Two air traffic controllers at New York’s JFK Airport are on leave following reports that one of them allowed their child to briefly direct aircraft. According to msnbc.com, “the child was brought to the tower by its parent, a controller, on Feb. 17. The controller and the controller’s supervisor at the time have been relieved of their duties.” Feb. 17 fell during a school vacation in New York City.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not released the age of the child, but believes him to be a school-age boy. The FAA has tapes of the boy making contacts with pilots, and, according to CBSNews, even clearing a JetBlue aircraft for departure.
Needless to say, there are a number of possible violations here, including access to the tower and having non-licensed individuals at the microphone. In a statement, the FAA said, “This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees.”
Air traffic control’s Director of Communication Doug Church told msnbc, “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.”
Now, it’s not like the kid was running the show for an extended period of time. It sounds like his parent let him on the microphone for a few short communications—a cute little surprise for the pilots on the runway, and a fun experience for the boy. But I can see this story quickly exploding beyond what it actually was: An innocent, albeit terribly, terribly ill-considered idea.
But that’s sort of the point: Did these guys know they were being recorded? Didn’t they realize they’d be in pretty hot water if someone caught on? What on earth were they thinking?
I’m at a loss. Readers, what do you think?