It probably seemed like a perfectly good idea to an air traffic controller at Kennedy International Airport to bring his children to work last month — heck, the US has a whole day set aside for that sort of thing.
But one idea led to another — “Dad, can I help the nice planes take off?” — and a young boy was heard clearing three jets for departure on Feb. 16. The child spoke to five pilots in all, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.
The next day, officials said, the same employee let his daughter speak to two pilots over the air traffic radios. The recordings were released on Tuesday, and now a probably well-meaning father is in trouble.
The controller and his supervisor have been suspended and are the subject of an FAA investigation.
On the recording, a young boy tells a pilot he’s “cleared for takeoff” and the pilot tells him he has done an “awesome job.” Another man, presumably the child’s father, says, “That’s what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.”
Not surprisingly, the FAA this week banned bringing children or anyone else into air traffic operational areas.
“This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA’s own policies, but commonsense standards for professional conduct. These kinds of distractions are totally unacceptable,” said Randy Babbitt, the administrator of the agency. “We have an incredible team of professionals who safely control our nation’s skies every single day. This kind of behavior does not reflect the true caliber of our work force.”
An airport supervisor and an air traffic controller have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the incidents, the FAA said.
All unofficial visits to FAA air traffic control areas including towers and radar rooms will be suspended during the investigation and a full review of policies and procedures regarding visitors will be made, the FAA said.
Nearly 48 million passengers pass through Kennedy airport annually.
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