Commercial passenger aircraft, the 6th busiest airport in the country, and a child at the mic of air traffic control; what could possibly go wrong?
Fortunately nothing did go wrong, but heads may roll because one evening about two weeks ago, a child (clearly with the assistance of an adult) was directing planes on the ground at Kennedy Airport.
“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!”
There are a few more similar exchanges. A pilot laughs. The boy can be overheard giggling.
Based on the flight numbers called out during the exchange, the episode appears to have happened in the early evening, when JFK is often bustling with international flights.
Not only did the father disregard safety measures by bringing his son to the control tower (a highly secure area), it would seem that everyone else in the tower at the time abetted this breach of protocol, security, and common sense, and allowed a school child on vacation to direct commercial air traffic.
I don’t care if his father was hovering over his shoulder the whole time. I don’t care if the rest of the controllers were watching out. I don’t care if the pilots involved thought it was cute. This is a massive security breach, and heads should roll, because clearly we don’t have adults running ground traffic at JFK, we have adolescents.
Air travelers, you’re in the very best of hands.