a clear policy should be posted stating that children are not allowed in this work environment but after listening to the exchange I don't think the father in question should be fired......suspended for a few days yes, but fired no.


Jodi - posted on 03/06/2010




Actually, Kathy, the minimum age really has nothing to do with it.....It comes down to what is appropriate within the Occupations Health and Safety of the Workplace.

My children work in our business, AND we pay them, because they are legally allowed to (yes, even in Australia - if you own the business, you ARE allowed to employ your own children at any age), BUT, we have limits on their responsibilities because it would NOT comply with our insurances, or safety legislation, and would not be safe for either the customers OR our children.

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Jennifer - posted on 03/07/2010




It sounds kinda cute, and it sounds like people enjoyed it. However, I have no idea what the job of an air traffic controller is actually like so I really couldn't say if it was good or bad.

Jess - posted on 03/07/2010




I live in Qld, so I guess the laws are different here. A good family friend owned a business and they employeed a 12 year old, with his parents consent they confirmed with the authorities that it was OK to do it. That's who gave me the info that I mentioned below. There has to be some loop holes... take child actors for example.

Jodi - posted on 03/07/2010




No Jess, there is actually an age limit. In some states, you aren't allowed to hold a job during school hours under a certain age either. I know that here in ACT we are not allowed to employ anyone except our own children under the age of 14 years and 9 months.

Jess - posted on 03/07/2010




I believe the law on child employment basically just requires that the child can safely perform the job they are employed to do regardless of age.

[deleted account]

I heard about this in Australia too. I was shocked, because I think the father should have had ALL his attention on his job. I certainly would have minded if I'd been a passenger on one of the planes - the idea that an air-traffic controller wasn't concentrating on his job.
Strictly speaking, the minimum legal age for children to work in Australi is 14 years and 9 months, although this varies slightly from state to state.

Jess - posted on 03/05/2010




We heard it on the news here in Australia. Personally I don't see an issue with it. He was clearly being told what to say. He was only talking to planes on the ground ! Its not like he was instructing planes on how and where to land ! We let young children work in grocerie stores and no one bates an eye lid. Its easy enough to kill someone by putting the wrong two products in a bag together, you could find a reason why a child shouldn't go to anywork place. The pilots didn't seem to mind, a few even congradulated him on a job well done ! And the pilots repeat back everything they are told over the radio, so it didn't appear he made any mistakes with what he told them ! I wouldn't have minded even if I was a passanger on one of the planes !

Tah - posted on 03/04/2010




I think it's i can take my kids to work and and let them administer meds..the patients would be so excited as i talk my kids through some injections...of course i would be fired and have my license shredded, but o what fun....

Irene - posted on 03/04/2010




I saw this and was appalled. Forget the fact that even though I am terrified of flying, I do it pretty regularly. The last thing I need is for some fool in a VERY IMPORTANT SAFETY POSITION bringing his kiddies top work and allowing them to play with the lives of thousands. I don't think so.

Johnny - posted on 03/04/2010




My father was an air traffic controller and they were never even able to bring us into the tower except for a "family" day every year. I think this is terrible and I was shocked when I heard it. A controller has a huge responsibility and must monitor more than just one or two planes very closely. It demand your full attention, and I just can not see how you could do that job with your kids there.

Kelly - posted on 03/04/2010




I just posted on Sharon's thread on this topic, sorry I didn't see yours Joy...... I won't repeat what I said, but I will say I think its an extremely big deal and they should both (controller and supervisor) be fired. There is no way this should be brushed off. It's a BIG deal.....

Dana - posted on 03/04/2010




Oh, and I noticed that this article only speaks of the boy. His daughter was there the next day doing the same thing, again.

Dana - posted on 03/04/2010




I think it was definitely irresponsible. I'm also shocked by the "veteran" pilot that was on the Today Show stating that he didn't think it was that big of a deal. He went as far as to out himself by saying his son has been in the cockpit on the radio asking for clearance!!! DOLT!! Who volunteers that info when this is going down. This pilot and many other people keep saying that well....he wasn't running the show by himself, his/her dad was telling them what to say. Well come on... how many of us can be distracted by our kids, in a matter of seconds we can make a mistake. That's a lot of lives on the line.

I feel bad saying he should be fired, especially in this economy and good luck finding a job along the same lines when you've screwed up this much. What really needs to be taken care of is the callous attitude by so many people involved.

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