Kid directing ground traffic at JFK

NEW YORK — As planes waited to take off from Kennedy Airport, the jargon-packed radio chatter between controllers and pilots was interrupted by a boy's voice: "JetBlue 171, cleared for takeoff."
An air traffic controller who brought his son to work let the youngster read a few routine messages to pilots — and brought in another child the next day — in an incident that amused pilots but not the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Authorities suspended the controller and a supervisor Wednesday after a recording of the radio calls was posted on the Internet, then reported by a Boston television station.


By this point you may have heard this story.  A controller brought his kid to work and let him read some radio calls to planes at JFK.  The recording got out on the 'net; the controller and his supervisor are suspended.  You can listen to the actual audio here.

And there is much outrage and gnashing of teeth over thousands of people who were nearly killed as a result. The problem with that view is that there wasn't any actual damage.

It's important to realize a few things here.

  1. The is grounds control at JFK.  Planes are slowing moving about the tarmac and are not in the air.
  2. It's clear that kid was being told EXACTLY what to say and he did it clearly.
  3. This was actually safer than a normal JFK afternoon.  The fresh voice on the radio and break in routine probably amused many of the pilots.  At the very least, it got them to pay more attention, which is a good thing.

Indefinite suspension is a little much for this incident.  The controller shouldn't have done it, though his actions seem to have caused no danger. Give him a verbal reprimand and be done with it. Let's hope this incident doesn't turn the kid off to airtravel careers in the future.

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