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Child directs air traffic at N.Y. airport

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Published on Mar 3, 2010

Child caught directing air traffic @ JFK - 03-03-2010 -

Tapes reveal several pilots at JFK got orders not from a regular controller, but an out-of-school kid.

Audio tape reveals several pilots got
takeoff orders not from a controller
but a kid who was out of school.
At New York's JFK airport, directing planes is mere child's play. At least, that's what some air traffic controllers must have been thinking when they allegedly allowed a child to give instructions to pilots from the control tower.

A Boston news station uncovered an audio clip of what is clearly a child's voice giving the all-clear to pilots as they take off and land commercial airplanes on some of the country's busiest runways.

"Jet Blue 171, cleared for takeoff!" the child can be heard telling one pilot.

The boy seems to have made at least five transmissions from the control tower. Adults can be heard on the tape as well, laughing with the under-aged air controller in their midst.

A pilot tells the youngster he's doing an "awesome job." From the air control tower, a male voice suggests a snow day may be to blame. "That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school," he says, sounding bemused.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which requires air traffic controllers to be licensed, is investigating and says it's not sure when the youngster was in the tower.

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

The air traffic controllers union told the News that what happened in the tower "is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day in the advancement of aviation safety."


Jim Baker, a retired Delta pilot, told Fox News Boston that "I have never ever heard a small kid in the tower giving instructions for an airplane to take off or cross a runway or any kind of instructions."

John Del Signore of The Gothamist blog wasn't laughing either. "That's almost as funny as the time the air traffic controller was joshing around about barbecuing a cat moments before that fatal plane/helicopter collision over the Hudson," he wrote Wednesday morning.

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