Kid in the Tower: Cute, Very Cute

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Just as I think judgment in the world of aviation can't get any more bizarre, along comes a story like the one that just trickled into my inbox. The headline on it: "Child Controls Air Traffic at Busy JFK."

The upshot of the story is that a JFK tower controller evidently brought his kid into the cab on an off-school day and decided it would be fun to have him work the radio on the local frequency. You can hear the audio here and judge for yourself.

This kind of thing is what's known in poker as betting on the come. You take an action or make a decision and hope things go your way. Or maybe it should be more accurately described as betting without a clue. The real risk of doing something like this, of course, is how the mainstream media handles it.

The typical print or TV reporter doesn't understand that talking on the radio is not the same as controlling traffic. You therefore should not expect the story to be pitched as an isn't-this-cute soft feature but the kind sky-is-falling disaster story that fuels modern media. ("Hey, Mommy, I got to talk on the radio today...hey...why's Dad on the TV?")

The FAA understands this and so does NATCA. Rather than suggest that the public ought to learn to accept such innocent shenanigans as being basically harmless, both backed away from this story like the GOP from socialized medicine, decrying the controller's lack of professionalism.

But was it really? Was there real risk here? Probably not much. The pilots on the frequency seem to get a kick out of it. It's obvious that the controller had to coach the kid on exactly what to say and how to say it and ahead of that, he had to make the control decisions. But any controller who tries this better not screw it up. If it transpires that the brief distraction of coaching an unauthorized controller causes him to miss something that leads to an operational error or an accident, hell to pay doesn't even describe what will follow.

So, my take on this little tempest is this: Cute, but not worth the consequences. The easy checklist for a controller would be to ask if something I'm thinking of doing would cause my boss, or his boss or his boss to do a rug dance behind a door labeled "Administrator," give it a pass.

THURSDAY A.M. UPDATE--When you're under trial-by-media, you can only hope your court ends in one day. No such luck. One morning news show played the second day story hard, revealing that the controller had done this not once, but twice. Man-in-the-street interviews revealed a split decision. One woman said it was a good take-your-kid-to-work example (laudable) another noted that air traffic control is perceived as a safety critical job; no screwing around. (True.)

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Click here to listen to the audio (MP3 file)

Comments (195)

I have listened to the ATC tape and I can assure everyone that at no time air safety was compromised. In this country we are blessed with the most professional and highly dedicated group of air traffic controllers. As an airline pilot who has dealt with these folks on a daily basis for four decades, I can unequivocally say I trust them with my life. This controller was in control at all times and could have stepped in at any moment if necessary. The kid actually did a great job and repeated dad's instructions without any hesitation or lack of clarity. Hopefully every body will lighten up and support the real safety issues facing our airline and air traffic control system instead of asking for this guy's head.

Captain Ross "Rusty" Aimer (UAL Ret.) CEO Aviation Experts, LLC http://www.AviationExperts.com

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 3, 2010 1:47 PM    Report this comment

I agree that in our bizarre media-run world this was a risky action. Take the potential media circus out of the situation and really, is it a big deal? I would rather have a kid in the tower relaying calls(with Dad presumably paying close attention and trying to look good) than two pilots kvetching about their work schedules and losing track of where they are going any time. I think we (not us here, just We in general) are taking the wrong things seriously.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | March 3, 2010 1:54 PM    Report this comment

I’ve listened to the tapes and I would have questioned the Ground Controller with a "Say Again" as I would have thought this a bogus transmission from off the airport... After dad’s qualifier, I would have played along.

As a private pilot, with a little over 1500 hours and my share of bad calls from ATC, my "Panty Meter" is always poised for a "Wad Alert"...

Posted by: David Spencer | March 3, 2010 3:22 PM    Report this comment

Was this just a dumb idea, or was it illegal. In the ops specs for a 135 operation I worked for, non-crewmembers were prohibited from talking on the radio or manipulating flight controls - I wonder if this applies to ATC as well.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 3, 2010 5:16 PM    Report this comment

The FAA stated that saying 'Adios' to the Mexican pilot was a violation of protocol. C'mon, are they really serious? I realize that the FAA doesn't want to get near this issue with a ten foot pole. However, Dad was obviously in charge of the situation and the pilots involved had fun with it. Yes, probably not worth it, but I hope the kid walked away proud of his Dad.

Posted by: Steve Bowling | March 4, 2010 12:10 AM    Report this comment

In my opinion, there was no danger involved due to the kid's professionalism in not making any errors that had to be corrected...which would have been done instantly by the father. The media and talk show attention draw more attention than warranted and force the FAA to react. The hubbub about it is as inane as the six year old who was arrested for sexual harrassment for slapping a female playmate on the bottom...or the kid who was sued for hitting a friend with a snowball that caused no injury! Lighten up, America!

Posted by: DONALD SMITH | March 4, 2010 4:58 AM    Report this comment

Much ado about nothing, again. Personally, I think the 24 hour news cycle produces non journalism all the time. 20 or 30 years ago, this might have made a newscast as an atta boy for dad, for participating in take your child to work day. Now it's just fodder for the zombie press. Does this BS never stop?

Posted by: Rick Girard | March 4, 2010 5:16 AM    Report this comment

I think the media is carrying this way to far. Way to go dad for taking your son to work and showing him what you do. Obviously the pilots who recieved the instructions had no concerns. The media should be reporting on the millions of dads who don't take their kids to work and don't spend the extra time with them. Don't forget to give your daughters a shot at it also!

Posted by: joe heyman | March 4, 2010 5:25 AM    Report this comment

LiveATC is a double edged sword. More exposure to the profession, as well as more scrutiny by no nothing public. Previously it wouldve taken a foia request to get those tapes. Wonder who's the editorial ass clown who thought it'd be a great story instead of a feel good human interest story about inspiring yr kids to be something.

Posted by: Alexander Wolf | March 4, 2010 5:29 AM    Report this comment

The professionals involved in the tower and the aircraft, and Avweb readers, understand that the situation was always under control. However, the general public, which includes non-aviation journalists, do not and could not. So while you may deplore it, the reaction of "OMG a kid doing ATC", from the general public who get nervous at any unexpected aspect of flying, is quite natural.

So too are the reactions of the FAA and NATCA, who do understand the public's reactions.

This is in a totally different area to being sued over snowball throwing.

Posted by: Unknown | March 4, 2010 5:48 AM    Report this comment

I think this has been blown "way out of proportion". The kid didn't have any "control" over aircraft. He was simp[ly repeating what his father told him to tell the airplanes. I say Bravo to the kid and job well done. Quite frankly I have dealt with some ATC personnel who did talk as clearly or as confidently as this child did. I have been in the tower at ORD, and was able to assist in some functions at the time. I was 12 when I did it, so it was about 25 years ago. And at the time, ORD was the world's busiest airport. Leave the kid alone, find something else to gripe about, like Obama.

Posted by: John Kane | March 4, 2010 5:49 AM    Report this comment

C'mon America lighten up. From what I've heard from the tapes Dad coached the kid perfectly. He was more understandable than some of the French controllers I've dealt with, and most of the other non english speaking, aviation english speaking controllers elsewhere. Believe it or not there are slow times even at JFK and I'm sure Dad did not have the kid firing off rapid fire commands during a big push. If he violated some arcane rule, let him know and let everyone else know not to do it again. Good controllers, and this one sounded like he is, are to expensive an item to toss aside for a harmless prank. Pleae America......get over it.

Posted by: Dennis Taylor | March 4, 2010 5:51 AM    Report this comment

Those were perhaps the safest transmissions ever made at JFK from the tower. I'm sure the Father coached the son and triple checked everything before he let the kid talk. It does come across as unprofessional but in the FAA's own words. "Safety was never compromised". It would be nice to hear NATCA and the FAA say "We have spoken to the Controller and it won't happen again" and "Safety was never compromised". End of story.

Posted by: Ross Budd | March 4, 2010 5:53 AM    Report this comment

We all need to communicate with the FAA and support the controller. This guy could soon be selling hot dogs on the street corner with his son putting on the mustard.

Posted by: David Affinito | March 4, 2010 6:04 AM    Report this comment

The FAA controller broke the law. No question about that. In the day and age of hightened awareness on anything aviation and the media frenzy that has to be expected in such cases the behavior of the controller is absolutely unacceptable. His contract should get terminated.

Posted by: Thomas H. Endriss | March 4, 2010 6:25 AM    Report this comment

The most critical clearance, "position and hold", was always handled by the father. That would seem to indicate that he had a "limit" to what he would let the kid do. The rest of the communication, "Cleared for takeoff" and "Contact Departure" are just "minor" follow-on commands that the professional pilots were expecting based on their actions and the actions of the jet that just departed.

Posted by: David Thigpen | March 4, 2010 6:28 AM    Report this comment

The FAA is hiring controllers right out of high school now. No kidding, my daughters school had a job fair, and they had a table. So this could be considered on the job training. A few years, and that kid might be working the tower. At no time was there any danger, and the kid will remember this for the rest of his life.

Posted by: Jim Esrey | March 4, 2010 6:41 AM    Report this comment

The thing is this. If the child were older, with a deeper more mature voice none of this would be in the news. Traffic would have been controlled by the controller while a non controller made transmissions. If some operational error took place, the discretion of the controller comes into question. Obviously the controller had confidence in this person's (child or not) ability to repeat commands. If some foolishness took place as a result of this the controller's judgement or assessment of the person repeating his commands on the radio was bad. This would result in the controller taking the mic and passing the intended instruction. Simple enough. This controller wouldn't ever consider doing this when traffic is busy or complex I am absolutely sure. It would too risky The pilots would never stand for it either.

That aside. While the act of having somebody who is not a controller work the radios injects a degree of risk. Aviation professionals are always assessing risk. I have seen worse things, unacceptable things take place in relation to the injection of risk when controllers work, which makes this issue seem like "childs play" forgive the pun. You can't imagine. But the public need not know about that I suppose.

The controller have ensured that the traffic was not heavy and that it flowed the it would as if he were actually working the traffic and guess why... He WAS ACTUALLY WORKING the taffic, most definitely.

Posted by: Sheldon Mitchell | March 4, 2010 6:43 AM    Report this comment

Whoa! "Was this just a dumb idea, or was it illegal. In the ops specs for a 135 operation I worked for, non-crewmembers were prohibited from", I figured we'd hear from some pilot that needs the Federal Government or some Federal entity to tell him when to breathe or sit on the can. Take your Ops book, look in section three and find a sense of humor.

Posted by: Alex Mello | March 4, 2010 6:44 AM    Report this comment

The thing is the media needs to sell a story, and bad news and negative press sells more than the good stuff. The society within which we live is conditioned to see the negatives and not the positive. So therein lies the real issue. Oh don't we like to panic and put up red flags. Tisk tisk... I just hope that good sense prevails and the controller has a record of great work to back him up as the authorities try to look good for the public.

Posted by: Sheldon Mitchell | March 4, 2010 6:45 AM    Report this comment

Firing the controller and his supervisor is 'way too heavy', a slap on the wrist and 90 day supension is enough. Lighten up FAA! Give the controller a 709 ride or equivalent for controllers and inform the media to shut the h--- up and concentrate on something important like putting Obamacare on hold!

Posted by: Bruce Urquhart | March 4, 2010 7:04 AM    Report this comment

Give me a break. I can’t tell you how many events I have supported to where children are up in the cap of the fire truck, young adults in ride a longs with the police, using potentially dangerous tools to help create the new recreation center at the City park. By exposing kids to real life adventures leads to self confidence and maybe the catalyst to that lifts this individual to great achievements for themselves and society. Distractions are a part of any job, and yes if by some ugly chance there was an emergency that just happened to coincide at the very moment there would be hell to pay, however with out risk there would be no achievement and the human race would not exist. This was obviously a very controlled situation and did not effect safety. I support the dad 100% in expanding his sons horizons.

Posted by: brad stahl | March 4, 2010 7:18 AM    Report this comment

OMG OMG OMG The sky is falling! Shame on the news media for pandering to the lowest common denominator - the intelligence of the general public! I suppose my father should be arrested for letting me sit on his lap and practice driving our car in our driveway when I was a kid. Or maybe I should be violated for letting my kids manipulate the controls of our aircraft. Oh wait, I'm a CFI, whew that was close! As a professional pilot who deals with JFK on a regular basis, I applaud this controller for sharing his passion with his son and hope his voice will not disappear "from the radar". Just remember, When it comes to the public and the FAA, "You can't argue with STUPID!"

Posted by: Florian Kapp | March 4, 2010 7:33 AM    Report this comment

To the FAA - 'Lighten up, Francis!'. A small reprimand may be in order, but no doubt this controller is a hard working, valuable asset to our ATC system, and it doesn't hurt to have a few controllers out there with an actual sense of humor...

Posted by: Bruce Jackson | March 4, 2010 7:35 AM    Report this comment

I'm a doctor. If I take my kid to work and let her listen to a patient's chest with my stethescope, am I letting her practice medicine and dictate management of that patient's health care? Be serious! What a great oportunity for that kid to appreciate how great his dad is. Instead of being "sanctioned", that controller should be made an example of what is good in parenthood.

I let my 8 year old keep the wings level in cruise flight. She loved it. Was I jepardizing the safety of all on board and any other aircraft near me? Or was I still in control having a great moment with my daughter?

Posted by: Douglas Borgo | March 4, 2010 7:40 AM    Report this comment

I think the media is stretching on this one trying to make it something that its not. I agree that it was probably poor judgement by the controller but he was still in control at all times. The last headline in this one will probably be "Controller fired after letting his two kids talk to planes but FAA hires two new controllers!"

Posted by: Tom Mio | March 4, 2010 7:42 AM    Report this comment

It has to be tough being a journalist? I am not sure I could get so righteously indignant so many times in one day about so many trivial matters.

This is a trivial matter.

Posted by: Richard Jenkins | March 4, 2010 7:47 AM    Report this comment

A particular egregious error in the reporting was the suggestion that the father would have had to stumble to get to the mic if there was a problem. I have visted ATC and have friends working in ATC. They have dual-control mics that have a "trainer" mode for just such an event.

Apparently, this didn't happen at a particularly busy time, and it wasn't like the announcements were time-critical heading, speed changes or collision threats. Cleared for Take Off. Contact Departure. Adios.

This is much ado about nothing.

Posted by: Jim Smith | March 4, 2010 7:47 AM    Report this comment

The FAA bosses, as usual, are "solving" the wrong problem. The kids were great but why is there no daycare for a controller who suddenly finds he is the dad-in-charge on a workday?

Posted by: H. Michael Newman | March 4, 2010 7:53 AM    Report this comment

As pilots, we all know it's ridiculously easy for anyone to buy an aviation-band handheld radio and sit on the airport perimeter listening...and transmitting. If a handheld transceiver was used close to the departure end of the runway where the airplanes are queued, yet far away from the tower's receiving antenna...well, the possibilities for mischief are apparent.

What baffles me about this whole thing is that the controller - and the pilots - didn't consider this and question their actions, both in transmitting flight-safety commands, and in receiving and acting upon them. I'd like to think I'd have been cynical, but would I have? We're a trusting lot, us pilots...

I'm with Paul. Better to think about what it'll look like on the front page of NYTimes before you do it, and dollop it with a healthy dose of cynicism. Then think about it a couple times more. - GA

Posted by: Greg Amy | March 4, 2010 7:54 AM    Report this comment

Given the delicate nature of aviation these days, it was very poor judgement on both the controller and supervisor's part to let this occur.

Had I been in the cockpit on the receiving end, I probably would have asked to have clearance repeated by the actual controller on duty and let it go.

Safety issue? Probably not. Lack-of-judgement issue? Without a doubt.

Posted by: Scott Rodriguez | March 4, 2010 7:58 AM    Report this comment

Great comments guys except for one.'Endriss" This is strictly the non-flying medias way of hyping the story. Talking on the radio is not controlling traffic and the kid will remember this for the rest of his life and be proud of his dad.I agree with Dennis. The FAA should tell everybody concerned that while cute, this was dumb given the possible consequences and to make sure this does not happen again. Given the FAA and the current politically correct administration I don't hold out much hope.The Obama administration will want to show how concerned they are with public safety and make an example of these people.They will probably add the fact that nobody under 18 is allowed in the tower. The media will,of course, hail this as the administration acting tough. Too bad.

Posted by: John Gomes | March 4, 2010 8:04 AM    Report this comment

I learned how to use the radio flying with my dad. It was all coached and supervised . If it was something other than a routine frequency change, altitude change, etc. dad handled it. There is too much"never expose a child to the adult world" going around.

Posted by: Braden mccredie | March 4, 2010 8:11 AM    Report this comment

... slow news day i guess. i'm proud of dad for being a dad! any good pilot , or captain, anticipates his radio, and would verify anything not expected. good job kid, and dad. FAA, union, newswires: blow it out your butts.

Posted by: Jim Epting | March 4, 2010 8:12 AM    Report this comment

The kids did a great job. Their dad was in control and he made a memory for them that will last a lifetime. I have flown into lots of airports in my forty plus years avation career and wish all controllers were as easy to understand as they were.

Posted by: AL DODDS | March 4, 2010 8:15 AM    Report this comment

Sorry fellows. Things used to be very loose lipped forty years ago. But, especially since 9/11 certain aspects of aviation have to be on a more serious context. Hey, I love kids and wish things could be more relaxed. This kind of behavior on the part of a air traffic controller at a major airport is unacceptable. It demonstrates a lack of professionalism and discipline on the job. Play these games in your backyard with a wooden airplane and a port-a-potty tower, but not in such a serious enviroment where a casual nature can lead to a series of other undisciplined errors, and lead to a serious mishap. As a retired commercial airline pilot and check airman, I can relate such mishaps that were initiated by such an atmosphere and a lack of directed focus. We were not training a graduate air traffic controller under the supervision of a skilled backup instructor. Tenerife and others are examples of simple communication errors, and disasterous reults. In summary, the JFK controller made an error in judgment in allowing his son to converse on the radios and should be necessarily reprimanded. I am glad that it only turned out to be an incident. And, I wish it could be viewed otherwise.

Posted by: thomas carey | March 4, 2010 8:18 AM    Report this comment

I thought the kid did a good job. They ought to give him a job instead of suspending his father. George Shanks

Posted by: George Shanks | March 4, 2010 8:18 AM    Report this comment

at no time was air traffic safety compromised - why doesn’t everyone just get a grip!!! zheees!!! - as if all of us pilots haven’t had an encounter with a really childish controller that really was endangering lives!!! and the same goes for pilots too, there are plenty of immature ones out there – the system is fine – don’t break it – I’d be more worried if a child was answering the phone at the FSS

Posted by: Kal Rotenberg | March 4, 2010 8:21 AM    Report this comment

Wife was an Air Traffic Controller at a VFR tower in the midwest (now retired)... Took our kids to work with her often... Wasn't unheard of for the kids to talk on the freq... Just wasn't unusual in those days... Happened frequently with many controllers (and sups)... Pilot's loved it! No foul... No harm... It's a big deal only with the uninformed press... So sad...

Posted by: Steve Wilson | March 4, 2010 8:21 AM    Report this comment

The media puts a spin on everything. They do not report news, they make news. I agree with Jim Smith's comment. "This is much ado about nothing". This young boy may be inspired to become a controller.

Posted by: Gerry Ventrella | March 4, 2010 8:21 AM    Report this comment

... slow news day, and very poor journalism at that. what else is new?!

Posted by: Jim Epting | March 4, 2010 8:23 AM    Report this comment

Good grief. After the fact, someone sees an opportunity to make a big deal out of something that obviously didn't bother those that were knowledgeable and involved. What are we becoming? Two major earthquakes, 57 armed conflicts in the world, pending financial disaster, major attempts to control our health-care, many proposing limiting constitutionally guaranteed rights and we have to put up with this - as news?

Posted by: Darrel Watson | March 4, 2010 8:31 AM    Report this comment

Come on! Maybe not the smartest idea ever but it's not worthy of all the uproar. Give the perp's daddies a written reprimand and move on. This is a tempest in a teapot! Retired Pilot in Tucson

Posted by: Robert Dwyer | March 4, 2010 8:33 AM    Report this comment

How can one send a comment to the FAA to support this controller? This is completely out of proportion!

Posted by: Alfredo Perilla | March 4, 2010 8:36 AM    Report this comment

AW! What's the big deal? If the FAA investigated each and every transmission that was not "by the book," the'd have to ask the FBI for help. But, it is most interesing to compare these comments with those following the story in the WSJ; i.e. pilots vs. non-pilots. P.S. What was heard on the JFK tower freq when the Concorde last departed for Heathrow?

Posted by: Sam Brown | March 4, 2010 8:37 AM    Report this comment

Was safety ever compromised? No. If anything, the usually bland and scripted communications associated with take off and departure instructions were made more interesting and enjoyable for a few moments.

While in the air for two hours yesterday I received two botched clearances from a senior approach/departure controller, both of which were not corrected by the controller. I also heard several other "bad" instructions during that time period.

At least the young voice on the radio had the clearances correct, well enunciated, and appropriately spoken. Good job, young fellow.

It's well known that the FAA has controller staffing shortages. This young fellow, with proper coaching and supervision, did a fine job. The press is certainly digging deep to find stories to get the general public riled up. This is a perfect example of blowing things out of proportion. Shame on the news media!

Posted by: Alan von Ahlefeldt | March 4, 2010 8:38 AM    Report this comment

I think this was harmless (as long as it was clear this was not an off-airport twx), cute, and not a smart thing to do at JFK International because of the chance of exactly what has occurred (media/politico feeding frenzy). Do it at some VFR tower somewhere (where I'm sure it's been done more than a few times). When I was a collegiate CFI one particular controller at our tower used to let me work simple VFR pattern traffic now & then under his VERY close monitoring/supervision. Not copacetic, but it sure was fun.

Posted by: Gary Allen | March 4, 2010 8:40 AM    Report this comment

These people need to "get a life". My dad took me to work when I was 13 years old and let me fly the aircraft, a 40 ton military transport, it lead to a tremendous 40 year career in avaition.

Posted by: Ted Norman | March 4, 2010 8:41 AM    Report this comment

I am a flight instructor and taken my students in groups to the local tower to observe operations. The skill of these controllers is amazing and what happened here with this Son is no more that talking and chewing gum at the same time. The problem is the media has made it political now and unfortunately some heads may roll. Thank you controllers, your the best.

Posted by: william price | March 4, 2010 8:51 AM    Report this comment

I am a flight instructor and taken my students in groups to the local tower to observe operations. The skill of these controllers is amazing and what happened here with this Son is no more that talking and chewing gum at the same time. The problem is the media has made it political now and unfortunately some heads may roll. Thank you controllers, your the best.

Posted by: william price | March 4, 2010 8:51 AM    Report this comment

D. Spencer: "I’ve listened to the tapes and I would have questioned the Ground Controller with a "Say Again" as I would have thought this a bogus transmission from off the airport..."

Indeed, that's where the main storyline sends your thinking to as to what happened, mine anyway, until you read the piece. Then you've got to back up from your initial negative reaction. Or continue to follow the writer/editor's lead.

Posted by: Mike Holshouser | March 4, 2010 8:52 AM    Report this comment

One of my best childhood memories was going to work with my dad on the railroad and getting to blow the horn on the train. Maybe it was wrong and not quite as important as an ATC. So lets don't do this again and get over it.

Posted by: Unknown | March 4, 2010 8:53 AM    Report this comment

More of the same......dad brings his son to work and the kid gets to repeat a few words on the frequency. The Feds are in CYA mode and the media runs to 'stir the pot'. So again, we feed the lawyers instead of making the correct decision to take the time to educate the public to the fact that no harm was done and more parents should spend time with their kids!

Posted by: Bill Swaim | March 4, 2010 8:54 AM    Report this comment

OK, give the controller a slap on the wrist and tell him not to do it again. Then go on to more important business.

Posted by: John Dill | March 4, 2010 8:54 AM    Report this comment

the kid was just relaying instructions, not controlling traffic. Obviously not a problem for the pilots (who actually matter). As an ex AF ATC (tower/gca) I've witnessed plenty of trainees do the same thing, myself included. As a supporting member of NATCA, if the job is so critical; then give controllers the money and benefits they deserve!

Posted by: Gerald Flood | March 4, 2010 8:56 AM    Report this comment

Today, I read that the FAA is not allowing any "unofficial" visitors in any tower or radar control rooms. I assume this means anywhere, and its for the period of time of the investigation. In todays world, making mountains out of mole-hills appears to be the way to "make news".

Posted by: Glenn Darr | March 4, 2010 8:58 AM    Report this comment

Now this is how far we have come, I am more concerned about the people that didn't do their Job when the "Fruit of the Boom Bomber" broke every protocal paying cash for one way tickets with no baggage, while on a terrorist list, etc. This kid at least carried out his "supervised and coached" task perfectly. Sounded clearer and more pleasant than some I have talked to. It is clear that the controller and his supervisor had it all under control...slap their wrist and move on.

Posted by: Chuck West | March 4, 2010 8:58 AM    Report this comment

I go with the "lighten-up" crowd. Listen to the tape. It was much-needed relief to the inevitable stress at LGA. The adult controller (and the child) were professional and correct, the pilots understood their clearances, and enjoyed it. C'mon. C'mon!

Posted by: Anthony Werner | March 4, 2010 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Good for the controller!!! Every one of us should take every opportunity to make our families more involved with what we do. There was no compromise to safety, no delay and absolutely no negative impact to the system. Let the parasites and pundits who perform no useful function make all of the self serving noise they want. The people who make the system work did right and should be applauded.

Posted by: Joe Patterson | March 4, 2010 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Congratulation for the ATC guy for being a Dad and not dumping the kids off at a day care. The national PTA office should give him an award. As for as the DOT secretary, FAA, the news media and the non aviation types there was no safety issue. Period. Tom Spann , Pilot, retired.

Posted by: tom spann | March 4, 2010 9:18 AM    Report this comment

As a retired ATC (ZNY, ZKC), when there were visitors we often allowed the guest to give a few instructions on the radio. Controllers are always giving training to upgrading controllers and more often than not have to coach them what to say. What harm was done. Absolutely none! Except management acting badly. Wow, that kid has a month of bragging rights. Lighten up!!!

Posted by: jerry govesky | March 4, 2010 9:19 AM    Report this comment

I asked our small group study (non-pilots) last night what they thought - most mirrored the statements parroted by people the news interviewed - hysterical, nonsense. Professional pilots (I'm 40 years into the industry) say it's a non-issue. I felt the kids were very good and made not one single mistake. They were coached and I suspect it was done at night in a low traffic volume period - supervised to be sure. Control of the tower was never in question and safety was not compromised. It is simply another excuse for critics to go nuts over a minor issue with network news there to encourage hysteria.

How about concentrating on things that really matter...

Posted by: Dennis Breslin | March 4, 2010 9:19 AM    Report this comment

I don't think I see a comment that's mentioned this, so I will:

Remember the loss of a Russian airbus in the 1990s, caused by the pilot letting his kids (son & daughter) take a turn 'steering' the aircraft when it was on autopilot? The pilot wasn't drunk or stupid - he just thought it was risk-free, when it wasn't (the first officer was in his seat monitoring the aircraft throughout ... not quite well enough, it turns out).

This stunt falls into the same category for me. The controller's job is to remove risk, not add it in increments he personally finds acceptable.

We have all, I expect, done something really dumb without thinking through what the worst case consequences could be (either in career terms, or in terms of lives lost).

It seems to me like there's an obvious risk factor in damaging the sterile cockpit environment in the aircraft that the child talked to. Probably you shouldn't be starting your takeoff roll exchanging amused looks about the kid making controller transmissions.

Not worth it, from any perspective that I can see.

It's also not worthy of the 'chicken little' media response (obviously). What should happen is that the controller is cautioned, and every controller in the US is informed in no uncertain terms that dire penalties will follow any recurrence.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | March 4, 2010 9:21 AM    Report this comment

The general public,FAA, NATCA, media all have their panties in a wad! Give the controller and his son THANKS for job well done. The kid did a great job and never missed a beat in his transmissions to any aircraft. Everyone should know that his Dad had told him what to say and NO ONE was in any danger. Lighten up folks!

Posted by: Terry Tripp | March 4, 2010 9:27 AM    Report this comment

After having suffered the slings & arrows of outrageous english from some major airport towers in Spain I would have welcomed the clear and cute delivery of this pre-teenage budding congtroller.

Posted by: saul hyman | March 4, 2010 9:29 AM    Report this comment

20 or 30 years ago, this would have been lauded as an inspiring moment for a child to participate in. What a great memory for a child to carry into adulthood, and possibly an inspiration for her future! The flying community at large (and us wannabe's) understand. What a sad, morose time we live in today...

Posted by: Barry Babin | March 4, 2010 9:33 AM    Report this comment

This a complete overreaction by the press, FAA, and union. I am SO discouraged these people can't stand up for the controller by telling the pollyanna, sky-is-falling media and public that this is a non-issue.

Sorry but this is not even close to Tenerife. The kid's work was supervised by the controller and there was no harm or potential for harm.

Imagine if the controller put a hot cup of coffee on his work desk - OMG! He could spill it and that would be a distraction. Controllers should be restricted to cold drinks from now on.

Focus on something that needs attention, not stuff that should be applauded.

Way to go Mr. Controller! Wish you were my dad!

Posted by: Kenneth Brown | March 4, 2010 9:33 AM    Report this comment

With over 30,000 hrs and 35 years with a major carrier, I see nothing wrong with the dad letting the boy do what he did..Nothing dangerous was done and the Dad had complete control of the situation....IT WAS ALL DONE IN FUN and shouldn't even be discussed any furhter..Of course there will always be the DO-GOODERS who will bitch about anything they can...

Posted by: John Clark | March 4, 2010 9:35 AM    Report this comment

I read the comments here from a group of professionals who understand aviation and ATC. The rest of the world who has no idea about the inner workings of our profession is asking for blood! I did 6 or 7 interviews yesterday trying to defend this controller. One TV station never aired my segment because my views were contrary to theirs. I guess the "family value" crowd would rather have their kids follow Kardashians as role models! Captain Ross "Rusty" Aimer (UAL Ret.) CEO Aviation Experts, LLC http://www.AviationExperts.com

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 4, 2010 9:37 AM    Report this comment

I saw this on the news yesterday. My reaction then as now is OMG, you have got to be kidding me. If the FAA doesn't have more to be concerned with than some guy letting his kid say SPECIFIC things on the radio then we should have had NexGen implemented years ago.

I am sure that the controller would have taken over had there been any concern. Who knows, maybe that one brief exposure to something "cool" will put this kid on the path to a new generation of controllers.

And I guess it was a slow news day. This shouldn't have even made the local news, much less the national outlets. GIMME A BREAK!

Posted by: Mark Hammack | March 4, 2010 9:37 AM    Report this comment

Poor judgement was demonstrated by the controller in my opinion. Bringing the child up to observe, listen, and learn at one of the world's busiest facility, JFK, would have been ok. If they had been at a small reliever or even Class C airport, perhaps ok there.

Posted by: Michael Mittman | March 4, 2010 9:40 AM    Report this comment

Maybe if the kid had paid some mini-dues to NATCA, they would have had their attorneys and back him up...I understand the controller and supervisor (got him too) have been suspended.

Posted by: Chuck West | March 4, 2010 9:46 AM    Report this comment

I'm an air traffic controller, and being a human, I've had daydreams about funny stuff I could do on the radio, but apart from banter with pilots on a quiet freq, I'm aware of my responsibilities and legal obligations (at least here in Canada) and I've never let somebody untrained talk to pilots. Yes, there is overreaction, no, safety was not affected but yes, after the scrutiny in the media about the Hudson river collision and other incidents... maybe the FAA and NATCA are right not to say "lighten up guys, it's not a problem". Now if the controller gets suspended, THAT is overreaction too.

Posted by: Bernard Morazain | March 4, 2010 9:47 AM    Report this comment

Sad to see this lead the news with so many real problems going on.

Posted by: Rymann Winter | March 4, 2010 9:51 AM    Report this comment

It sounds like the kids were well versed and well coached,if anything went wrong the controller had time to correct it,I see nothing wrong except next time tell your boss first. If I had been a pilot on one of those flights I would have gotten a kick out of it.

Posted by: Jim Pavlovsky | March 4, 2010 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Wow, slow news day. Enough said about the press coverage of this event. I am so glad that Orville and Wilber didn't have to deal with such narrow visioned, short sighted and jello backboned individuals or we may not have been flying at all. Now to the the FAA ... Whatever happened to backbone and supporting and backing your empoyees? Have we all forgotten the management technique of taking the employee into a closed office and stating (in this case) "ok we support mentoring your children and we know that he will be a great controller someday, however we can't have that kind of press so lets not ever let that happen again, now get out there and keep up the great work!" Then the supervisor and his or her boss walk out to the greet the media, with stern looks on thier faces and state, "the controller has been reprimanded and the situation has been dealt with, now we have to get back to the serious matter of controlling air traffic, thanks for coming and have a nice day" "Oh by the way the Government just took away another one of our basic rights, you guys may want to check that out for tomorrows news." The situation would have been handled, the press would have had thier "blood", john "Q" public would have been reassured and pilots and controllers would have had a little bit more fun and enjoyment sucked out of thier jobs. All of this paranoidism could have been avoid with a bit of backbone!

Posted by: Richard Stehmeier | March 4, 2010 9:54 AM    Report this comment

All seriousness aside, if one removes the fuzziness of the occassion, it really isn't standardized and a warning is in order, due to the road to Hell is paved... Even though the Nation was not in danger, a repeat from somewhere else may not go so well. Reprimand and get that trained "senior" controller and his supervisor back in the Cab.

Posted by: Chuck West | March 4, 2010 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Surely nobody with any real experience in that kind of airspace, or with ATC in general could honestly say that there was any real safety issue. The kid did do a great job, had experience oversight, and frankly lightened the mood a bit on the air in one of the busiest, highest pressure airspace environments in the world. A little tension relief was probably good for everyone. Oh, except the media apparently.

Posted by: Timothy Wolf | March 4, 2010 9:56 AM    Report this comment

So, it was unprofessional and ill-conceived, but was there any risk taken.. Not by a long way. Should everyone do this - absolutely not.. The only issue really is, does this lack of judgement on the part of the controller concerned signal a wider lack...

Posted by: Mike Hill | March 4, 2010 9:58 AM    Report this comment

Wow, I cannot believe the overwhelming number of "lighten up" responses. The issue isn't whether or not this particular incident wasn't dangerous. If it's against the rules, then the controller and supervisor are due whatever is coming to them. In aviation, where so many of our procedures and regulations are written in blood, getting away with something does not excuse it: "Yeah I descended below minimums/buzzed my girlfriend's house/taxied across an active runway without clearance, but nobody got hurt (this time) so what's big deal?"

Posted by: Michael Klatt | March 4, 2010 10:03 AM    Report this comment

As an airline employee we had some FAA controllers with us this week for some training. They invided us to give them a call for a visit to the tower. This morning they called back to cancel the invitations. No visitors to any control tower in the US are now allowed. Nice over reaction to this small 'problem'.

Posted by: Gerasim Mayden | March 4, 2010 10:04 AM    Report this comment

I say if you, or your kid, want to hear your kid on the radio, take him up in your plane and let him make a transmission or two in nice VFR weather when the freq is not busy and the controllers aren't either.

Posted by: Crista Worthy | March 4, 2010 10:09 AM    Report this comment

Kudos to the dad for 'wanting to take his kid to work' and wanting to get his child involved. With the declining aviation jobs, furloughs, space program cuts, it is looking like aviation is on the down side, but to want your son to see what it is like? I can only imagine what "I" would have thought had my dad taken me to an FAA center, been in awe over the monitors, people, etc. The opportunity to talk on a radio to pilots for just a few moments, would have left a LASTING impression in my head for the rest of my life and my dad would have been my hero. Think of the first time you solo'd? Remember that? I do not think the flights were ever in jeopardy. The dad apparently had FULL control and was probably plugged in with a head set also to override if needed. The child I feel followed very good instructions from his dad, was understandable, rapid, and did not act 'child-like', well maybe except in the "adios" but, it is what it is.

I don't recall the case, but there was a commercial jet flight, think maybe Russian?? where the Captain put is teenage son at the control and the kid either switched it from A/P while the captain was out of the seat. The plane went down. Like I said, I dont remember all the details of that particular flight, but THAT, that was a compromise of safety. This incident, was not!

Posted by: Mark Rubenstein | March 4, 2010 10:09 AM    Report this comment

Fox is reporting that this same controller let his daughter do the same thing the next day.

I'm just reporting so don't start shooting at me. Remember, all I wanted was a clarification to make sure it wasn't an off-airport transmission.

Posted by: David Spencer | March 4, 2010 10:15 AM    Report this comment

this has been a good thing. Now we know who the D--- Heads are.

Posted by: gene gwaltney | March 4, 2010 10:15 AM    Report this comment

Knickers in a major twist over nothing Alert "Condition Red".

Congressional Investigation to follow!

Posted by: George Fredlund | March 4, 2010 10:17 AM    Report this comment

It was cute and I was impressed. The kid did a good job. Everyone knows that we can't have kids running around ATC. I think the controller in question knows that also. I also think since this has happened before that this controllor has the respect and admiration of others he works with or it would have been blabbed long ago. Sounds like a guy that we might want to keep there. I would be willing to bet that he probably won't let it happen again. Come on, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX! Let's drop it and call it a lesson learned and move on. I would like the child to know that he has a GREAT DAD and if anything bad happens because of this, it's neither of their faults. It's this crazy world we live in. Mark Broughton ATP

Posted by: Mark Broughton | March 4, 2010 10:19 AM    Report this comment

Hope the controller doesn't lose his job over this. Depending on the parent and the kid, I wouldn't have a problem with this personally. I wish more people were child friendly in aviation and the media was less freaked out over nothing.

Posted by: Ryan Short | March 4, 2010 10:24 AM    Report this comment

In light of the serious nature of air travel, air traffic control ought to maintain a high standard, that conveys the serious nature of the business. Allowing kids on the mic, will send a message that the standards have relaxed and are not up to the standards air travelers expect. Regarding the response of the FAA, I think they need to calmly and pleasantly request that we keep kids off the mic, and not create such a public deal of the this innocent experience. I think kid are great, we were all there once, but then we grew up and became stuffy, political bureaucrats trying to cover our behinds only to satisfy some other stuffer boss. Relax folks, that is the name of air traffic control, and lets give those GREAD Dads a break.

Posted by: Jan Sorenson | March 4, 2010 10:27 AM    Report this comment

The FAA has been named in so many lawsuits that I can see the lawyers having a field day with this if the FAA allowed it to go unpunished. It's a tragic shame, but CYA is why the FAA is unloading on the controller. The actual event was cute, but whether its a Russian pilot that lets his kid fly the plane (and crashes, killing everyone) or a controller's kid giving clearances, the outcome is the same - there is a downside to everything and the tower environment is sterile at all times - or should be. Now the kid feels lousy since he thinks that he got his Dad into trouble, the controller probably hates the FAA by now, and everybody loses. All because of the scum sucking lawyers.

Posted by: Patric Barry | March 4, 2010 10:28 AM    Report this comment

How many pilots (in VFR conditions) have let their kids "steer" the plane while ghosting them on the controls. Not all all dangerous. This is much ado about nothing. It's not like the guy LEFT HIS KID ALONE AT THE PANEL????? Instead of freaking out over public reaction perhaps they should get behind the guy and explain that he was RIGHT THERE and GIVING THE EXACT WORDS for his kid to say. Get over it.

Posted by: Mark Stapleton | March 4, 2010 10:34 AM    Report this comment

The FAA and the media need to ease up on this. As a retired air traffic controller of 28 yrs and a commercial pilot since 1979 I can assure you there was never a problem with this situation. It's obvious that traffic was slow for JFK and dad had time to coach his kid and had him parrot what to say. By the way dad; great job, I had trainees in my career with a lot of training and still couldn't get it right (though it was much busier, same principle).It sounds as though the controller is a well seasoned, veteran controller and probably an exceptional trainer himself that has override capabilities on the frequency. That's what trainers do; they correct mistakes of the trainee. There should be no formal punishment, first offense other than documentation that the controller has been reprimanded and this issue discussed and documented. Otherwise the FAA is at fault for creating this situation to begin with, having kid’s day. This is a great program but now the FAA's knee-jerk reaction will be to stop having kid's day and eliminating possible future controllers. That's how I became a controller. I have flown quite a bit since retiring and I can tell you the FAA ATC is nowhere close to being as good as it was. The experience level has dropped and it seems to me to be on the low end and the FAA should think twice before removing the controller and his exper.. These guys are the best, a rare breed and my hat is off to all of you, thanks for keeping us safe in the skies.Jim Adkins

Posted by: executivejet 1 | March 4, 2010 10:34 AM    Report this comment

Problem is we take everything TOO seriously today and that is only getting worse....this was, in no way, an unsafe action because the controller was controlling traffic and letting his son talk on a training headset along with him. The very problamatic situation we have gotten ourselves in today is now the media wants credit for a "headline story" democrats will want credit for passing a bill, republicans will be against the bill because they want to modify it to get the credit, the NTSB will critize the FAA so the FAA will be preemptive in action, the controllers supervisor will place him on leave to show something (anything even if they don't know why) is being done.....what have we done to ourselves as a society???

Posted by: Ralph Rina | March 4, 2010 10:34 AM    Report this comment

If the media is truly concerned about public safety they should focus on the 100,000 deaths in this country from AVOIDABLE medical mistakes instead of this over reaction by the FAA. Many lives can easily be prevented by things we pilots are already using -checklists in surgury for example. Don't look to the news media for what saves the most lives - just entertainment.

Posted by: Dan James | March 4, 2010 10:39 AM    Report this comment

These comments have been very well phrased. It would be interesting to see a published response from AOPA and EAA. They both strongly encourage aviation activities and orientations for youngsters. Their message would probably reflect the overwelming opinion of those commenting here. It would be good for them to say "No big deal. Wrist slap. Knock it off in the future. Shame on the media for unnecessarily alarming the unimformed public. Get over it. FAA administrators: put the matter in proper perspective". Maybe we should suggest to our aviation organizations that they take a strong position and try to defuse this overheated issue.

Posted by: Tom Sams | March 4, 2010 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Putting common sense into the same room with lawyers & bureaucrats is like bringing a knife to a gunfight... you will lose.

Posted by: David Spencer | March 4, 2010 10:53 AM    Report this comment

I think the folks at FAA need to get over themselves with their reaction to a piece of harmless father/daughter bonding. My reading of the event indicates that the engagement of the kids was well supervised. Maybe we should invite school groups to control towers to demystify the procedures and re-educate their parents that civil aviation is not a menace to society. In fact, as a pilot I find the FAA is the agency of malice and menace most of the time.

Posted by: Richard Abbott | March 4, 2010 10:54 AM    Report this comment

Very cute audio, seemed harmless and supervised. Poor judgement in my opinion as Dad used the fallout risk with his job, boss and the fearful, oversensitive public for personal fulfillment. Despite overwhelming support from posters here to the contrary the Dad and his super were very naive to think in this societal day that this would not be scrutinized. His need for self-expression or showmanship with/for his son was misplaced and shortsighted. I agree to the light reprimand however.

Posted by: Dave Miller | March 4, 2010 11:05 AM    Report this comment

I think its ironic that I can't bring my childen up to the cockpit when I'm at work. I fly 737's for a living.

Even if one of them is an F-16 pilot, who might have to shoot me down if I get hijacked.

So if I read this right its OK if he shoots me down but it's really bad to let him ride on my jumpseat.

So much for the take a child to work day.

Many, many, years ago I allowed some high school kids to come up to the cockpit. One at a time of course. Boy did the flight attendant get upset. This was a fabulous learning experience for the kids and one I'm sure they still remember.

Towards the end of the flight the flight attendant called up and said the first class passengers were really upset that I had done this.

So thinking I'd better smooth some ruffeled feathers as soon as the brakes were set I jumped up and went back to apologize to the First Class folks.

To a man, the first class passengers, thought it was a great thing for the kids and they were "upset" because they couldn't visit the cockpit.

I'm sure the flight attendant, old hide, was really embarassed. I didn't say anything to her I just glared. She got the message.

How tragic that a we no longer can offer this learning experience to kids.

No wonder kids don't want to go into aviation. They can't get past all the new airport fences to go touch aiplanes. That's right to touch them! Ever seen kids walk around airplanes? Everyone of them will always want to touch and see if its real.

Posted by: Carter Boswell | March 4, 2010 11:33 AM    Report this comment

I think its ironic that I can't bring my childen up to the cockpit when I'm at work. I fly 737's for a living.

Even if one of them is an F-16 pilot, who might have to shoot me down if I get hijacked.

So if I read this right its OK if he shoots me down but it's really bad to let him ride on my jumpseat.

So much for the take a child to work day.

Many, many, years ago I allowed some high school kids to come up to the cockpit. One at a time of course. Boy did the flight attendant get upset. This was a fabulous learning experience for the kids and one I'm sure they still remember.

Towards the end of the flight the flight attendant called up and said the first class passengers were really upset that I had done this.

So thinking I'd better smooth some ruffeled feathers as soon as the brakes were set I jumped up and went back to apologize to the First Class folks.

To a man, the first class passengers, thought it was a great thing for the kids and they were "upset" because they couldn't visit the cockpit.

I'm sure the flight attendant, old hide, was really embarassed. I didn't say anything to her I just glared. She got the message.

How tragic that a we no longer can offer this learning experience to kids.

No wonder kids don't want to go into aviation. They can't get past all the new airport fences to go touch aiplanes. That's right to touch them! Ever seen kids walk around airplanes? Everyone of them will always want to touch and see if its real.

Posted by: Carter Boswell | March 4, 2010 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Sounds to me like the kid may have a future in the control tower. This could nurture a future generation of aviation enthusiasts. I am not saying lets condone this type of behavior all througout the country. Lets say the Father looses his job over this and the child grows up to be a powerful politician in washington and decides to submit a bill that proposes a 50% budget cut of the FAA and pushes unrealistic fees that prohobit general aviators and small business aviators to become all but extinct. The bill passes then GA becomes such an insignificant part of aviation that VFR flyiing is no longer allowed only flights uner IFR may be flown this is to cut the costs of flying and reduce carbon emissions. This all because a kid that wanted to follow in his heros footsteps talked on the radio, but the establishment got in the way of humanity instead.

Posted by: M Barnett | March 4, 2010 11:37 AM    Report this comment

At no time were airplanes, passengers or small animals harmed by the children of an air traffic controller issuing basic and closely supervised ATC clearances. This was a CNN slow news day side show and a payday for talking heads. The greatest danger now is to the children and family of this air traffic controller. An indelibly bright moment for these kids can turn into a life-altering tragedy if punishment is mishandled. Captain Randy Babbitt and CNN, I hold you responsible.

Posted by: Randall Phillips | March 4, 2010 11:39 AM    Report this comment

When I first heard the news it was on CNN being discussed as something very serious by non aviation reporters that were authoritative saying that the FAA was going to take very serious measures.

I wonder who released the tapes to the media and why?

I personally do not think that there was any harm of what happened and I do not believe my kid in the office should become a routine thing.

Unfortunately we live in a time when not every one has a sense of humor and non professionals do dictate public response leading to governmental actions. We need to be always aware that the News is a profit business not a public service.

I know that my non-aviation friends consider the incident as a serious breech of safety for commercial aviation, and had their opinions reinforced by most of the reporting media. FAA of course is now in the position of having to take strong action just for public relations.

Oh Well

Posted by: Joe Aldendifer | March 4, 2010 11:46 AM    Report this comment

It's disappointing to see the media pilloried by some of the commentators. This incident DID happen, and deserved to be reported. Many commentators have said that to the professionals, it was not serious, but also that it should not have happened, and the controller deserves some sort of reprimand. A: This wasn't a bush-airport tower with little traffic, and B: I'm sorry but post 9/11 things are different. Don't shoot the messenger (the press), it was doing it's job correctly.

Posted by: treuthardt | March 4, 2010 11:53 AM    Report this comment

Get a life...There was no harm done and it is no different from commercial pilots letting their sons or daughters fly the airplane at cruise altitudes. No harm done..... We are treating professionals like mindless criminals. The world has changed since 9/11 but we must not let the bad guys triumph by limiting our freedom and good sense.

Posted by: J. David Robinson | March 4, 2010 12:02 PM    Report this comment

I am both a pilot and a nurse. I would never allow any child to attend/interview/examine a patient; nor would I allow a child to speak to ATC on my airplane radio. I think that such conduct is unethical and probably illegal.

Posted by: Richard Henrikson | March 4, 2010 12:23 PM    Report this comment

My vote is with the controller who cares about spending time with his kid and showing him some grown-up stuff without causing harm or endangering anyone. Sheesh!

Posted by: Dave Snope | March 4, 2010 12:48 PM    Report this comment

Poor headwork, sure. A dumb thing to do at a place as under the microscope as JFK, you bet. A safety lapse, hardly. The largest downside of this is that it gave the media another non event of which they have little understanding to build into a crisis. And it gave ABC's "aviation expert" more airtime to pontificate which is rarely good for aviation.

Posted by: Jon Hill | March 4, 2010 12:54 PM    Report this comment

I'm from the south, and one of those who 'listens about as fast as I talk'. And even I could manage the tower traffic on that day and time. But I fear it's too late - this young 'aspiring' controller is likely already frightened off and will distance himself from anything that smacks of FAA, including any personal interest in becoming a pilot even. This is another sad day for aviators, even if the controller hangs on to his job. What? - we can't have some fun and be safe at the same time? Or maybe we need term limits in the news media too.

Posted by: Nick Sargent | March 4, 2010 1:02 PM    Report this comment

I am a retired psychologist and a pilot.

Let's get a grip here folks- I detect a pitiful self righteousness in the air that seems to pervade this non-incident, let's understand - the youngster wasn't running air traffic control - he was allowed to make a few supervised radio calls.

If this offends professionals then the professionals need therapy. Cheap self righteousness is delusional behaviour which IMHO is a real problem - if professionals are too dumb to be allowed the discretion to be human then we have an even bigger threat to safety.

I commend the father and the supervisor on being open and inspirational.

Posted by: Gary Sage | March 4, 2010 1:07 PM    Report this comment

THIS IS A MEDIA PROBLEM NOT A SAFETY PROBLEM. I have been flying over 66 years and the instructions given by the child voice were clear and accurate. They were much better and more easily understood than many I have received with accents that I have had to request,"say again", to understand what was transmitted.

Posted by: JOHN C. BROWN | March 4, 2010 1:08 PM    Report this comment

Was this unprofessional? Yes. Unsafe? Not really. A bad idea? Hell yes. This wasn't a big deal, safety-wise, and the controller doesn't deserve any more than a slap on the wrist. But come on, we need to remember that aviation to the media is like blood in the water to sharks. They will find every little flub, error, mistake and incident and blow them out of proportion at every opportunity. How many times have you seen a flawless belly landing treated like a near-disaster? And the non-flying public buys it hook line and sinker, and those of us who try to educate others on the positive aspects of aviation (which should be every pilot IMHO) have to recover lost ground. If I was that controller's manager, I would have chewed his ass and made sure it didn't happen again. I just hope he didn't just make life harder on the rest of us...I would sure like to continue taking my students to ATC facilities.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | March 4, 2010 1:10 PM    Report this comment

Listening to the recording brings a tear to my eye, both for the pride that Dad must have felt for his child, and for the probable knee-jerk reaction the FAA will impose. Being a private pilot, and a 25 year maintenance crew chief for a major airline, I know well, how far the FAA will go to enforce decipline over percieved safety lapses, when we all know safety was never comprimised. I can only wish him well and hope they take it easy on you..

Posted by: Darren Carriker | March 4, 2010 1:29 PM    Report this comment

This is another prime example of the MEDIA blowing something totally out of proportion, as the do with all other aviation matters of which they are clueless. I think that the FAA should hire the kid. He did a much better job than some of the other FAA personel that I have dealt with over the years!

Posted by: Al Dyer | March 4, 2010 1:34 PM    Report this comment

in 1978 when I was 6 years old flying from London to Leeds in the UK, myself and my sister were allowed into the cockpit during actual flight, not that is not possible !!! The kid did a fantastic job than many seasoned controllers, we should commend him and his dad...such kids get the inspiration early in life and turn out to be great controllers. The government and the regulators need to relax and let loose. I'm sure the pilots who experienced the traffic with the kid had a much better flight than the routine flying, it gives you a boost. We ought to commend the kid and not reprimand the dad and his superiors. What's the fuss about him saying 'Amigo'? why being so uptight? Is this how we want to build the future? America needs to lighten up in all aspects and stop being so paranoid ! We do have kids 18yrs flying jets out there, how do we thing they got the inspiration to fly?

Posted by: No Name | March 4, 2010 1:35 PM    Report this comment

After listening to the tape, some controllers I have listened to over the past 40 years could take lessons from the kid. For Pete's sake, lighten up!! Controllers work hard to keep us safe, and it appalls me to think some of my fellow aviators are willing to see someone fired over this. Too bad we can't bring our kids up front with us anymore - maybe we'd have more young people wanting to join us.

Posted by: Dave Oberg | March 4, 2010 1:46 PM    Report this comment

Listening to the uproar created by the bureaucrats and administrators in the media, it is very clear that our society has lost all touch with reality. We are allowing the rules and regulations to eliminate any real humanness in any actions we take. Even more important, we are allowing government bureaucracy to remove all responsibility for our individual actions. We can no longer be humans; we must be robots!

It was very obvious that the child was well monitored and that oversight was active and attentive. Even the wording was correct.

It is ludicrous that the FAA, NACTA, and the other alphabet soup entities should make an issue of this. These are simply bureaucrats and false-leaders seeking media publicity and trying to demonstrate power.

What has happened to our the American society that once encouraged creativity, innovation, teaching our children about the rights of people to, within reason, act responsibility while enjoying and “showing off” their work?

That the controller and supervisor should be disciplined is way-out-of-line. The people that should be challenged are those that are finding fault without justification; those that seek to enforce rules without responsible reason.

I am ashamed for my country … and my children

Posted by: Richard Eastman | March 4, 2010 1:49 PM    Report this comment

This is completely unsatisfactory, and the controller on duty--plus his supervisor--should be severely reprimanded and/or retrained. Consider: what if some sort of emergency prevailed? Such as a go-around (for whatever reason) or an aborted takeoff? Or if the departing aircraft declared "something" and either had to return or divert? What about a runway incursion? The situations and permutations are endless. In summary, despite "professionals" close at hand, how much delay for a response/directive could have occurred? There is no room in aviation--professional, military or not--for such potentially hazardous conduct; witness the recent mid-air over the Hudson, or the "wrong" runway unknown to controllers, etc, etc. I strongly disagree with those who would "cut them some slack." Dual-rated ATP/Comcl, Inst, type-rated in numerous both fixed and rotary, military and corporate, 9600 hrs total, no accidents/incidents.

Posted by: James Fazekas | March 4, 2010 1:50 PM    Report this comment

Maybe the controllers should have just claimed that someone had a birthday and a bunch of helium balloons had popped.... I wish the media would stop trying to scare the living daylights out of the public about aviation every chance they get. What next?

Posted by: Catherine Chagnot | March 4, 2010 1:58 PM    Report this comment

>>I would sure like to continue taking my students to ATC facilities.<<

Unfortunately, this might be the real fall out from this,at least temporarily, if the FAA overreacts as it did after 9/11. We used to have free run of TRACONs and towers for photo shoots before 9/11. I took my students to facilities all the time. Things were just getting back to normal.

You can say lighten up all you want--a sentiment I happen to share--but the real world doesn't work that way. When we don't recognize this, we always pay a price.I think we work counter interest if we dismiss non-aviation people who get nervous about such things even as we try to educate them about why they shouldn't.

And speaking of education, I'm sure the controller and supe involved here got one. I hope they aren't canned as a result. (My prediction: they won't be.)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 4, 2010 1:58 PM    Report this comment

After making my initial comment and then reading following comments I have the impression that many of us are asking for a return to the past which is not going to happen. I vividly remember as a child sitting on a co-pilot’s lap and being allowed to turn the yolk on a DC 3 while on a cross country night fight. (Shows you how old I am). That would never happen today. Society now lives in the fear of, “what if?”, that it has created by desires and indulgence of news shows and political agendas. Everyone now wants to give voice whether qualified or not. Unfortunately we have to accept the fact we can't go back to earlier tolerances. With recent past incidents the hand writing has been on the wall and should have been heeded Recently I was informed that I have to attend a class and take a test just to use my airport gate card to access my home field because somebody did something dumb by today’s standard. A child in the tower was a dumb idea by today's standard no matter how honorable the thought was. Now all of us are going to pay the price because that is just the way it is, and no matter what we say, consequences will not change.

Posted by: Joe Aldendifer | March 4, 2010 2:24 PM    Report this comment

As a retired USAF pilot, I can recall several occasions where we took kids up into the control tower to watch their Dads land after long deployments. Often times the watch supervisor would let the one of the kids say "cleared to land" over the tower frequency. No safety issue; just an extra person on headset. It really made the kids day.

Unfortunately this JFK incident has turned into a Category 5 media feeding frenzy. I guess that is an indication of the times in which we live.

Having been a pilot for over 30 years now, I have nothing but respect for FAA controllers. I only hope the FAA leadership uses some perspective here and doesn't come down too hard on the controller in question.

Posted by: Russ Hodgkins | March 4, 2010 2:25 PM    Report this comment

Listen to the boy, no way would he know the verbage unless he was preped in some way. I've heard ATC screw up before, when they do you'll hear a change in voice almost immediatly and make the correct call! So he was doubly watched. How else are we to get someone else interested in a career unless we let them have exposure to it. Way to go DAD! and to the SUPERVISOR! It happened to me! I was allowed to fly sim of a 727 when I was about 12. Then when I was about 14 yrs old I got to sit on the jumpseat of a B727 on a 2 day trip with MY DAD. I remember it like yesterday I flew a little bit from Kanassas City to Oklahoma City with passengers onboard. Did I really fly it I don't know but I was in the left seat and moving the yoke! It confirmined for me that I wanted to fly. I hope to be able to do it for my kids if they want. We are encourage to bring our kids to work but we can't expose them to it, BAH!

Posted by: Jeffrey Lastowski | March 4, 2010 2:35 PM    Report this comment

It would be great if all Controllers were as easy to understand as the two children. Come on Media, loosen up and "Get a Life". World War 11 pilot and a civilian pilot with beaucoup hours USA and abroad. Lester "Bill" Zinser

Posted by: Lester Zinser | March 4, 2010 2:35 PM    Report this comment

What have we become? Do none of us remember the pride we had of going to work with our fathers for the day? Did it make an impression on our little minds? Did we grow from the experience?

This is further wussification of America—we’re afraid of our own shadows anymore.

And what’s this about “Professionalism?” What could be more professional than wanting to have your child follow in your footsteps? What could be more professional than teaching your child? Those that are bent out of shape over this are way out of line. Get a life! I think the FAA should treat this like the Young Eagle’s program and give the dad an award for introducing his son to aviation. My votes for the dad.

- Richard

Posted by: richard peters | March 4, 2010 2:43 PM    Report this comment

What have we become? Do none of us remember the pride we had of going to work with our fathers for the day? Did it make an impression on our little minds? Did we grow from the experience?

This is further wussification of America—we’re afraid of our own shadows anymore.

And what’s this about “Professionalism?” What could be more professional than wanting to have your child follow in your footsteps? What could be more professional than teaching your child? Those that are bent out of shape over this are way out of line. Get a life! I think the FAA should treat this like the Young Eagle’s program and give the dad an award for introducing his son to aviation. My votes for the dad.

- Richard

Posted by: richard peters | March 4, 2010 2:43 PM    Report this comment

I've been a controller and a pilot for 28 years. what's the difference if i'm telling a 10 year old what to say or a 21 to 28 year old what to say (the 10 year old is more likely to do what he is told)? do you think a new trainee is turned lose, or told step by step what to say and do? it's all political and in no way was safety ever compromised, so why not leave them alone and let the kid have fun and the dad be a hero? Anonymous Center Controller

Posted by: B R Watkins | March 4, 2010 2:53 PM    Report this comment

"Take your Ops book, look in section three and find a sense of humor" Come on Alex, I think that was a little harsh! Seriously though, is there a reg that was broken here? I know, some of the regulations are often ignored, until you are caught. I'd still hold that although cute, and I think it's great to take your kids to work, this to me is the controller version of a "stupid pilot trick" I think it's overkill to fire the controller, but a 90 day suspension might be appropriate. The kid was clearing aircraft for takeoff in this world of hypersensitivity to runway incursions! If nothing else, it would seem that this controller cost all of us the opportunity to visit an atc facility, for now if not forever. I just don't think the fallout was worth the cost, although I did get a kick out of the tape!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 4, 2010 3:10 PM    Report this comment

"what if some sort of emergency prevailed? ... how much delay for a response/directive could have occurred?" Um... really? Probably none. "Son, you repeat what I tell you to say, but if I put one finger in the air like THIS shut up and let me take over." Just like in the cockpit. And Ceri Reid, I usually agree with you, but if you think the "controller's job is to remove risk" then you have drunk the kool-aid of personal responsibility avoidance. To quote some old aviation saws, the controller's seat ain't moving, and that's why they call us Pilots-In-Command. I have great respect for the controller profession as do almost all of us, but they ain't flying the planes. Unfortunately, if there were existing rules prohibiting this (stupid if there were) then rules were broken and some reasonable sanctions should be in place. But something short of the knee-jerk "off-with-their-heads" the media is howling.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | March 4, 2010 3:20 PM    Report this comment

>>Pall<<, Why waste time on this thread nobody will respond!

Posted by: Larry Fries | March 4, 2010 3:22 PM    Report this comment

Is it really a revelation that every alphabet news agency or government entity has a negative response to this innocuous event? Previous posts by "aviation professionals" who cite their credentials and are calling for reprimands and dismissals leave a bad taste in the mouth. As a lowly private instrument rated pilot, I thought that the broadcast instructions in question actually were concise and clearly understandable. I am sure that I, as well as some of the "pros", have likely communicated less clearly at some point. Was there ever a compromise of safety here, answer is no. The controller(father) was obviously in command and his clearly speaking son that simply relayed the verbage under experienced supervision. How does that differ from an initial training exercise? End of story, we all need to lighten up. The alphabets all have bigger fish that they should be frying.

Posted by: Jordan Ramsey | March 4, 2010 3:25 PM    Report this comment

The worth of newscasters whose only purpose in life seems to be telling another "Sky is falling" story - $0.00.

The worth of the FAA who overreacts at every opportunity to punish somebody for being human - $0.00.

The worth of a father who shares his career with his son, and gives the child a memory that will last a lifetime - Priceless.

Come on world. Get a life.

Posted by: John Brett | March 4, 2010 3:41 PM    Report this comment

Safety in aviation has always been a team effort. While the controller issues instructions and the pilot follows them, the controller is always verifying that the instructions were followed and the pilot verifies that the controller's instructions are appropriate. If not, either the controller or pilot will question the instruction. On top of that, controllers and pilots are unconsciously verifying the authoritativeness the communication was given or answered with by the tone of voice and phraseology. The pilots knew a kid was giving the instructions by the sound of the voice, but they also knew the instruction was correct and followed it. The controller has immediate over-ride capability of the frequency--that is how developmental controllers are trained by certified professional controllers to do the job with "on-the-job" training. Proper communication is the key to safety; both controller and pilots need to "be on the same page" and constantly vigilant for a breakdown of communication on one side or the other. It is unfortunate this situation may force a suspension of potential controller/pilot education and communication by limiting "Operation Raincheck" at FAA facilities. Just this weekend we have an Operation Raincheck in my facility and I wonder if it will be allowed. It will be ashamed if it isn't, as less communication does not breed increased aviation safety in my opinion.

Posted by: Heather Woiciechowski | March 4, 2010 3:59 PM    Report this comment

Children can fly airplanes from coast to coast with an instructor legally. Amateur Radio Operators can allow anyone to talk on the radio as long as they are the control operator. The Young Eagles Program is the best thing yet to get young people interested in aviation. What better was to get young people interested in air traffic control than to mentor them and closely supervise them in the art? It was obvious that the controller on duty was in full control. If you want to "punish" the controller, put him in charge of putting together a Young Controllers program that would include an opportunity to make live calls under close supervision. The controller should be commended for getting young people interested in the profession, not beat down.

Posted by: Robert Tezyk | March 4, 2010 4:21 PM    Report this comment

Looks like we almost all agree that as far as safety is concerned this was a non-event. In my opinion this is just another case of the media blowing something they know nothing about completely out of proportion. Anything for ratings. Watching the mainstream media these days is about as worthwhile as watching a reality TV show.

Having said that... Like the controller, I'm a fed government employee. One thing that virtually every fed employee these days should certainly be well aware of is the govt reaction anytime something you do ends up on the nightly news. Pretty much everything I do on the job is tempered by what the reaction will be if its even slightly suspect and if there is any chance whatsoever that it could end up on the news. This controller, and his boss, should have thought of that. I believe they will both loose their jobs because their bosses wont have the spine to stand up and defend them.

As for the Operation Raincheck, I did one at the SoCal TRACON about a month ago. We were setup in the training room and given an opportunity to "control traffic" in a simulated environment. A trained controller sat right next to us and pretended to be the voice of all of the simulated traffic that appeared on the scope. At no time were we allowed to see real traffic or communicate with them. Frankly, its a pretty good way to experience "the other side" without any risk to anyone.

Posted by: Mike Wills | March 4, 2010 4:39 PM    Report this comment

Proper communication being the key here, nothing was breached or compromised. Communication is defined as "exchange of thoughts, information, etc". The previous post states that the pilots knew the information was correct and followed it. Our pilots are generally well trained, intelligent, educated, and perceptive individuals. They knew what was going on and professionally acted accordingly. No harm, no foul, just some humanity.

Posted by: Jordan Ramsey | March 4, 2010 4:47 PM    Report this comment

Boredom and government regulators are a bigger safety risk than a Dad who loves his son and shares his work with him. Those upset by this remind me of the kids at school always tattling on the rest of us. They didn't really care about anything but getting attention and watching others get in trouble due to their own "virtuous" snitching. People having fun at work pay better attention and ARE safer. They are also, I've noticed, usually more competent. The controller should be commended!! He's my kind of guy.

Posted by: Gil Bennett | March 4, 2010 4:54 PM    Report this comment

I'm on the lighten up side; maybe say don't do that again. NY ATC is pretty intense and that in part is why the pilots are all happy to go along and humanizes the interactions; usually we're confined to near single words so at most "Have a good Turkey Day". There has to be some ability to find ways to disperse the tension or we'd all be going postal.

I agree also the FAA and NATCA have to talk tough.

Posted by: Richard Garcia-Kennedy | March 4, 2010 4:56 PM    Report this comment

Yep, that father and son have a priceless memory - of Dad being unemployed. I think all the comments in support of the controller have a lot of validity, but it just isn't going to matter in the end.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 4, 2010 5:08 PM    Report this comment

The pilots flying, if they suspected an errant instruction would most likely have uttered that often verbalised phrase: Say again please...

Posted by: Jordan Ramsey | March 4, 2010 5:20 PM    Report this comment

I thought the kid was darned good, and his dad was doing a great job of being a dad.

Posted by: Peter Dohm | March 4, 2010 5:39 PM    Report this comment

Once again, realise that proper communication being the key here, nothing was breached or compromised.

Communication is defined as "exchange of thoughts, information, etc". The previous post states that the pilots knew the information was correct and followed it.

Our pilots are generally well trained, intelligent, educated, and perceptive individuals. They knew what was going on and professionally acted accordingly.

No harm, no foul, just some humanity.

Think about the false transmission claims. If they had come from a low power hand held transmitter necessary at close proximity, departure or ground controllers would have been all over that.

These guys know what they are doing.

Sometimes stuff happens, but not in this case.

There is nothing wrong with the best ATC on the planet having a good day...............

Posted by: Jordan Ramsey | March 4, 2010 6:00 PM    Report this comment

As an FAA employee (non ATC) I agree with most contributers. Week off W/O pay and don't do it again. Innocent lapse of judgement, no harm, no foul. Can't afford to lose well qualified controllers and working the Northeast = well qualified.

Posted by: Richard Law | March 4, 2010 6:20 PM    Report this comment

as a former controller and a long-time CFI, I'm with all the lighten up folks. As a kid, I sat on my dad's lap and flew and talked on the radio, was a "junior flight attendant" on a DC-3 at age 13, and have suffered through teaching plenty of controllers and pilots how to communicate over the radio. I ask everyone on this thread: When we observe this media distortion about something we understand, how can we trust them when they report about things we don't know about? Answer: we can't. Solution: whenever you think "that's outrageous!" after hearing a story, ask yourself, "how do I know that is true?"

Posted by: Cathy Babis | March 4, 2010 6:57 PM    Report this comment

RIPPED FROM THE PAGES OF AVFLASH: "Female Pilots To Celebrate Centennial By "Paying It Forward" Around the world, women plan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first time a woman earned a pilot certificate by taking a woman or girl for her first flight in a general-aviation aircraft during the week of March 6 to 12." OH MY! I HOPE NO ONE LETS THEM TALK ON THE RADIO!!! It could be DANGEROUS. Somebody PLEASE call the media to cover this IMPORTANT SAFETY VIOLATION about to occur.

What do you bet these same media (expletive thought of but not typed-noun)WILL cover this and treat it as a CUTE human interest story? Gimme a break!

Posted by: Cathy Babis | March 4, 2010 7:06 PM    Report this comment

I assure everyone that it is safe for me to carry a gun on an airplane; but it is still not legal to do it. I'm sure it is usually safe for a kid to go to dad's work for an hour and it may be safe - until the kid acts up and distracts another controller and kills 200 people. The worst air traffic accident in the world (Canary Isl) was partially contributed to a controller being distracted by a soccer game on a radio in the cab.

Posted by: Jan Zumwalt | March 4, 2010 7:33 PM    Report this comment

If we all want to have some real fun, or frustration, tune into nightime talk radio regarding this issue.

Think: "they only come out at night".

You will hear about pilots "confused and concerned for the safety of their flight".

Who puts this disinformation on the airwaves?

You can obviously answer that...........

Regardless of who puts it on, there is a certain portion of the general public that listens to and believes this uninformed or slewed perspective.

That is their reality and yes they have a voice.

Once again, the alphabet agencies have their followers.

Personally, I feel "no harm no foul".

This event does not warrant this kind of scrutiny.

Once again, the media has bigger fish to fry.......

That is, if they dare......

Posted by: Jordan Ramsey | March 4, 2010 7:45 PM    Report this comment

What an astounding amount of cynicism and anger from many posters on this thread. Even a non-psychologist can see it. The controller displays a complete disregard for any reaction from media, the FAA, non-flying public, aviation in general (I like Operation Raincheck, too -hope we don't lose it because of this stupidity), etc. with his brain-dead stunt to impress a child - or bolster his machisimo - and it's the media, the FAA, the non-flying public who are the evildoers to be on guard for because of their reactions.

Seems every time something like this happens we just play into their hands with our angry need to justify and circle our wagons in defense of... Powers Overwhelming! To me it just makes us look immature and unable to be creative and good communicators with the Evil Empire of Gov't, Media and All Others.

If we don't get over this ridiculous need to be antagonistic with other segments of society we're ignorant beyond help. Like George Carlin once said about all children being 'special' - we stop being 'special' when we stopped being children. I hope the Dad doesn't lose his job over this, but to deny his thoughtlessness doesn't help aviation one iota.

Posted by: Dave Miller | March 4, 2010 8:26 PM    Report this comment

"astounding amount of cynicism and anger from many posters on this thread. Even a non-psychologist can see it"

Could it possibly be that common sense could prevail?

Unfortunatly, there seems to be a shortage........

Posted by: Jordan Ramsey | March 4, 2010 8:32 PM    Report this comment

On one hand, I commend this Dad for taking his kid to work in (at least IMHO) the coolest place in the world. On the other hand, you have to wonder what the Dad was thinking when he handed to mike to his son (even though he was right there telling his kid what to say). It would be a totally different story if this were a Class-D airport with a low-traffic count tower, but this is JFK, one of the busiest airports in the world. It's probably been blown out of proportion, but then again, this "cool Dad" probably just lost his job...

Posted by: R. Doe | March 4, 2010 8:35 PM    Report this comment

THE KID IN THE TOWER WAS MORE EASILY UNDERSTOOD THAN SOME OF THE "professional CONTROLLERS I HAVE HEARD. AS LONG AS HE WAS UNDER ADULT SUPERVISION I DON'T SEE IT AS A PROBLEM. THE AIRLINE PILOTS HE WAS TALKING TO HAD NO PROBLEM UNDERSTANDING AND DIDN'T SOUND UPSET AT GETTING INSTRUCTION FROM A "YOUNGSTER".

JIM JANDA

Posted by: James Janda | March 4, 2010 8:41 PM    Report this comment

Ditto. This controller must be good to teach his son so well, and we need all the good controlers we can get. Give this guy and his kids a break.

Posted by: Victoria Croston | March 4, 2010 8:57 PM    Report this comment

"The worst air traffic accident in the world (Canary Isl) was partially contributed to a controller being distracted by a soccer game on a radio in the cab." Oh, come on, Jan Z. Tenerife was PRIMARILY caused by ZERO visibility and poor situational awareness...the soccer game gambit was just an EXCUSE. Sort of like "we missed our destination by 300 miles because we were on our laptops." LOL

Posted by: Cathy Babis | March 4, 2010 9:12 PM    Report this comment

Actually, this IS a big deal. Several years ago there was a spat of transmissions on ATC frequencies giving bogus clearances to aircraft arriving and departing in the New York (?) area. The pilots failure to question an obviously non-controller issued Takeoff clearance could easlily result disaster.

Posted by: Lee Mctaggart | March 4, 2010 9:57 PM    Report this comment

You know, I *really* think most of you are missing the point ... sure the kid was cute and all that, but ATC is a *profession*, like medicine and pharmacy.

C'mon. folks: it was wrong--FAR Part 65 says so. The controller and supervisor are paying with their share of flesh, so let's learn and move on.

PATCO lives! 8/3/81 0800 hrs.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | March 5, 2010 12:28 AM    Report this comment

Phil, FAR Part 65 is talking about being THE responsible controller, not a "trainee." In an ATC facility, someone is always signed on as the responsible party just like the CFI is PIC when training an 8 year old (there is no age limit for training) That 8 year old can sit in the pilot's seat, manipulate the controls, and talk on the radio--all completely legal. The dad was still the controller. I agree that is wasn't a well-thought-out action considering the commercial companies that monitor and broadcast ATC frequencies for public entertainment, but it wasn't dangerous or illegal. It MAY have been against a policy, but not a law. Let's all take a deep breath and maintain perspective.

Posted by: Cathy Babis | March 5, 2010 4:58 AM    Report this comment

Phil, FAR Part 65 is talking about being THE responsible controller, not a "trainee." In an ATC facility, someone is always signed on as the responsible party just like the CFI is PIC when training an 8 year old (there is no age limit for training) That 8 year old can sit in the pilot's seat, manipulate the controls, and talk on the radio--all completely legal. The dad was still the controller. I agree that is wasn't a well-thought-out action considering the commercial companies that monitor and broadcast ATC frequencies for public entertainment, but it wasn't dangerous or illegal. It MAY have been against a policy, but not a law. Let's all take a deep breath and maintain perspective.

Posted by: Cathy Babis | March 5, 2010 4:58 AM    Report this comment

I don't know how that posted twice...need more web training--from someone qualified--my kids!

Posted by: Cathy Babis | March 5, 2010 5:03 AM    Report this comment

I don't know how that posted twice...need more web training--from someone qualified--my kids!<<

It does this sometimes. Even to me. Not sure why, but I deleted the dupe.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 5, 2010 6:19 AM    Report this comment

As a CFI, there is a HUGE difference between the ATC incident and giving flight instruction to a minor. For one, a flight instructor is licensed, qualified, and authorized to do just that. The controller was certainly not authorized to allow his son to operate the radio, for gosh sake the kid was issuing takeoff clearances at JFK! I agree at a small class D airport not much would be said, but this was JFK! Being against policy might as well be illegal in the eyes of the FAA (if you really want to know what the inspectors are looking at next time you're in for a checkride or get a ramp check look at the 8000 series of FAA orders. They're boring, but eye opening - makes you re-evaluate some regs when you know how they're going to be interpreted) This episode reminds me of a pilot who would do a high speed low pass - one probably would get away with it at your local county airport, but I wouldn't try it over the FSDO ramp.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 5, 2010 6:25 AM    Report this comment

The upper right hand corner of this site says "Email this blog". Why not start by sending these comments to our FSDOs, and relevant persons on the FAA website? Let them see other views besides just the news media?

Posted by: David Affinito | March 5, 2010 7:10 AM    Report this comment

>>I would sure like to continue taking my students to ATC facilities.<<

>>Unfortunately, this might be the real fall out from this,at least temporarily, if the FAA overreacts as it did after 9/11. We used to have free run of TRACONs and towers for photo shoots before 9/11. I took my students to facilities all the time. Things were just getting back to normal.<<

Had the controller in question done just that - taken his children into the tower to see how it worked, it would still have been really exciting for them, and conformed to the wish expressed many times above expose children to the wonders of aviation. They would have gotten the charge without him going the extra and controversial mile of letting them on to the airwaves, and thus making a crack-down probable.

Posted by: treuthardt | March 5, 2010 7:14 AM    Report this comment

Jeez, Cathy ...

§ 65.31 Required certificates, and rating or qualification. No person may act as an air traffic control tower operator at an air traffic control tower in connection with civil aircraft unless he - (a) Holds an air traffic control tower operator certificate issued to him under this subpart; (b) Holds a facility rating for that control tower issued to him under this subpart, or has qualified for the operating position at which he acts and is under the supervision of the holder of a facility rating for that control tower; and

For the purpose of this subpart, "operating position" means an air traffic control function performed within or directly associated with the control tower;

(c) Except for a person employed by the FAA or employed by, or on active duty with, the Department of the Air Force, Army, or Navy or the Coast Guard, holds at least a second-class medical certificate issued under Part 67 of this chapter.

Now, I'm not from Philadelphia, and I'm no lawyer, but there are scads of additional Federal regulation that addresses dereliction of duty, and I believe this qualifies as an example.

What the errant controller *wants* is internal FAA administrative action. If this case would ever get to an administrative law Judge, his ticket would probably be suspended or revoked.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | March 5, 2010 7:58 AM    Report this comment

Note to posters: Our rules require using your real name, please. That's what keeps things civil. Please honor this request and sign your posts.

Thanks.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 5, 2010 8:05 AM    Report this comment

Common Sense just left the room screaming... It was a minor incident! It was Children at Work Day.

Surely there's a regulation which will allow this guy & his children to be lynched and put an end to this travesty./S

Posted by: David Spencer | March 5, 2010 8:13 AM    Report this comment

The event itself was harmless enough. But as my Daddy always told me, "before you do something think about how it's gonna look in the papers", my lawyer says, "Think about how it's gonna sound in court" and now my son says "think about how it's gonna look on you tube". Surely between the controller and the supervisor they could have seen how this might play out. If the FAA passes on this, then how long will it be before there are imitators every day, and every variation on the theme. Before long you'll have unliscensed pilots flying airliners.

Posted by: Richard Montague | March 5, 2010 8:54 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Montague, you've got it exactly right.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | March 5, 2010 9:22 AM    Report this comment

Just was not a smart move on the controller's part. Maybe ok at a Class D or even a Class C facility. The overreaction of the FAA will be a real travisty.

Posted by: Michael Mittman | March 5, 2010 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Complete mountain out of a molehill. I only would've been worried about safety if a kid had answered from the cockpit! If safety wasn't compromised (which I believe it wasn't) let it go and the kids will have a cool story and bragging rights at school.

Posted by: Robert Smith | March 5, 2010 10:22 AM    Report this comment

I agree that it was not a great idea considering that the FAA is gonna get their panties ALL bunched up and they will overreact by flogging, flaying, firing, and crucifying the controller and the supervisor. A simple "hey, don't do that again" would have sufficed. I retired from flying this year simply because I am sick to death of working with brain-dead, humorless, dried up, government drones and their matching civilian contract lackeys.

Posted by: jim thiessen | March 5, 2010 10:26 AM    Report this comment

With the growing focus on ADM, SRM, risk management etc, I am amazed at the overwhelmingly 'no harm no foul' attitude most people are taking. The attitude seems to be that since nothing happened, there is no reason to fret about it. I cannot disagree more strongly. Comments such as "brain-dead, humorless, dried up, government drones" are uncalled for. Sticking to the rules (being a drone) is what makes the machine work. This was not a single occurrence. Apparently it occurred two days in a row. 4pm on a weekday afternoon in what is arguably the busiest airspace in the world is NOT the time to be messing around on frequency.

"The psychology of bad decision making is rooted in confidence based on incrementally bad behavior without adverse outcomes" (Unknown)

Posted by: Anton steyn | March 5, 2010 11:02 AM    Report this comment

I think this is a classical example of the FAA's kneejerk reaction. Perhaps the controller should have thought twice before letting his (I assume) son take the microphone. Was it unsafe? Probably not. After all, it wasn't like having him in the radar room during a peak traffic period and saying "..here son, monitor the scope while I get a cup of coffee." For some reason I really don't think this occurred during a peak traffic period. Was it unprofessional on the controller's part? Maybe a little. Was it illegal? Probably so....a little. In order to transmit on a radio, as controllers and pilots do, one must have in their possession,a Restricted Radio-Telephone Operators Permit. There may be exceptions, but I don't think the law has changed since I was a controller quite a few years ago, and I really don't think this youngster had one. Was it entertaining? The pilots seemed to get a chuckle out of it, and you can rest assured, the kid will never forget that moment. He has potential for being an air-traffic controller, too. Calm, cool, and collected. And by the way....who reported this "incident"? I would like to know about that. Personally, I think a verbal warning would have done the job. I asked my son (a father of three now)if any of this sounded familiar. His reply was "...yeah Dad, it really does. Thanks!". Bob Williams

Posted by: Robert Williams | March 5, 2010 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. You can pull this stuff on Unicom in Iowa but it's not appropriate at all at JFK tower frequency. It all comes down to JUDGMENT and any controller who thought that it would be accepted has bad judgment. I say bust him down to work Unicom advisories in Iowa where such belongs and everyone is happy.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 5, 2010 1:47 PM    Report this comment

This is a Post Script to my earlier comments.I was watching a segement of FOX NEWS day before yesterday, and they were requesting people to E-mail them with their comments regarding this. I sent her(I wont mention her name)an E-mail with the same content, with the exception of the conversation I had with my son.Yesterday I received an automated reply saying "..message deleted without being read." Maybe it was what I put in the Subject area in the E-Mail. TEMPEST IN A TEA-POT AT JFK. Oh well, so much for my opinion.

Posted by: Robert Williams | March 5, 2010 3:30 PM    Report this comment

The EAA President seems to realize the implications of overreacting to this incident. Youth programs are sponsered by the EAA and many other aviation organizations, and the impact of this incident could be detrimental to all. I hope other aviation leaders will intervene publicly to minimize the consequenses of the incident. The March 4 EAA e-newsletter had the following comment:

"Don't Overreact to JFK Kid Controller" "Maintain Youth Access to Aviation"

"While the FAA investigates widely reported actions of an air traffic controller that allowed his children to clear aircraft for takeoff at New York's JFK airport, EAA President Tom Poberezny says this isolated incident shouldn't prevent youth access to aviation opportunities while maintaining safety."

Posted by: Tom Sams | March 5, 2010 6:18 PM    Report this comment

Let me get this straight. According to the media, hundreds if not thousands of lives were at risk. A controller and supervisor are immediately suspended, towers and tracons are placed off limits to visitors, and an in depth investigation is ordered. Did any heads roll after the underwear bomber incident?

Posted by: Charles Haubrich | March 5, 2010 8:25 PM    Report this comment

We in New York ARTCC had many visitors from Boy Scouts, airline pilots and even Nuns. Based on the traffic at the moment we would einvite the visitor to give a few clearances with my supervisor standing right there and even approving. I worked the sectors handling overseas traffic and took pride in saying hello or goodbuy in their language, it was always appreciated by the pilot. The next generation of controllers will come from this kind of father/children relationship.

Posted by: jerry govesky | March 6, 2010 10:09 AM    Report this comment

Jerry Govesky, Please contact me at: Rusty787@me.com Thx, Ross Aimer

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 6, 2010 4:46 PM    Report this comment

Just another 'knee jerk' reaction, especially by the press....as a military and commercial pilot for almost 50 years, I feel that safety was not compromised one bit. This has been done all of the time during "kids day with dad" programs, nationwide, and has been done in many towers on many occasions, without compromise ! The TSA is just another mucked up government agency that could not respond to the Christmas Day "nut case" in Detroit, and now is trying to recover their entire lifetime of screwups with one itsybitsy incident that has no merit ! Giv em their jobs back, and let the youngster "out of jail" . . . duh ?

Posted by: s. k. franks | March 6, 2010 8:44 PM    Report this comment

I gave hundred's of tours at Boston center. We would always let non pilots, both kids and adults plug in. Most controllers felt very comfortable letting someone talk on the frequency. It's no big deal and this whole thing is totally ridiculous. Unfortunately we have too many people in the Union and in FAA management without common sense. It would be really good to see an official from both of these organizations just step forward and tell the truth.

Posted by: Ross Budd | March 7, 2010 7:29 AM    Report this comment

Ross, Sadly the FAA and NATCA are throwing this guy under the bus! No one is there to defend him, except a few pilots and controllers. See my latest interview on FOX's America Live and leave a supporting comment. The other Ross

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgV1DP4yIpg&feature=digest

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 7, 2010 10:17 AM    Report this comment

Think everyone needs to take a valium, stop hysterically judging everyone else's decisions and look at again in the morning....HP

Posted by: Henry Perry | March 7, 2010 12:36 PM    Report this comment

Ross, thanks for posting the YouTube link. Well done and give Fox credit for giving it five minutes. This is the first I've heard the girl. She was *really* good.

Not sure the FAA has decided to terminate the controller yet. We'll see what this week brings. I'm still betting they won't.

And Henry, no hysterics here that I can see. We're just having a discussion about events of the day. Hysterics is what happens me the day before a magazine deadline.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 7, 2010 1:26 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Paul. Amazing to see the difference between the discussion here among the folks who know something about the subject and elsewhere when the mob mentality and ignorance rules! Ross

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 7, 2010 3:20 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Paul. Amazing to see the difference between the discussion here among the folks who know something about the subject and elsewhere when the mob mentality and ignorance rules! Ross

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 7, 2010 3:20 PM    Report this comment

This is just another sensational media hype that is not even newsworthy. There are much bigger stories to cover within aviation, like crew fatigue. Give the poor controller a break, he was right there with his kids and ready to interrupt if need be. The kids had a thrill and so did the pilots Had this gone on unsupervised, that might be a different story. If the suspensions handed out by the FAA are more than 15 minutes, it is a travesty. Maybe the media should worry more about the wrong doings in Washington!

Posted by: Steve Petrich | March 7, 2010 7:05 PM    Report this comment

It´s so sad to think that a controller with so much experience might lose his job because of this. The impact for the children must be tremendous. JFK needs these experienced controller. They are the best in the business.

So sad, and really, for nothing. So many other things to fix in the system and the knee-jerk reaction for this?

How sad.

Posted by: Alfredo Perilla | March 8, 2010 7:47 AM    Report this comment

As I said in one of my interviews: "This guy would have gotten much less flak had he taken his kids to a strip club! I guess we rather have our children looking up to Kardashians as roll models than a true professional air traffic controller!" As another reader mentioned, Instead of fixing the causes of the mass murders in Buffalo, crew fatigue, airline safety, antiquated ATC and understaffing, FAA is fixing to spy in our conversations in the cockpit. Now, that is a real fix! Captain Ross Aimer (UAL Ret.) Aviation Experts, LLC

Posted by: Ross Aimer | March 8, 2010 8:43 AM    Report this comment

Was it a lapse in judgment? Yes. However, not from a safety or doing the job perspective. The lapse in judgment relates entirely to the PR consequences.

Frankly, I'm tired of us taking every little thing so absurdly seriously and being so rigid about stuff that's basically BS.

By all reports, the kid did a decent job. Dad could have taken over at any second. No harm. No harm should be no foul unless serious potential for harm exists, which, it reasonably did not in this case.

Should the controller be reprimanded? Probably. Should he be suspended? Probably not. Should his job be in jeopardy? Definitely not.

We, as a society really need to stop using FUD as our guiding principle with overreaction our primary recourse. Otherwise, we will harm ourselves far more than any terrorist attack could ever hope to.

Owen DeLong

Posted by: Owen Delong | March 9, 2010 4:22 PM    Report this comment

This is so small incident and nothing was out of control. Now the ATC 'dad' and his supervisor are suspended, for what ?. The people and authorities doing that is totally childish and probably don't have enough to keep them busy. I am a european in South Africa and you can send your jounalists here to get real bad news if they want news. Not even murder is news anymore. a Good dad educating his child, spending quality time together, without risking anything is not news at all and you should be ashamed the way you treat this minor incident blown out of proportion. Well trained ATC personel are to valuable to be treated like that and everyone involved with aviation know that it is one of the most stressfull and responsible jobs in the world. I hope the comments in this forum of avweb will be used in his hearing. Small things amuse small minds...

Posted by: Gustav De Wet | March 10, 2010 2:13 AM    Report this comment

Has it occurred to anyone that all this would have been a non-event if the proper adminisrative channels had been pursued by the eager dad? As is the case with *any* employer: bosses don't want to be caught with their pants down.

True, the FAA would have selected a low-level facility (if at all) to conduct the kid-controller event. But that's precisely the point: dad's keister's in a bind because the FAA discovered all this after the fact.

I feel many are missing the point of all this because most readers of this and other aviation related columns view the FAA as a regulatory agency only, and not an employer. But to fully understand what's going on here, you have to consider both roles simultaneously.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | March 10, 2010 2:43 AM    Report this comment

Ross, you did a good service for all of us, especially the controllers, by going on Fox News. I've tried to do my litte part here by sending an email of this blog to the FAA and many of the big FSDO's which can be found on the web. I hope others here have also done so. If not, there's an "email this blog" button in the upper right hand corner of this page. Send it to all your local news stations too. Let them know there is another side of the coin.

Posted by: David Affinito | March 10, 2010 6:41 AM    Report this comment

Anybody who has ever seen the warning signs directed at passengers at airports, knows that the FAA has a NO JOKING MATTER attitude towards certain things, and I guess having a child say "cleared for takeoff" is one of them.

Its remarkable then, that the FAA didn't also have a N.J.M. attitude when, according to Avweb's weekly column about actual pilot-controller radio interactions, we had this:

>Cessna 12345: >"NorCal approach, student pilot, Cessna 12345. >Heading 024. 1500 feet, climbing to 5500." >NorCal Approach: >"Cessna 54661, student controller. Roger >radar contact."

A student pilot AND a student controller? Wow! You wonder then: What could have happened if that child air traffic controller had to interact with a STUDENT PILOT?!

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | March 15, 2010 7:47 AM    Report this comment

It just amazes me that we are in a society that seems griped with fear of the unknown, all the what ifs. I just find incredible that what is the difference between this controller coaching and teaching his child aspects of his profession. It is no different to what he is probably expected to do with trainee controllers he often has to put his licence on the line with often people who can think they know it all. I have had this happen myself people fresh out of training but when you throw them into a live environment they occasionally do some really screwy things because they can think they know it all. This child basically followed the directions from the "experienced" controller verbatim. I would argue that the child is actually safer than a new trainee straight out of training. He wouldn't question or apply his own interpretation of the directions. The human factor thing. He would just follow them. I remember when i got my passion for flying at 9 a gentleman saw me standing by the local airport and offered me to take me for a fly, as he was moving the aircraft from one airport to another local airport due to one of the airports going to be used on the weekend for a third party event.

Posted by: Graeme Jones | March 22, 2010 5:30 AM    Report this comment

His consortium were wanting to use the aircraft on the weekend, so did a staging flight. I got a flight and while I was up in the air he offered me a go at the controls. One of the best experience i ever had. Did he follow the rules.. no...he wasnt an instructor but he did something that he made a command judgement that to share an experience and give somebody a go to experience a love of his. I wonder how many people these days do that? and the sad fact is that we can't admidt that we do because of the fertiliser that that the media supply about these events. They foster on fear. I don't know about you but life is meant to be fun, and have lots of great experiences that we should try and share with everybody. this controller obviously enjoys his job.. he was sharing his passion and love with his son.. and he gets cruicified in the media.. may loose his job.. just destroy any enjoyment out of it.. It really is an evil thing to destroy other peoples passions, and enjoyment that really is quite safe under controlled circumstances.

Posted by: Graeme Jones | March 22, 2010 5:30 AM    Report this comment

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