NEW YORK — An air traffic controller at New York’s Kennedy Airport has been suspended after he allowed two children to radio instructions to several pilots.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that the children did so over the course of two days in mid-February.
The first night, the controller brought his young son to work and let him squawk a few routine messages over the radio to pilots waiting to take off.
The FAA says the controller brought a different child the next evening.
The agency has placed the controller and a supervisor on administrative leave as it investigates. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt called the episode a “lapse in judgment.”
The few quick exchanges between the children and jets waiting to take off from JFK became public after they were recorded and posted on the Internet.
“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,” Babbitt said in a statement. “This kind of behavior does not reflect the true caliber of our work force.”
On the recording, which lasts about a minute, the boy appears to repeat instructions fed to him by his father. At no time does the child tell aircraft how to maneuver or where they should go.
The FAA said it has also barred unofficial visits by friends or relatives to FAA air traffic operational areas while it reviews its policies.
The boy made five transmissions to pilots preparing for departure, according to the recording.
“JetBlue 171 cleared for takeoff,” the boy says in his first call. His father follows that up with a more detailed instruction for the aircraft, which was headed to Sacramento, Calif. He then offers an explanation to pilots on the air: “This is what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.”
In a second exchange, the boy instructs the same JetBlue flight to contact departure controllers. The pilot responds: “Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job!”