FAA Responds To John F. Kennedy Father Son Day <


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FAA Responds To John F. Kennedy Father Son Day

By Mike Mitchell

March 4, 2010 - A well seasoned air traffic controller at John F. Kennedy Airport New York brought his child to work during a weeklong winter break form school in February. The intentions of this father was to give his son a glimpse into what his father does for a living, the importance to an education, being a team player, work ethics, and job responsibilities, a national tradition of “Take Our Daughters or Sons to Work Day”.

Typically parents who bring their kids to work don’t have much to offer. Sons and daughters in general would end up photo copying, light filing, answering the phone and spinning in a chair, resulting in a failed parent child work experience.

However, this child was afforded a real work experience. He witnessed the tower environment, the equipment in the tower and its purpose. The child was also given the opportunity, a learning experience, to clear a few aircraft for take off under the supervision of his father.

However, as a result of this father and son day, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that two employees at the John F. Kennedy Airport Tower are on administrative leave due to the father permitting his son to talk with pilots on an air traffic control frequency. What would the Wright Brothers say? It’s ironic that the controller worked at the John F. Kennedy Airport. I’m old enough to remember when President John F. Kennedy would bring his son, John Jr. to work and of all places the oval office who later in his life became a pilot.

As a pilot I can remember when I was an elementary student, our school took us to Norwood Airport, Norwood, Massachusetts. We went up into the tower and were exposed to the tower environment. Some of us got to use the light guns. I can not imagine today, that same air traffic controller loosing his job for allowing kids to be exposed to the air traffic control environment. What next, do we take kids out of the police cars, the prisons, the hospitals, out of the work environment?

“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.”

From the radio transmissions, it appears that the father was continuously in control of his son and his responsibilities. At no time, as pilot, did I hear the controller act unprofessional or view the behavior as unprofessional. It also appears that the pilots stress levels where reduced as a result of hearing a father and son working together.  

In radio transmission exchanges between controller, pilots and the child it appears that everyone acted professional and with understanding. The child appeared to be between the ages of 8 to 10. 

Radio transmissions:  

Child -- "JetBlue 171 contact departure",

Pilot ---"over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job."

Controller ----“here’s what you get guys when the kids are out of school”

Child---- “Aero Mexico 403 contact departure adios.”

Pilot--- “contact departure Aero Mexico 304 adios”    

What I heard was a positive father and son day welcomed by reinforcement from pilots. I can not imagine the growth this child received in terms of education, the importance in working together as a team player, job responsibilities, a better understanding of what his father does for a living, not to mention the kid had a fun day and most of all seeing his father at work and as a hero. 

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. The controller’s names have been withheld by the FAA. 

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

Now that this controller and his supervisor have been put on administrative leave, what will be the implications of “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work”. It is certain that this child knows his father is on administrative leave, the morale of air traffic controllers and pilots, commonsense vs. 911? 

The national day for the “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” is always on the fourth Thursday in April and the recommended age range is between 8 through 18. This year it will be April 22, 2010.

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