Kid does ATC at JFK — is it really that bad?

I’m sure many of you have already seen this, but there’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding a JFK air traffic controller that seems to have brought his son to work, and the son even did a few ATC transmissions. If you haven’t heard the audio, you can listen to it here.

Now I realize I’m probably taking a very unpopular stance here, but I don’t see the big deal. Don’t get me wrong, this was a dumb move on the part of the air traffic controller because it put his job on the line, and I wouldn’t want to see this regularly, but no one’s life was put at risk, as some media outlets are making it sound. The kid was simply relaying what dad told him to say. Again, the guy’s an idiot for letting this happen, but I’m not buying into the whole “he put people’s lives at risk” argument.

Let’s be honest, it’s even kind of cute compared to the usually grumpy, rude, and arrogant controllers at JFK!

Filed Under: Media
  1. The point though is that the man’s attention is supposed to be 100% on the airplanes, not divvied up between watching the planes and telling his kid what to say and making sure he says it correctly. Nothing bad happened, obviously, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t risk involved. Something bad *could* have happened; that’s the point.

  2. Lucky, your take pretty much matches my initial reaction as well.

    At some level it probably highlights that the system — which relies so much on individuals who never make a big mistake (I don’t know too many of those in my professional experience) — has fundamental problems. We need better tech and to rethink some of our biases about how air traffic control operates (I’ve long thought that with the advance of technology, we ought to think of planes more like cars).

    But the kid telling the Airmex plane ‘adios’… Not really shaken by that!!

  3. There are a few professions where I wouldn’t want to introduce potential distractions into the workplace: brain surgeon operating on me, pilot landing my aircraft, air traffic controller handling my flight.

    Sure, nothing terrible happened. The same’s true when I pulled over for speeding down the freeway at a hundred miles an hour, but I still get in trouble for it. And rightfully so, if there were other people on that same freeway.

    It may not be at the same level of stupidity as that Russian pilot who let his son fly the commercial airliner into the ground, but hey, with modern auto pilots, what’s the danger of having a kid in the cockpit, eh?

  4. My first reaction was the same as yours, Lucky, when I heard this clip a few days ago. I thought it was cute and the pilots seem to enjoy the change of pace. And the dad was just trying to show the kid what he does for a living.

    But now I can see where the FAA is coming from as well. The kid could have been a distraction to other controllers and could have cause problems if he made an error repeating his dad’s instructions.

    It’s behavior that probably shouldn’t be repeated, but I would hate to see the controller lose his job over it or have all visitors banned forever from ATC towers.

  5. Now its coming out that his daughter was there the next day following in her brother’s footsteps directing Comair and Jet Blue flights.

  6. While not that big of a deal… I wasn’t happy to hear the kids chatting away with the pilots. The folks that work ATC need to being paying 100% attention to their job. Here’s something that you can use as a quote ‘safety first’.

    It’s like texting and driving. Not paying attention may not matter, but boy if it does…

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