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March 3rd, 2010
02:00 PM ET

Child directs air traffic in NYC

Washington (CNN) - The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after an air traffic controller at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport brought his young child to work and allowed the child to communicate with planes, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

"Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic," the FAA said in a statement. "This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees."

However, Dave Pascoe, owner of, a Web site where the recording of the air traffic communications is posted, told CNN he believes the incident is "ridiculous" and has been "blown out of proportion."

In the recording, a child can be heard saying "Jet Blue 171, cleared for takeoff."

A man is then heard telling the plane, "Here's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school."

The pilot chuckles and says, "Wish I could bring my kid to work." The same pilot later tells the child he did an "awesome job."

During the recording, which is dated February 17, the child also speaks to an apparent Air Mexico flight.

The source confirmed the incident to CNN. A second controller who was supposed to be in charge at the time "should be making sure that things like this don't happen," the source said. FULL STORY

Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. A.J.

    Takes a terrorist to know one eh Elizabeth! What a stupid comment!

    You obviously know nothing about air traffic controllers. No way this controller was trying to harm anyone flying intentionally. We take the safety of those people in the planes very seriously. The pressure is unbelievable. When there's a moment to "lighten things up" a little, we do it.

    What hasn't been told to the public was this was a very slow period at JFK with hardly any planes around. If it would have been a busy time the kid would have never been in the tower cab. I'm sure the dad would have put him in the breakroom to eat a snack and watch TV with the other controllers who were on break at the time.

    Why don't you go and set yourself up a tour at the local tower where you live and take a look at what goes on before making such a foolish comment. Or...just sit behind your computer screen, throw out idiotic comments and judge things you have no idea about.

    March 6, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  2. Martin

    IMV, he shouldn't have done it. Yeah, he got away with it (bringing his child to work) clean this time, but...

    Would you want your heart surgeon to have his child in the operating room when he's operaing on you? And that's only putting one life at risk.

    The problem is when something is going to go wrong, you usually don't get much warning. Maybe a second, sometimes two.

    If the controller was just visiting on his day off and brought his child in to see where Dad works, ummm, maybe that's a diff story. But if he's 'on-duty' and expected to be 100% focused and responsive to any situation that might arise, definitely "No!", he should not have.

    March 4, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  3. Dan M

    As a pilot with 31 years of experience, I find the media representation of this incident very inappropriate. The controller was clearly in control, and the child was repeating what his father told him to say. There was no danger.

    This controller has enough interest in his child to show him what he does for a living... the brief experience at the mic could spark the child's interest in aviation.

    The news media should portray this for what it is... a cute special interest story. Don't make a good parent appear to be a bad one, or a good controller appear to be a bad one. If the news needs a horror story, report on abuse and neglect cases.

    I hope that the FAA tells the controller "don't do it again", and lets him get back to work.

    Lighten up world, enjoy our kids, and enjoy life.

    March 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  4. Gayle

    Seems this was very well planned , I'm sure the pilot knew what was going on before hand. I think " Shaddow Day " is great for kids to understand what there parents are doing all day while away from them. How many people in America have taken there kids to work with them and let them take part in there job..Most of us ...The child was well supervised and did a great job . If we would all listen to the children of the world we might just have a better world to live in . They say," Lacks common sense " Ha ha that's a joke . Most of the people in control of our country , " Lack Common sense " and they haven't lost there jobs . I'm kinda tired of all the DRAMA . Relax people , don't get all bent out of shape over the small things . It was very pleasing to me to hear something like this on the news ( I thought it was so cute ) than to hear who is cheating on who , which is none of our business , that is a private thing and should be kept in the home of the cheated and the cheater. I know I don't want to hear about it . So laugh this off and give those kids a pat on the back ...

    March 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  5. Elizabeth Ader

    The positive comments sent in on these air traffic controllers must have been sent in by family members and friends. These air traffic controllers should be fired. Would the public allow a train or bus conductors to get away with this behavior. I put these air traffic controllers in the same catagory as terrorists.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  6. Michelle

    Ahh the media! This is being blown out of proportion. Lets see what they do to punish the people involved. I bet there are no written policies in the FAA "rulebook" about something like this, if there is id like to see it. Im sure there'd be one now after this incident!
    They should investigate to make sure that the kids were never alone and supervised at all times. Like Scott Jeffers said, how many times are new people trained and theres a trainer right behind the trainee making sure it was done properly, same concept! I didn't hear any panic in the voices of the pilots receiving clearance from the kids! So please lets move forward!

    March 4, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  7. Richard

    It's always a great opportunity to have your kids actually see and hear what an air traffic contoller does for a living, however the contoller has the responsibility for keeping the lives of travelers safe. It also blows me away that the captain accepted and proceeded with the instructions of an obvious juvenile voice. The pilots are just as accountable for this lack of responsibility as the controllers are. I think I'll drive or take a boat for travel!

    March 4, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  8. Willson

    As a parent, I understand he "thought" it was a good idea and hopefully he was telling the child what to say.

    As a flier, not okay. Lives depend on it

    March 4, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  9. A.J.

    This is a complete joke! I can't tell you how many times this has happened over my 20+ yrs as a controller.

    I've been on position before and a cub scout group would come up for a tour and I'd ask one that was interested in what was going on if he would like to talk on the radio. Of course he would say yes and be very excited and happy. He would "parrot" everything I'd tell him to say and everything was fine. The kid was not directing anything. He was merely repeating what he was told to say.

    Hell, as I write this now more than %30 of the controller work force is trainees with a trainer plugged in behind them. Most of whom have never spoken to a plane in their life. This was no different. It was even safer than having a trainee on position because you know the little kid wasn't going to do anything stupid.

    Like others have said, the kid sounded like he was having the time of his life and probably made his dad real proud. The kid could be encouraged to be one of the next generation controllers.

    Kudos to you dad! Shame on you FAA!

    As the song says, "Teach your children well...And feed them on your dreams".

    March 4, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  10. Virg Erwin

    It is obvious from the pilots' lack of surprise to a child giving departure instructions that they had been alerted and it is just as clear that there was no risk. The pilots knew FAA controllers were managing this communication. I think it was pretty neat and the pilots enjoyed it.

    March 4, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  11. erika

    I can't believe the media is making a big deal of this. I believe it was a perfectly controlled situation, the child wa NOT directing traffic but merely repeating the words of his dad, and was not making ultimate decisions about air traffic control. Like Mercedez said; why did we ever promote take your child to work day? To teach them what a real work environment looks like. i see no problems with this as long as it is safe and supervised.

    Hello, media centers? Aren't there more important stories going on? I rank this right up there with Tiger Woods. A waste of time.

    March 4, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  12. Tyler Romanski

    I find the whole matter absurd. After hearing the tapes that were aired I think no action should be taken. I would have loved to have had an opportunity like that at that age. It's not as though they were screwing around over the lines.

    March 4, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  13. mike-sey

    No doubt this was a lapse of judgement, but people should get over it and forget their outrageous and probably manufactured outrage; especially the media. To compare this to an incident where the tower was left virtually untended and suggest passengers could have been put in jeopardy is purely bogus and so typical of an over-reactive and may I say it increasingly nasty society.

    Really no need to publicly pillory the controller and his boss who were on hand with their hands on the controls during the brief incidents. A stiff talking to behind closed doors and a cautionary memo to other controllers would suffice.

    March 4, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  14. lee

    One should determine how many of the students in the CA schools are illegial.

    March 4, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  15. Arvid Nielsen


    whereas, the wisdom of this decision to have your child give the commands from the tower is, fo course, questionable, I have to say, this would not be the time, I would be most worried about the attention of the air traffic controller! I think, there is little doubt, that the father of these children was paying complete attention to the commands given at the time.

    I agree, the controller and the superviser – now, that the "news" of their office joke has made it to the world press – have to stay out of the limelight for the time being, and be "disciplined". A repetition of the incident would be cause for more serious action..
    But, don't blow this thing out of proportion, and support this lynch-mob air around the incident, please.
    I do believe there are far greater issues in terms of air travel security at hand, that you might more sensibly spend time and energy on:
    Are the pilots and air traffic controllers rested? Are they sober? Which consequences have cut backs in their lines of work had?

    I love CNN – watch your programs at all times possible!

    March 4, 2010 at 7:17 am |
  16. Vinny

    News makes it sound like everyone went outside for a cigarette and left the little kid in charge. Lisa Bloom was right last night when she said this is nothing and people need to use their brains once in awhile.

    March 4, 2010 at 7:11 am |
  17. Johnny Bush

    What Kate said! : )
    Seriously, I understand both point of views.
    Welcome back John. Now Kiran is off. In my opinion, Kiran and Kate command a rare quality level of voice presence.

    March 4, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  18. Mat

    I'm not sure what's wrong with this. The kid was literate, annunciated clearly, and his dad was right there with him either directing him what to say, or ready to correct anything the kid may have said incorrectly. In fact, it may be better to have kids in our control towers because I'd be more sure that the kid wasn't drunk!
    This seems to be just another example of the media using sensational headlines to gain viewership.

    March 4, 2010 at 6:20 am |
  19. David Douglas

    Hey all,

    Got a quick question. Now granted the kid is maybe 10 11 years old but to me he sounded like he was doing an excellent job. But let me ask you this, If you have ever been in the virtual aviation world then you have probably heard of a network called VATSIM. It stands for Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network. Now due to the Act in 1998 if your under the age of 13 you cant be a member but basically you can sign up and either become a virtual pilot or a virtual air traffic controller. Now, i am a controller on the Network, and we take this stuff dead seriously, but after listening to transmissions from VATSIM how would you like it if it was one of us up there? I dont know if the kid is apart of VATSIM or not but he sound just good as any one of us, maybe even better.

    March 4, 2010 at 3:18 am |
  20. Scott Jeffers

    I was an air traffic controller and supervisor at one of the busiest enroute radar centers in the US for 29 years. Was this controller right in letting a child talk on the radios? No. Did it jeopardize air safety? No. Air traffic control, even in busy facilities, is characterized by periods of terror and periods boredom. This was a period of boredom where little was going on and the controller told the child exactly what to say. On a scale of 1 to 10 of jeopardizing air safety, this was a 0.1. The FAA and the union can't support the controllers action and the media is having a field day. I saw this on every new program I watched today.
    If you want to talk about jepordizing air safety, this is a non event. Talk about trying to train individuals for years who have no ability or concept of air traffic control. You are standing behind a traniee and half of what they say you have to correct or try to call the recieving controller back and correct the mistake. In the mean time the sector is going to hell and you are getting way behind. This strarted about 1984, a few years after the strike and was going strong in 2003 when I retired. I assume it is still going on today. Prior to 1984, if you didn't show appitude for air traffic control, you may have been given a chance at a slow tower or flight service station. If you failed there, you were fired. In 1984 the unlimited money Reagan committed to rebuild the system was running out. The FAA put quantity over quality in checking out controllers. The new union protected members. Probably the biggest factor was EEO. Air traffic had very few women and minorities. That was an embarassement the FAA wanted to change. A trainee would run out of hours of training and be all their hours back to start over again. When that didn't work, they would be given a new sector to train on. When that didn't work they were given a different area. When after 3 years of training and not certified on any sectors, the trainee would file an EEO complaint . Any managers that had an unresolved EEO complaint could kiss their career good bye. The resolution would be to send the trainee, all expenses paid to a different facility to start all over again. One trainee left our facility that had been training in the system for 12 years at many facilities and not checked out on anything. She went to another facility to start all over again.
    So if you want to talk about jeopardizing air safety, its the instructors that had to stand behind her for 12 years scrambling for damage control.
    Would the medias talk about this. Not on your life. But they will jump all over a guy that had his son say a few words to pilots when there was nothing going on.
    The majority of women and minorities that came through the program made fine controllers.

    March 3, 2010 at 11:53 pm |
  21. Alystar Mckenneh

    Get over it, it was fine. It's not like the kid was directing traffic. Move on and give the dad a break....

    March 3, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  22. popeye

    We have a serious problem here... People taking their kids into their professions, if I'm not mistaken this is a liscensed position with the FAA, He should Lose that liscense and the wording says conviction if found guilty of wrong doing. coming from an A&P mechanic, Liscensed by the FAA

    March 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  23. Mercedez

    OK well WHY DO we promote take your kids to work day!
    For those who don't accept this act of innocence, then how can we as a people look down on this? It is obvious it was made known to all employees, he would be on the job assisting his father.
    I am sure at no point he was left alone in the control tower, and I am sure he was instructed what to say.
    All employees seemed to look on at this in a favorable way.
    I am appalled that one day we are saying encourage employment, make a better nation, include kids in all sorts of career days, and bring the kids to work day, YET we kick and scream when a meaningful act is done to teach a kid what happens in a work place, which obviously brought no harm to no one and no one was absent at the said time.
    I see NO harm in this.... the youths are our future, and we have to encourage employment.. and peak interest in the work force that is the purpose of taking your kids to work.
    But no it seems we are more interested in unemployment reform than inspire employment.

    March 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  24. Massimina Dobias

    Give that dad a brake he was supervising him, all the transmisions were sent clearly if not i bet the dad would have jumped in quick. Use this as a learning experionce and let the poor man learn from it and let him work again.

    March 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  25. bryan Robbins

    leave the kid and parent alone this is not the middle east its America where we train our kids to walk in our foot steps, and we take them to work so they may learn,

    so Mr FAA blow it out your ass or move to the middle east and suck sand you morons

    I think the kid did a great job and so did ever American in the airport who heard the talent the kid has

    March 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm |