FAA investigates JFK kid controllers

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It might have been all fun and games for a pair of siblings who directed air traffic at John F. Kennedy International Airport last month, but federal officials are not laughing at the air traffic controllers who put them behind the radio.

The Federal Aviation Administration placed at least two air traffic controllers last week for the Feb. 16 and Feb. 17 incidents in which the boy and girl talked to several pilots who took off from the airport. They were the children of veteran controller Glenn Duffy, 48, according to the New York Post, who brought his son to work on Feb. 16 and let him do his job for a few minutes, according to the FAA.

Recordings of the boy’s conversations were posted online and became an Internet sensation.

“JetBlue 171, contact departures,” the boy told pilots.

“Over to departures, JetBlue 171. Awesome job,” the pilot responded.

Most public and private schools were closed that week for winter recess. Someone inside the control tower joked about the boy’s actions while he was directing flights.

“This is what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school,” the person said.

The next day, Duffy brought his younger daughter to work and also put her behind the microphone.

In one recording, where Duffy was apparently telling his daughter what to say, pilots praised the girl for her work.

“JetBlue 38 contact departures,” she said.

“Departure JetBlue 38 nicely done,” a pilot responded.

FAA officials said they have placed Duffy and a supervisor on modified duty while they conduct an investigation into the incident. Only certified trained air traffic controllers are allowed to be inside a control tower at JFK, according to the agency.

“This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees,” the agency said in a statement.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association also had a similar stance on Duffy’s judgment.

“We do not condone this type of behavior in any way. It 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,” NATCA spokesman Doug Church said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 5:49 pm, October 10, 2011
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