Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

05 March 2010

The Kid Controller at Kennedy Airport

Sometimes I just have to shake my head and ask, “What the hell is this world coming to? Have we gone completely friggin crazy?” I truly think so.

Taking your kid to work is a tradition. You want to motivate, inspire and educate them. You proudly show them what you do, and you even let them try it, if possible. It’s been going on since time immemorial. In the mid-1960s when my dad worked for Pan American Airways at Kennedy Airport, he’d often take us to work and show us what he did…show us the planes…let us tour the hangar and the terminal. I was only nine or ten but it was what sparked my love of aviation and is probably the main reason why I’m in it still as a vocation and as a hobby.

Later, when I was twelve or thirteen my family became friends with another. The father of this group was an air traffic controller (as my father had been in the late 1950s when he got out of the military), and they had a grand old time swapping stories.

This controller offered to take me and my brother to work with him one night at the ATC facility in Ronkonkoma, New York. He sat us down at his radar screen, plugged us in with headphones, and explained what he was doing as he guided the late-night arrivals in toward JFK Airport. It was fascinating! Better yet, he let me speak to a few airplanes as well, telling them to descend to whatever altitude or to “contact Kennedy Approach on 127.4.” The pilots could obviously tell I was a kid, and were all good-natured about it. It was a high like no drug could ever produce. This happened forty-one years ago yet the memory of it is still vivid today.

And so recently another air traffic controller took his kid to work and let him talk to a few planes. This controller works in Kennedy Tower. Here is the audio clip from a website called LiveATC.net, a place where you can eavesdrop on communications between airplanes and ground facilities at airports all over the world:

LiveATC.org - The kid in JFK Tower

It is clear that the father is closely overseeing what the young boy is doing and has not just left him alone to coordinate landings and takeoffs at one of the world’s busiest airports. The father is clearly on top of things. Apparently, he has even instructed the boy to say, “Adios,” to a departing Aero Mexico jet crew, who respond in kind. All of the pilots seem to appreciate and enjoy the situation. Safety is not compromised. The controller, who’s voice is familiar to me, opens the mic and cracks, “This is what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.” To which one bemused airline pilot replies wistfully, “Wish I could bring my kid to work!”

Don’t we all.

But now OF COURSE the FAA is “investigating” this egregious violation of the rules. According to an Associated Press article, they have evidently reassigned the two controllers involved. The FAA spokesidiot, Laura Brown is quoted as saying, “"This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees." The air traffic controller’s union has also weighed-in negatively with the pompously moronic, “It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and everyday in the advancement of aviation safety.”

Oh for the love of God. Shut the hell up, the both of you! The guy let his kid talk on the radio a few times. Quit making a big, federal case out of it.

But no, here we go. The media is on it now! CNN is doing a
big investigation. Reporter Susan Candiotti said she is trying to “dig up more details” to see what she can find out. Isn’t that nice. That’s just what we need.

Look, mentoring is what aviation is all about. A person…even a lousy pilot like me can take your airplane all apart and put it back together and he does not need a mechanic’s official FAA Airframe and Powerplant Rating as long as he works under the direct supervision of such a qualified individual. When I fly with non-aviators I often let them “try the stick” if they wish to see how the helicopter flies. This is how it works. We share the magic with others.

There was nothing unprofessional…or, for that matter unsafe…about what that Kennedy Tower controller did. Hell, that kid might be a future air traffic controller himself someday! Where do the FAA and the stupid controller’s union think these people come from? Instead of reprimanding the guy, they should be complimenting him – or at least, keeping their big yaps shut, shrugging and saying something like, “This is not an issue we are concerned with.” But that won’t happen. Not in this day and age in which everything everybody does is WRONG.

It is sad that people have to react this way…sad that we’ve become such a stuck-up, paranoid, afraid-of-our-own-shadows, rules-driven society that a guy can’t even bring his kid to work with him and let him try it out and not have it get blown all out of proportion.


Anonymous said...

Well said Bob! That boy will not have the radio fear that most new pilots have. He spoke well, he spoke clear. He will never forget the day. Sadly it will be clouded with his daddy getting in trouble.

We have "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" I was always saddened that as a mechaninc, I could not "Take My Son To Work". What kind of world would be if my Sun had followed his mother's foot stepts into aviation? Would the outcome have been different if it was a little girl on the radio doing such a fine job as the little boy did? Just wondering? Just wondering

Debby said...

One word: Litigation. Potential lawsuits. Okay. That's three. Everyone is so busy trying not to put themselves in a position to be sued. We've done this to ourselves.

Guanaja Sharon said...

I heard about the ruckus regarding this incident but not all the facts. While I agree with you that the boy probably was being properly supervised and the Father was there to take over, this is one job that we cannot afford to allow even the slightest chance of an "incident" occurring.

Evidently, someone there did not like what was going on and felt it was inappropriate or how else would the news media have gotten a hold of the information?

While I agree that children should be exposed to the "world at large" and the opportunities out there, Debby is right, potential lawsuits are always hiding in the wings and that is why everyone is so paranoid!

I am sure that just exposure to the work place and observation was as inspiring to a "wanna be" than to actually be talking to pilots!