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blank 03/04/10 12:30PM Air Traffic Control Safety, AOPA, ATC

Suspensions result from child controller incident
By Alton K. Marsh AOPA



A controller and his supervisor were placed on administrative leave from John F Kennedy tower for allowing a child to control aircraft. Transmissions heard on a Boston Fox network television station Web site indicate the child was probably under a controller’s supervision.


The child is heard to clear several aircraft for takeoff, and advises those aircraft after takeoff to change frequency, adding a cheery, “Adios, amigo,” to the end of one of the calls. The pilots seemed amused and one complimented the child on his work. More complicated controller calls, such as position-and-hold calls, were handled by an adult heard on the Fox News videotape.

“This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA’s own policies, but common sense standards for professional conduct. These kinds of distractions are totally unacceptable,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “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 workforce.”

The two JFK tower employees, a supervisor and an air traffic controller, are on administrative leave pending the outcome of an official FAA investigation into the incident, which is already underway.

In addition, all unofficial visits to FAA air traffic control operational areas, such as towers and radar rooms, will be suspended during the investigation. Babbitt directed a team to conduct a full-scale review of air traffic control policies and procedures related to facility visitors.


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