Kids Take Over JFK Air Traffic Control, and I Think It’s Hilarious

Air Traffic Control

I assume by now you’ve heard about the kid that made a few calls to airplanes in the JFK tower, right? Lots of people seem to be Kid Air Traffic Controlflipping out over this, but honestly, I think it’s pretty funny. I mean, no harm was done, and I can’t imagine it could have been done either.

Don’t get me wrong. This was just a dumb thing to do. It sounds like at least one of the controllers had a kid or two on a school break, so he brought them up to the tower. That’s a huge thrill for any kid (especially dorks like me), but if that’s all that happened, I don’t think this would be plastered on the nightly news. No, it’s when the kid took over and made some transmissions to airplanes that the sh*t hit the fan.

Like I said, that was a really dumb thing to do, especially since these guys will be lucky if they somehow still have a job, but I think all these people flipping out about it just need to chill out. If you listen to the kids’ transmissions, they sounded very professional to me:

Kid: Don’t be a fool, JetBlue 171, you know what a landing like this means, you more than anybody. I’m ordering you to stay up there.
JetBlue 171: No dice, New York. I’m giving the orders and we’re coming in. I guess the foot’s on the other hand now, isn’t it, kid?

See? Harmless. Ok, so maybe that wasn’t exactly what happened. It actually was far more boring than that:

Kid: JetBlue 171 contact departure
JetBlue 171: Over to departure, JetBlue 171 . . . awesome job

Oooh, scary. The world is gonna end! As Rob Mark wrote over on JetWhine, “The kid never controlled anything. He said the words his dad told him to say, nothing more.” (You can listen to the tapes here.)

That’s the reality here. If the kid wasn’t quick enough or some sort of situation developed, you know that the controller was right there ready to take over. There wasn’t any harm here, and I really don’t think there could have been. The pilots clearly weren’t concerned.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this guy loses his job and that’s a shame, but I understand it. People are going crazy over this, so somebody’s head has to roll. He screwed up, so now he’s going to have to pay. Bummer, because I thought it was pretty damn funny.

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62 comments on “Kids Take Over JFK Air Traffic Control, and I Think It’s Hilarious

  1. I completely agree…I think people need to take a page from the book of the pilots in this situation. They knew there was no safety concern whatsoever, and took it lightly. Everyone else should do the same.

  2. I don’t disagree with the spirit of your commentary, Cranky — situations like this always seem to be pulpits for people who like to scream bloody murder about the tiniest things. But at the same time, I’ll share some comments I made to a friend of mine who forwarded me this story when it broke knowing I was an airline biz nerd and asked what I thought:

    “As someone who used to fly a *lot*, this scares me a bit, especially at an airport as large as JFK. Planes are enormous tubes of meat and flammables: I think it’s reasonable to require there be an over-the-top, military-style dedication to procedure and conduct, especially on the ATC deck. If you work at an airport and want to show your kid something neat, arrange for them to crawl around in the cockpit of a 777 parked in a hangar somewhere.”

    My overall thought is while of course “JetBlue 171” was never in any real danger just because a child radioed them and not an adult, the presence of a child on the ATC Deck could have been distracting to other controllers. It’s not so much any lapse of the child that I’m concerned with, but rather lapses in attention by others around them.

  3. I think the entire country is just a little uptight right now and we all feel that we have to blame something or someone for what looks like incompetence. Yeah, it was a dumb thing to do, but the talking heads on TV have decided to make a big deal about this and I think it is way out of proportion… Must be a slow news day… no Tiger sightings….

    I’m sure the children that got a trip to the tower are thrilled that their dad took them to work and think of him as a big hero right now

  4. The is the first Andrew again…meant to add in my original comment that some of the people freaking out about this are almost as bad as that guy in the AP story that ran a couple years back about “go arounds”, where he said something to the effect of thinking his life was about to be over because of the catastrophe waiting to happen as a result of the go around…similar type of manufactured media hysteria.

    I’m just saying if I were a passenger on Jet Blue 171 and found out about this, it wouldn’t bother me.

  5. Wow! You’re not going to slam a government worker? Is this the real Cranky or did someone get your password? heh heh

  6. <>


    You’re kidding, right? If a kid (under his parent’s control, mind you) comes to my job and I can’t focus, then I probably shouldn’t have my job.

    Just another example of media mass hysteria over nothing.

  7. I cant really add to anything that you have said or what others have posted. This is yet another media-driven ‘wag the dog’ thingy that makes sheeple feel better about themselves by blamestorming others. Nuff’ said….

    I commented because that pic of the Late Great Lloyd and photoshopped eTrade baby made me spit my morning coffee out in laughter. It’s gonna be a good Friday…thanks Crank.

  8. I blame this on the 12-second news cycle. And Nancy Grace. Everything can be blamed on her, I find.

  9. (waving to first Andrew) The is the “second” Andrew — I see us both posting here more often, so I’ll append my other initials from now to avoid confusion. :D

  10. If this had happen in the tower at Waterloo, Iowa we would never have heard about it, but being JFK it’s news. I’m surprised we didn’t hear the head of Homeland Security saying it was not a ‘terrorist’ event. They like to say that for everything that happens now a days.

    Bad judgement and he never should have done it unless maybe it was a slow Saturday morning and told the pilot my ‘junior helper’ it going to clear you. Then at least everyone in hearing distance would know what was going on when a childs voice was heard.

    You would think with all the horrible things happening in the world, that this would not be any big deal. Who’s knows maybe that controller will find himself working in the Waterloo, Iowa tower now. I wonder if he’ll commute from New York….oh wait that was yesterdays topic…

  11. So if this controller is forced to leave, who is going to take over? Here’s the answer: nobody. JFK Tower is already understaffed as it is and people can’t just be hired and start asap, even with the requisite ATC training. It takes years and because of inactivity in the past regarding recruiting and training and higher rates of retirement coming up, the whole country, and JFK too, will be left with a shortage of controllers.

    So, bottom line: we need this controller.

  12. Having been in the tower at LGW as a teenager on work experience (but not allowed anywhere near anything important), I entirely agree. Which is annoying, because that picture makes me want to say “surely you can’t be serious?”

  13. re: “I think the entire country is just a little uptight right now”

    I wonder if that will ever change. We live in a country where an accidental opening of an alarmed door shuts down an entire airport. Or a kid brings a lego gun to school and is suspended, and parents spend their days scoping out potential sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Disproportionate concern over extremely low probabilities of trouble.

    In this case it’s not the action, rather the media riling up people with headlines like “Kids Direct JKF Traffic” — (I realize CF’s post title is in jest,”) — when in reality they weren’t “directing” sh*t. Not any more than a bank teller’s kid at work handing a $20 back to a customer with them standing right there.

    Someone on another site commented that some TV story was chastising visitors – yet showing footage of ATC workers in action, which would ironically have been shot by visitors crowding around the ATC crew with cameras…

  14. As someone said earlier, in a perfect world no one would have probably said anything about this. Hell, the pilots didn’t even care.

    Sure it was a dumb idea in retrospect, but the controller in question didn’t think it was THAT dumb or he would never have tried it.

    But this is New York where all the worst of our memories since Pearl Harbor are buried. And those days placed fear – rational or not – into everyone, every single time they get on an airplane or even think about it.

    That’s really why people have lost their minds over this.

    An AP story the other day called this the third incident of ATC problems in seven months. The other side of the coin though is that there have millions of ATC transactions around the U.S. that came off without a hitch.

    What the guy in JFK tower did was goofy, but it wasn’t unsafe.

    Rob Mark

  15. I’d agree that the controller definately should be punished, but definately not fired. I’m sure he was plugged in and ready to go if something came up. No one was hurt … punish him, dont take his job.

    When i was younger (pre-1999) my dad was an air traffic controller and I used to go to work with him all the time. I loved it … its probably the main reason I am into aviation, plane spotting and the airline geek that I am.

    Now we’re not talking about a high volume tower like JFK, but it was at a mid-level airport with a decent amount of traffic. I never got on mic (in fact it was specifically stated as forbidden) … but I did get to tear the paper strips with the flight information off the printer and put them in the plastic holders for everyone (at the time that was a huge thrill to be able to help out). And this wasnt uncommon then … all the controllers used to bring their kids in when they had a overnight shift by themselves, weekends, holidays or when we knew a new/different type of plane was coming into town.

  16. When I was a 19 year old college kid, I used to work at an airport and became friends with one of the tower controllers. She used to let me up in the tower all the time and I would “control” airplanes, under her supervision. This kid was doing exactly the same thing. As a pilot for a major airline, I personally think it’s awesome. As a matter of fact, I wish the controllers in Paris spoke that well, then maybe there wouldn’t be so many violations.

    I hope this guy keeps his job. Not sure if you remember that controller in LAX that landed a 737 on top of a Metro a few years back. She got to keep her job. This is nothing compared to that. Nobody was hurt, no runway incursions occurred, and from what I understand, the ground controller told the pilots to expect the local controllers kid talking….so it didn’t come as a surprise.

    I also thought it was funny that the kid said “adios” to Aeromexico.

  17. Matt wrote:

    … but I did get to tear the paper strips with the flight information off the printer and put them in the plastic holders for everyone (at the time that was a huge thrill to be able to help out).

    What you just said is the sad part to this. That kid must have been thrilled out of his mind and couldn’t wait to tell all his friends what he got to do. Now because of this he must feel really bad. You know how kids are, he will think it’s his fault his Dad is in trouble and not working.

  18. There is an expectation of professionalism on the part of everyone who operates in our national airspace system. We have the safest airspace on the planet (FAA staffing, operational warts, and all) as a result.

    While having this kid issuing clearances to moving aircraft in the air and on the ground is clearly harmless, the lapse in professional conduct is pretty glaring.

    There is an expectation on the part of the flying public that we comply with all of the rules, without going out of the box. Having a child transmitting valid clearances to passenger carrying jets is out of the rule box, harmless or not. What was Dad thinking?

  19. This is a great example of how the sensationalism of a ten-second soundbite and a snappy headline always trumps (and sells more media than) the reality behind the situation.

    As those of us who listen to ATC streaming from JFK on know, this particular controller was one of the best, and indeed news reports tell us he’s done the job for about two decades. Even in the short one-minute clip we’ve all heard, which was posted in the LiveATC forums (from which this whole brouhaha sprung, though the clip had been there about three weeks, to enthusiastic albeit limited notice, until someone unknown found it and distributed it to a Fox affiliate, and the rest is viral history…), it’s incredibly clear that the kid is just parroting what his dad, who is right there the whole time of course and speaks immediately before and after his son in all cases, is telling him to say. (I mean, duh, we all know that.)

    What additional context most people who’ve consumed this story don’t have (or care to have) is: the fact that this controller usually worked at that time of day and most of the pilots were, one can assume, familiar with him, and that the clip we’ve heard is edited or at least part of a longer running ATC-pilot dialogue, and who knows how much more emphatically the controller explained the situation to the pilots before the clip starts–as if they need more explanation, considering the controller himself was never not speaking for more than the few seconds it took his son to deliver his lines!

    The apt analogy is indeed (as someone above said) with the son of a cashier handing change to a customer after the cashier has counted it out and handed it to his kid, not to a doctor’s kid performing surgery for his father (as some more hysterical people have posted elsewhere).

    Was this a dumb move on the ATC’s part? Of course, even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with a lack of safety. It was a product of complacency (20 years on the job, familiarity with the pilots, evidently done with supervisory knowledge, because who other than those in the know could be listening, right?). Has it been blown of proportion? Duh again.

  20. Tony wrote:

    I’m sorry but as harmless as it seems, anything could have happened at the drop of a pin. It needs to be dealt with severely in order to discourage this type of activity in the future.
    For those who have forgotten just how quickly something that seems innocent can spin completely out of control, I offer this link:

    Your link is a story about a kid who was ACTUALLY FLYING the airplane. I think that’s a huge jump from the situation being discussed here.

  21. Nothing happened. Good.
    Make sure it never happens again. Better.

    I see no difference between the ATC tower and the cockpit door of an airplane, particularly in the middle of one of the busiest air sectors in the world. Yea, the pilot played along but certainly wasn’t expecting the voice of a child in an environment where split-second decisions affect flight and safety.

    The Delta pilots had that same argument when their 727 crashed in Dallas. If anything goes wrong with the flight attendant at the controls we’ll be there to catch it, they said. Fourteen people died who didn’t have to because the crew was just trying to have fun in the middle of a critical situation.

    Sorry, guys. At least we agree it was insanely dumb but the next time I fly in to New York I don’t expect my pilot to have to spend even one second shootin’ the S**T with a child when he’s trying to land my plane.

  22. I think if I was sitting on United listening to the pilots talking to the tower and heard a child say ‘United 123 cleared for takeoff’ I would have smiled, I would have realized children were not running the air traffic control system, and I would not have started running up and down the aisle screaming we’re going to die children are in the tower.

    It still wasn’t a good move on the guy doing it at JFK during the evening rush, but I don’t think he would have done it if JFK was in total chaos at the moment.

    The only children running the air traffic control system are in Washington.

  23. BF wrote:

    @ David SFeastbay:
    That is precisely the case, according to the NY Daily News:

    I think I missed that there were two kids. All this uproar over nothing bad happening. Oh brother!

    Well President Obama better never have his kids in the oval office while he’s at work. They could start a nuclear war. Oh wouldn’t the Repbulbicans have a field day over that……

  24. Janet: “The system worked.”

    Dad: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.”

    Kid: “Jetboy 171, cleared direct KCI…oh wait, I mean MCI.”
    (Ahem, Cranky ;-)

  25. I’ve listened to ATC transmissions for several years now and i’ve heard more ‘unprofessional’ communications where professionals were involved. This is all just the media being the media.

  26. Cranky your article was spot on! There was no danger for the passangers or crew. The childs father obviously was standing right there and told the child what to say. But I do agree it wasn’t the best judgement on the fathers part, not something he should be fired for though. My career is in aviation and we can not bring our children to work because we maintain & repair aircraft; having kids around when a aircraft is be repaired is definately more of a safety of flight concern, than a child communicating their fathers directions to a pilot.

  27. @ The Traveling Optimist:

    Like many of the others, you’re REALLY stretching it here. Comparing a child “parroting” his father’s instructions into a mic to a FA flying an aircraft? Apples and oranges, and a perfect example of how we’ve all lost of our sense of fun, adventure and humor.

    I see this as no different than a child on a field trip to the fire station playing on the truck or speaking into the radio and catching a little “bug” of the wonder of what it means to do that job. Feeling inspired and maybe even carrying that inspiration forward in life where it becomes his career.

    The kid wasn’t controlling aircraft. While Fox News may love you to think that’s the case, we need to all try to think for ourselves and use a little common sense and rational thinking.

    This is a non-news story that was turned into an event by a bored media.

  28. sad part is this…. as hard as we’re trying to promote aviation careers to young people, the poor kids who saw their parents suspended for this will probably be scared off now.

  29. It certainly was cute! But, wouldn’t you have been a little concerned that maybe someone around the airport had hacked into the Tower frequency?

    It made me chuckle a little, thinking back to my that-week EAS-contract flight to/from my old hometown airport. Sitting in the 9-seater, with a pilot who looked like he could have been part of the “Take Your Kid to Work” thing, but without Dad, or anyone else sitting next to him! Regardless, a well done job. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.

    Returning, my fellow-passenger asked the pilot how long he had been flying for this airline. “Twelve years,” he said! Oh? Must’ve started when he was around 13, I guess! But again, a terrific flight, at 4,000/5,000 feet, over beutiful Mid-Atlantic snow-covered land and Baltimore Inner Harbor, on a day when the wind was gusting 50 mph, plus! Oh, those kids!


  30. JayB wrote:

    But, wouldn’t you have been a little concerned that maybe someone around the airport had hacked into the Tower frequency?

    No. Did you listen to the recording? The father acknowledges that it’s his son and makes a joke about “that’s what you get when the kids are off from school.” Moreover, the father himself is continually directing the pilots throughout, much more often than the few times his son does it on the brief clip.

    Not picking on you, but our culture loves juicy soundbites. How many people out there have formed a strong opinion or gotten out!raged! about this, without actually listening to the evidence, weighing the external factors that could have been involved, and so on. I’ve seen how often and with how many details the media gets it wrong on those few instances when I actually know something about a story firsthand. Not too encouraging.

  31. Yes, it was cute. Regardless, it was a distraction for the controller at one of the busiest airports in the country. If the controller had forgotten about an aircraft cleared to cross or land on that active runway, Cranky’s post wouldn’t have been so jovial.

    I was on a USAir 737 heading from LAX to San Diego in 1991, first up for departure on 24L when another USAir 737, flight 1493 was cleared for landing. The controller had forgotten that she had cleared Skywest 5569 into departure position on the active runway and for it to hold. After waiting for two hours and watching what seemed like every firetruck in LA roll by, my flight was cleared to take off on 24R and the few passengers on the flight were plastered to the windows on the left side of the plane. The image of the charred wreckage of a 737 that had slammed into a hanger, will never be forgotten. If my plane had rolled out of terminal one 30 seconds earlier, my plane would have slammed into Skywest instead. All because if a distracted controller who had forgotten about another aircraft on an active runway.

  32. As someone with my only connection to the airline industry being a full paying passenger, some of you people need to lighten up and listen to the clip. All the kid ever said was “Cleared for Takeoff” and “Contact Departure” with a “good bye” or “adios” thrown in. All of the aircraft movements were performed by the father, with no delay noticeable.

    It seems to me that the father was well in control of the situation, and if something were to have come up requiring his full attention he would have been able to give it his full attention, in the most professional manner.

    Had I been on a UA flight at JFK, I would have had a good giggle and a huge smile on my face if I heard that come across on Ch. 9.

    I really hope at some point we can concern ourselves with things more important than “take you kid to work” or who athletes and movie stars are sleeping with.

  33. Ya know what! As all you Americans sit here on your high horses, giggling and laughing over how funny this is!! The father put these kids in the spotlight, so the blame is on him. HE SHOULD BE FIRED!!!!! I’ll take the additional delays at JFK.. it already is a long taxi out anyway!!

    I do not want kids (I do not care if they are doubled up on headphones or not) clearing planes for take off or landing!

    You all sit here laughing about how nothing happened! Correct!

    But what IF something had happened! You all would not be singing the same tune! Im amazed at how all my friends think this is funny as well! As industry nerds, your nerd wires have gotten the best of you!

    I have no problem with the kid being in the tower, or listening in on the dad working, but controlling planes! NO NO NO

    You Americans are a bunch of cowboys! This is NOT a country of uptight people! Thats my homeland (England) we’re the uptight bastards! Get it right now! ;) America is full of a bunch of bored people, looking for a little excitement to spruce up their day!!

    In closing. Things happen in seconds on the ground, as well as in the air! If the controller is distracted HE WAS, by passing orders to his kid! He is not focused on his job! He is double checking his kid! Remember the PA and KL collision! (Bad weather) and DISTRACTIONS in the control tower

    Im so so disappointed in you Cranky! But to be honest…I expected it from you! really, I knew you would delight in this story! Shame on you! Shame on all of you!!

  34. Cranky,

    Great post. I remember back in the 70s, when things were a LOT more militaristic, that I went to Washington Center’s location in Leesburg, VA and got silent when the controller found a pilot with my real name and had him talk with me….I was too nervous to do anything, and really wish I would have talked, but I didn’t.

    This kid did an OUTSTANDING job, albeit mirrored what his father told him.

    With all those people crying how stupid this is, it’s a safety concern, then shall Pegasus Airlines remove their safety demo’s that showcase kids in their video’s,( or Air New Zealand’s safety video’s about the ‘Bare Essentials’ of the plane? (the crew members in the video are all nude, but have uniforms painted on their bodies)

    Because the controller informed everyone about the kid giving a command, I’m sure it brought more awareness between the cockpit and control tower on these particular days.

  35. Actually this was more safe than the normal routine. When a senior controller is training a new controller the primary controller is listening intently to every word the trainee is saying. When a senior controller is giving the same instruction himself for the 400,000 time your mouth is on autopilot.

  36. This was wrong. Get off the “so cute, and of course nothing happened”. What about the “sterile cockpit” thing: why? NO DISTRACTIONS. JFK is a fairly busy place, and NO DISTRACTIONS would seem to be the natural order of work.
    Of course, this harmless deviation from procedure could happen thousands, milions of times with no problem. Just like the driver “I was only taking a 5-second look at my text message”; the cyclist “it was just a 5-minute ride to the store, no helmet needed”; the annoying “I only double-parked for a few minutes; can’t bother anyone”.
    Rules have a purpose. The idea is that rules are not “pick and choose”.
    The writers defending this controller need to look at their own behavior a bit more sharply.
    Remember the homily: “The test of your honesty comes when nobody is watching you.”

  37. I can just imagine that if a VIP, such as a politician or celebrity was in the control tower and had been allowed to make a few calls under supervision it would have been news for very different reasons, generating positive PR for them and the airport. Sure, the controller made a stupid decision and sadly will pay the price with his job and probably career, but I feel that in these situations things just get all out of perspective. With all the other issues facing us in the world, these things seem to take up an inordinate amount of airtime.

  38. Oh yes, distracted pilots and air traffic controllers are gosh darn hilarious! Fire those fools.

  39. @ Hunter:

    Would you think it was cute if a kid was on a firetruck responding to a real fire? This kid was interfering with active operations of an airport with thousands of lives at stake. It’s not at all like “visiting the firehouse”.

  40. Cranky,

    C’mon, gotta work a little harder to us stirred up!

    I’m sure someone by now has joked: “Air Traffic Control, so easy even a caveman, er, a kid can do it!”

    And, like you said about being a dork. Me too. Wish my Dad had had a job like that and he took me to work. Wow!

    Along those lines, a few years back, well, more than a few. I had a next door neighbor who was a controller in Washington Center at Leesburg, Va. They had open houses nearly every year (I don’t think they do that anymore) and the public could stroll through the dark offices and watch and talk with the guys/gals working there. Well, there was my neighbor working a sector for planes coming southwest-bound down for a landing at Wasington-National. He invited be over, sat down, and, well, I was a “kid in the candy store!” Kinda boring here, then awfully busy there. How did they ever keep everything straight!

    Off to see some other guy handling traffic on a sector off Wilmington, NC. Again, Wow!

    Off course, my neighbor got fired by Reagan, then went back to work, probably retired by now. Solid rock, salt-of-the-earth, nothing could phase him type of guy, and if that’s the type handling traffic today, I have no worries. Still, we’re sort of in a different world these days.

  41. Here here, Randy and Not Funny.
    This is simply not funny.
    A kid on a fire truck at the station? Fine.
    When that 4-alarm bell goes off? That kid better not be anywhere near the controls much less at the scene.

    Let the kid play ATC with any of a million Nintendo/Xbox/Wii/Playstation games from Best Buy. Let the kid’s dad post it on YouTube and pray that it goes viral for all to see and enjoy.

    Take the kid to work, by all means but don’t touch the friggin’ buttons!

    It’s not funny. And the haranguing and baying for blood that would have come from all corners if even so much as a dog had died from this isn’t even worth mentioning.

  42. C’mon! If you say no to kids, how will they LEARN?

    They eventually have to experience at least something in their lifetimes. I applaud the fathers who lets their kids to experience what it is like to work in Tower.

    It helps them to understand how serious this job is and they WILL realize how it requires their 100% attention from day one.

    People who overreacted need to STFU.


  43. @ Ridor9th Experience it from the back of the Tower, sure, pushing the buttons, no.

    While I have never been a controller, just observed operations in many various towers, I can only imagine that someone working ATC goes through extensive training first, then works a small airport to learn the ropes, and then eventually bids up to the largest airports like JFK. You just don’t throw anyone, especially a 6 year old into that type of situation.

    My best guess here is that the article and the responders who thought it was no big deal, were written by people with no operational experience at an airline or other type of flight operation. Cranky, I know you worked revenue management at America West, but I am not sure if you ever had any hands on ops experience outside of corporate headquarters.

    You always have to fight complacency and formal programs usually ensure that safety is always kept in mind. Airline operations are built around a culture of safety. It is a given that it can’t be perfectly safe, but the goal is to identify and mitigate potential hazards, managing the overall risk. The controller ignored this and deliberately introduced a hazard into the process and that is why he should be fired.

  44. I’m going to go with the pilots on this one — they thought it was cute and didn’t care and still don’t, considering their ingenious show of solidarity by now slipping “Adios” into their transmissions to JFK ATC (see Daily News article above).

    You don’t get to work as a controller at JFK for many years if you’re an idiot. This was a dumb move from a PR perspective, but if you think there was actual danger involved in *this* particular incident (not some hypothetical of what might happen with toddlers running around some imaginary tower), you need to take a clue from the pilots who were actually involved here, and relax.

  45. Randy wrote:

    My best guess here is that the article and the responders who thought it was no big deal, were written by people with no operational experience at an airline or other type of flight operation. Cranky, I know you worked revenue management at America West, but I am not sure if you ever had any hands on ops experience outside of corporate headquarters.

    I spent a lot of time above the wing but none below or behind the scenes in the operation. I do have plenty of friends who have, and I’ve spoken to many about this. Also, I think you’ll find that many of the people who have commented here have very good and relevant experience.

  46. Although it didn’t and most likely wouldn’t have done any harm, perception is key. If passengers don’t have faith that the ATC can keep them safe, they are going to be afraid to fly, be it right or wrong perception.

    I think this would have been more amusing in a small airport, but not JFK.

  47. Here’s what I posted on the Yahoo News article about this…

    “On one hand, I agree that this was probably a great learning experience for the kid.

    On the other hand, air traffic controllers are responsible for the safety of thousands of passengers. For this reason, the FAA expects that controllers will give their undivided attention to the job, and won’t allow themselves to be distracted. I’ve toured active control towers before, and there was usually a representative on hand to conduct the tour; typically, we were told not to disrupt the controllers actively performing their jobs.

    The issue here isn’t whether the kid was going to confuse pilots; rather, the issue is that if the controller was taking the time to show his kid how to talk to the pilots, he wasn’t paying complete attention to the job itself. His attention was split between directing traffic and supervising his child, and this is clearly in opposition to what’s expected of him.”

    As a side issue, I’ll mention that I’m a light aircraft pilot, and do most of my flying around Houston. The airspace around here is pretty complex, with two Class B airports (IAH and HOU) and a slew of smaller fields under the Class B shelves. On a nice day, the air is filled with student pilots, weekend warriors, NASA and military traffic from EFD, and plenty of other GA traffic in addition to the scheduled big iron. It’s a lot of different types of traffic converging on one city…In other words, it’s busy. If I’m shooting the I-10 VFR corridor between IAH and HOU, I sure as hell hope that the Houston Approach controller has his full attention on the airspace, and isn’t spending time babysitting his kids.

  48. I am brain surgeon. I always bring my kids into the OR during their spring break. What’s the harm? I’ll be right there in case their knife goes a bit off course.

    How come we have “Sterile Cockpit Rules” ( when the pilots’ counterparts in the control tower can operate a day care center at their workplace?

  49. Time to back , and wear the ole jackasss yourself, Cranky. You really struck out on this “hilarious” event. Let’s hear you say it out loud.

  50. Jim wrote:

    Time to back , and wear the ole jackasss yourself, Cranky. You really struck out on this “hilarious” event. Let’s hear you say it out loud.

    You won’t hear me back off here at all. The comments here have been overwhelmingly in favor of my position, and I stand by it.

  51. Cranky says “comments have been overwhelmingly in favor of my position…” Uh, my count of the 58 messages to date shows 26 clearly in favor of Cranky, and 17 clearly not in agreement. I suggest 26/17 is not “overwhelming”. All of us on this site are probably plane-o-philic, so I would say the response is surprisingly negative.

    26 + 17 = 43, less than 58. Some messages are repeats or clarifications, and are not counted. Someone else r\doing the same count might differ by a couple of tallies from my count, without seriously changing my point.

    Some comments are hard to classify: Daren “stupid decision but”. BF “Was this a dumb move…? Of course, even though…” Matt “punished but not fired”. Rob Mark “goofy but it wasn’t unsafe” David SFeastby “Bad judgement but…” I didn’t tally these.

    Should comments of this genre “not a good idea but no harm done” be considered for or against the action of the ATC? I suggest they should be considered “against” (but I did NOT count them one way or the other). I suggest airplane driving and controlling should be a 100% full-focus activity; no “buts”.

    Would the controller have done this thing in the presence of his supervisor’s supervisor? Supervisor might be a day-to-day acquaintance or friend maybe; the supervisor’s supervisor one level up would be a visitor, completely unknown maybe. Answer: no he would not. Repeat: no, the child would not have been allowed to perform in the presence of the supervisor’s supervisor..

    Conclusion: bad decision. This trivial act is not part of the ATC scene. Not ever.

    The jackass stays posted on your back, Cranky!

    Apologies for wasting everyone’s time! Let’s move on.

  52. Jim wrote:

    Some comments are hard to classify: Daren “stupid decision but”. BF “Was this a dumb move…? Of course, even though…” Matt “punished but not fired”. Rob Mark “goofy but it wasn’t unsafe” David SFeastby “Bad judgement but…” I didn’t tally these.

    I can’t believe I’m continuing to spend time on this, but how could you not count these? That’s exactly what I said in the post so it clearly counts in favor of my position. As I said, “Don’t get me wrong. This was just a dumb thing to do.”

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Cranky Flier