Outrage over kids in the control tower...

[deleted account] ( 8 moms have responded )

NEW YORK - An air traffic controller at one of the nation's busiest airport was suspended after his young son was permitted to give radio instructions to pilots. NBC News has learned the controller at Kennedy Airport brought his daughter into the tower the next night.

The man's daughter communicated with pilots twice, NBC News' Tom Costello reports.

His young son had several quick exchanges with pilots. The recorded clips were played repeatedly across a variety of news outlets on Wednesday.

Some of the exchanges appeared to delight pilots at the time.

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

But the Federal Aviation Administration suspended the controller and a supervisor Wednesday after recordings of the calls were posted on the Internet, then reported on 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."

On the recording, which lasts about a minute, the boy appears to repeat instructions fed to him by his father. At no time does the child tell aircraft how to maneuver or where they should go.

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 chatter between air traffic controllers and pilots is routinely streamed live on the Internet. A user of one popular Web site devoted to controller talk, LiveATC.net, 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.

In his last call, the youngster signs off, "Adios, amigo." The pilot responds in kind.

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 controller’s 8-year-old daughter was in the tower on Feb. 17 between 4 and 4:30 p.m.

"JetBlue 57 contact New York departure," the girl said. The pilot responded, saying "JetBlue 57 thank you, good day." The controller then adds, "That's the next generation of air traffic controller going here."

The FAA offered scant detail on its investigation and wouldn't 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.

Do you think this was appropriate? Should the employee have been let go?


View replies by

LaCi - posted on 03/18/2010




I think it was inappropriate/unprofessional. I don't think he should be fired, and I don't think there was any real danger. If you listened to the calls the kids were unable to make any calls that could result in anything dangerous happening- regardless of the fact that a pilot would know that if the call coming from a little kid over the radio didn't make sense something was wrong AND the fact that the father was still on the line and could hear and intervene in the conversation.

Amy - posted on 03/15/2010




I think it was blown out of proportion, however I also think that he should have thought about it before bringing his kid to work.

If company policy states that it's not ok, then I could see reason for termination. If he truly wanted to take him to work, then he should have cleared everything with the company first and made sure it was 100% safe for everyone. I think it's great he wanted to bring him, but seriously, make sure it's ok before just bringing the kid into work!

Keisha - posted on 03/15/2010




I think it was blown way out of proportion. The child's father was right there telling him what to say. It sounded like a child and was obvious to the pilots. If the child would have said something incorrectly the father could have immediately issued a correction. I also strongly believe, though I don't know the man, that he would not have allowed his child to do it if he thought he would screw it up in any kind of way.

[deleted account]

I know I would be so livid if I found out a toddler who can't even say his ABC's all the way through without messing up or tie his own shoes for that matter was directing my 20 ton air plain that I am a passenger on!!!!!!!! I guess I could let my 2 year old daughter drive me to work in the morning so I can finish getting ready on the way would make a bunch of sense too!!!!!

This man is a complete and utter (for lack of a better word) IDIOT! REALLY?!?!?!?!? What gives him the right to put MY life in his kids tiny hands?????? I pay $400.00 a ticket so I can have a TRAINED PROFESSIONAL direct my plain not his kid on a play date with daddy...have some respect for people who PAY his bills and send his kids to school...he got what he deserved!

Rose - posted on 03/14/2010




I heard this on the news the other day. How dumb the father was telling the child what to say what is the harm in that? I don't know what the big deal is. I think people are just trying to find something else to bitch about cause they have nothing better to do!! I think they should explain to the employee that it was against policy or not something to be done and maybe a week or so off work without pay.

April - posted on 03/14/2010




in the US..we have "bring your child to work day" every year in April (i think april). Bring your child to work on that designated day, show him/her the ropes and let them pretend but don't have them really do it. what if the child didn't say what his father told him to say? children have a mind of their own....

[deleted account]

Was this guy for real?!?!?!? This is serious stuff here. Yeah, definitely take your kid to work and show him the ropes but definitely do not have him do the job. I understand that there was a controller right behind him but the 8 year old wasn't entered into a training program. If he did happen to slip up and the controller didn't correct it in time, there could have been a huge accident on the runway. Now imagine if you were on one of those flights that the kid cleared for takeoff, and you just so happened to hear a little kid talking on the mic. Wouldn't you feel a little bit worried? If a CEO brought his kid to work you wouldn't see him having his son doing the presentation to a multi-million dollar operation. This is the same thing, except not only does the air traffic controller have to worry about the multi-million dollar operations hes doing, but he also has to worry about all the lives on board every aircraft. That kid could of said something wrong and that dad might have missed and could have killed 200 or so people!

**heavy sarcasm and snarkiness alert!** Some people say what could possibly go wrong? Maybe pilot distractions like kids giving air traffic control instructions at one of the world's busiest airports could help keep pilots on their toes. Maybe kids should have some fun operating the heavy cranes at building sites and ports, too, as long as their dads are right there at their elbows. Maybe cops' kids could help frisk perps (using a step stool for the high parts, of course). What about cardiac bypass surgery? If a child can cut their steak on their own, they can assist in cutting human tissue. check out the link below to see what it might look like:


in all seriousness this was one of the most irresponsible things that parent could do I mean HELLO you have hundreds of lives in your hands!!!!!

Amber - posted on 03/13/2010




i think it was blown out of proportion, they were told what to say that the parent was there to make sure everything went like it should. I would have been alittle scared being the parent with the child bc u r holding so many ppls lives in ur hands. but nothing went rong thankfully, so i believe that the company should have just set some ground rules about letting children come to work w/ them. and then may be a small suspension. but i do not belive that they should b fired!

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