Air traffic control FAIL: Two kids directed planes at JFK

Because finding a picture of a pint-size air traffic controller is nearly impossible, I give you a kid in a pilot costume.

Because finding a picture of a pint-sized air traffic controller is nearly impossible, I give you a kid in a pilot costume.

Here’s a story crying out for the sound of a sad trombone. The Federal Aviation Administration yesterday suspended an air traffic controller at JFK Airport and his supervisor for allowing two children visiting the airport’s tower last month to direct at least five planes.

The FAA has suspended all unofficial visits to towers and radar rooms while the incident is being investigated, and Administrator Randy Babbitt stressed that “this lapse in judgment not only violated FAA’s own policies, but common sense standards … [and]does not reflect the true caliber of our workforce.”

And in case anyone thought otherwise, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association stressed that they “do not condone this type of behavior in any way.”

According to the Washington Post:

Audio recordings first obtained by the Web site, which tracks air traffic control communications, revealed that the child communicated with at least five flights while he was with his father in the air traffic control tower at JFK.

“JetBlue 171, contact departure,” the unidentified child told one flight.

“Over to departure, JetBlue 171, awesome job,” a pilot said in response. Then a man’s voice is heard: “That’s what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.”

In another instance, the boy ended communication with a Mexican pilot by signing off, “Adios,” against agency protocol.

The Post later said that FAA confirmed a second kid also talked to flights from the JFK tower that same day.


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  1. What could possibly go wrong? The kid was just giving instructions to airplanes weighing thousands of pounds and carrying hundreds of passengers. Like the old saying says “Ya buys yer ticket and ya takes yer chance.” They said his father was right there with him. Next we can have kids operating the heavy cranes at construction sites and ports and maybe assisting surgeon dad with open heart surgery like this:

  2. 24-hour news stations made this a story. Sounds like the kids got it all right, and I guarantee dad was right there.

    Listen to new controllers – REAL ones. Their supes correct them constantly, and planes don’t fall from the sky.

    We have collectively lost our sense of humor.

    BTW, clearing a plane to take off doesn’t make it fly!

  3. If the pilots answered the Kids, then they should also be talked to by investigators. When they heard a kids voice, the pilots should have questioned it or call on another frequency, perhaps and ask ground, if that voice is from the Contoller, giving the clearance for take-off. As for for adios amigos, etc. that’s said in any language on the frequency as a courtesy, instead of thank you,so long or good bye.
    Mr joe.

  4. The public needs to relax. There was no danger in this situation, there’s teams of people working together in an ATCT facility, if anything was missaid it would’ve been corrected. The sad thing is some bastard is going to sue over “emotional distress.” People give me a break, there’s worse things in the world.

  5. Post 9-11 no visitors to control tower. Then they relaxed. Post Kiddi Kontroler ditto. A kid has no chance to see what real men do for a lliving any more….Let there be visitors of all ages.

  6. N.E. Melendez on

    What’s wrong here? Are you kidding? You obviously have not seen a track of an aircraft appearing on screen 1/4 of a mile from another plane, both traveling at 180 mph toward each other. Or an aircraft try to land while another aircraft who’s pilot mistook a hold short for an expedite. What’s wrong? People’s life at stake. That’s what’s wrong. THIS IS NOT A GAME PEOPLE!!!

  7. Oh for pete’s sake. Get a grip. No harm was done and there was no more risk than usual. People these days are so eager to turn every situation in to a blame game and point fingers. What the hell is wrong with people? I think Dr. Phil just broached this subject recently.

  8. Hire these kids immediately! They were smart, articulate, and spot on. How refreshing to have youth…no whining about ergonomic equipment, back pain, shift work and overseas deployments. Get off Dad’s back…the kids were perhaps a temporary distraction but there’s no evidence that Dad lost situational awareness. A slap on the wrist will suffice..Dad doesn’t deserve to be fired.

  9. The JFK controller violated an FAA Order AND policy regarding professionism in the workplace. We live in an information age. Air traffic and pilot transmissions are available to passengers and to the world via Therefore, it is the responsibility of controllers and pilots to assure that the “appearance” of unsafe practices are absent from those transmissions. How hard would it have been for Glenn Duffy to put a headset on his kids and have them listen all day, but stop short of speaking on the air?

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