Audio indicates kid directed planes at NY airport

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
Link

Talk about bad judgement on the part of his father (?).

NEW YORK – A child apparently directed pilots last month from the air traffic control center at John F. Kennedy Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports, according to audio clips. The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it was investigating.

"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.
 

Disc Golfer

macrumors 6502a
Dec 17, 2009
582
0
I was the youngest pilot in Pan Am history. When I was four, the pilot let me ride in the cockpit and fly the plane with him. And I was four, and I was great and I would have landed it, but my dad wanted us to go back to our seats.
-Dwight Schrute
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,255
1,063
I am a pilot myself with the intent on going on to the airlines. While it was unprofessional and maybe poor judgement, he shouldn't be punished. From the sounds of it everything was well under control. The father was probably listening in and ready to step in if anything came up.
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors 604
May 28, 2005
7,986
535
Pennsylvania
It's like when a father takes his son into a state store (for those of us unlucky enough to live in a state that strictly controls the sale of liquor) and the son swipes his dad's credit card. It's not right in the strictest sense, but what are you going to do about it?

If having a kid in the tower was that big of a deal, the other flight controllers would have said something. The fact that no one seemed to care tells me that it's not that big of a deal.
 

bigjnyc

macrumors 603
Apr 10, 2008
6,279
3,351
It sounds like the kid was just repeating what the father was telling him to say I dont see the big deal. People tend to blow things out of proportion this kid was not really controlling airplane traffic he was just relaying messages to pilots for his dad.
 

JNB

macrumors 604
It's like when a father takes his son into a state store (for those of us unlucky enough to live in a state that strictly controls the sale of liquor) and the son swipes his dad's credit card. It's not right in the strictest sense, but what are you going to do about it?

If having a kid in the tower was that big of a deal, the other flight controllers would have said something. The fact that no one seemed to care tells me that it's not that big of a deal.
Somehow your analogy seems to miss the point.

As far as nobody caring, the FAA does, and it's their tower, and the controllers are their employees.

As a former controller myself, I can see both sides to the argument, but it boils down to the fact that the controllers aren't there for when things are working well, but when they are going wrong. Yes, the child was being supervised, told explicitly what to say with Dad right there, but it is still a clear violation, and Dad, his supervisor, and everyone else there should have known better. Those rules are there for very explicit reasons, and not subject to "Gee, it seemed OK at the time" determinations.

Just for icing on the entire matter, it was at JFK. Out of all the places to have this take place, they couldn't have picked a much worse one. And considering that the transmissions are broadcast in the clear for anyone to listen to and are recorded, the judgement exercised up there seems to be less than confidence-inspiring.
 

Gregg2

macrumors 603
May 22, 2008
5,811
344
Milwaukee, WI
I am a pilot myself with the intent on going on to the airlines. While it was unprofessional and maybe poor judgement, he shouldn't be punished. From the sounds of it everything was well under control. The father was probably listening in and ready to step in if anything came up.
Yabut, the father was supposed to be monitoring several flights at once, not several flights and his kid! Sounds like they're saying the kid should not have been allowed to be there in the first place, according to well-established FAA rules.
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,888
2,480
St. Louis, MO
I don't think the fact the kid said anything is a big deal, I'm sure a lot of training new controllers is "Okay, now say this:" which is basically what the dad did, but the fact the kid was up there is a big deal. How is he supposed to monitor his kid and the flights at the same time? When someone is being trained, I'm sure staffing is adjusted for the fact that two people are doing the job of one, but now when someone's kid is up there.
 

bradl

macrumors 601
Jun 16, 2008
4,006
11,823
I've been involved in a lengthy discussion about this over at the LiveATC.net forums. The actual clip of the kid controlling is there.

This really is a non-issue that is being over-sensationalized. The controller (the father) told everyone beforehand what was happening, so pilots would not be surprised or worried about someone broadcasting with a transceiver. In fact, everything the child said came from his father, and he did a hell of a lot better job than most controllers that I know!

It sucks that the guy in question is on administrative leave, but sucks even more that a wonderful day spent between a father and son on the equivalent of a 'take your kid to work day' is going to be soured with bureaucracy.

yg17 said:
How is he supposed to monitor his kid and the flights at the same time?
JFK Tower is a radar-certified facility. They have a set of nice screens there that show where all of the aircraft are, their callsigns, the whole lot. He could have his kid sitting on his lap and both of them looking at the monitor. They aren't just limited to binoculars, like some of the older towers (still) are.

BL.
 

arkitect

macrumors 603
Sep 5, 2005
5,910
5,465
Bath, United Kingdom
When I was four, the pilot let me ride in the cockpit and fly the plane with him.
Wasn't there a movie made about your experience?

Captain Oveur: Say, Lill' Dwight, you ever been in a cockpit before?
Lill' Dwight: No sir, I've never been up in a plane before.


but my dad wanted us to go back to our seats.
-Dwight Schrute
No wonder your Dad was concerned…
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,888
2,480
St. Louis, MO
Wasn't there a movie made about your experience?

Captain Oveur: Say, Lill' Dwight, you ever been in a cockpit before?
Lill' Dwight: No sir, I've never been up in a plane before.



No wonder your Dad was concerned…
Have you ever seen a grown man naked?
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,040
111
Canada, eh?
I was the youngest pilot in Pan Am history. When I was four, the pilot let me ride in the cockpit and fly the plane with him. And I was four, and I was great and I would have landed it, but my dad wanted us to go back to our seats.
Cute! When I was younger (probably 9-13 years old) I used to ask the flight attendant if I could go visit the cockpit when the plane was cruising at altitude. Way back when, that wasn't a problem. I remember one overseas flight where I sat in the cockpit watching the sun rise along with the rest of the crew. It was a beautiful sight, at that altitude it only takes a few moments for the horizon to be suddenly bathed in light. I had my camcorder with me, so I probably still have footage somewhere of that awesome moment.

One of many memorable experiences to go by the wayside in today's age of terrorism fears.
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
17,543
8,168
Colorado
Not the brightest move on the part of the controller. I think he should be suspended for a couple of days.
 

dmr727

macrumors G3
Dec 29, 2007
8,623
25
NYC
Safety probably wasn't compromised, so I tend to think the media is making a bigger deal out of this than it is, but the controller really should have known better. It's usually Not a Good Thing to publicly embarrass your employer like that. :eek:
 

niuniu

macrumors 68020
Ethically it's screwy to play with lives, and to be giving a lax regard to public safety is a PR disaster for the FAA especially when you consider the shocking amount of plane accidents in the past years.

I personally have no doubt that the kid was watched over, told what to say, and had he said something stupid that could have caused misdirection, that his dad, the operator would have easily and quickly rectified it.

But responsibility is a funny thing, if one guy starts messin around and gets away with it, it can snowball a bit, and I think maybe there isn't much margin for error in that environment. Probably best for the FAA to make a show and discipline the guy, but not to fire him or anything severe, just give him a wink and a rap on the knuckles and move on.
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
Oops. NBC is reporting that a second kid also delivered radio instructions to pilots.
 

chrono1081

macrumors 604
Jan 26, 2008
7,432
1,401
Isla Nublar
I'm not an air traffic controller but as an airline customer I can say this kind of stupidity scares the **** out of me. A plane, with a ton of people on board being controlled by the child at one of the busiest airports? What if the kid decided to say something different then what his dad told him?

Yet another reason why I avoid flying at all costs.
 

bradl

macrumors 601
Jun 16, 2008
4,006
11,823
I'm not an air traffic controller but as an airline customer I can say this kind of stupidity scares the **** out of me. A plane, with a ton of people on board being controlled by the child at one of the busiest airports? What if the kid decided to say something different then what his dad told him?

Yet another reason why I avoid flying at all costs.
His father's boss was also there, listening on frequency, and could override what was said at any moment. That sort of quick look is in place at just about every major tower in the country. Actually, by law, there has to be more than one controller in the cab, with the supervisor there as well. Trust me, safety was never compromised nor was ever an issue.

What sucks now is that for the next 90 days, there are to be no tours or visits to any ATC facility, even though we, the people, are paying for the facilities and the people working at them. As a pilot, let alone a taxpayer, that rather p****s me off. :mad:

BL.
 

dmr727

macrumors G3
Dec 29, 2007
8,623
25
NYC
I'm not an air traffic controller but as an airline customer I can say this kind of stupidity scares the **** out of me.
Relax. As an airline customer, there are at least a dozen things that should scare you a hell of a lot more than a Dad letting his son talk on the radio. ;)
 

dmr727

macrumors G3
Dec 29, 2007
8,623
25
NYC
I hope the mods give me a pass at double posting here - I have something else to say and I think it deserves a separate post.

The media is having a field day with ATC right now, and yeah, I don't condone what the controllers did. But as someone that interacts with all levels of ATC on a regular basis, there are few entities that I respect more than those guys that get me from point A to B safely. Are they perfect? Of course not, but they're more perfect than us dumb ass pilots, and they're really, really good at what they do.

I don't excuse what happened here, but American fliers are in very good hands. Don't let the media tell you any differently.