Two Kid Controllers? Brother and Sister Direct JFK Air Traffic

Father allowed his daughter to direct pilots the day after he allowed his son.

March 4, 2010— -- The JFK air traffic controller who brought his son into the control tower and allowed him to direct air traffic also let his daughter do the same thing the following day.

On Feb. 17 the controller, who the Daily News identifies as 49-year-old Glenn Duffy, took his young daughter into the control tower and let her direct the departure of a Jet Blue flight.

"Jet Blue 57, contact New York departure," the young girl said on the audio recording.

"Jet Blue 57. Thank you, have a good day," the pilot responded.

An unidentified man then called her "the next generation of air traffic control" on the recording.

The air traffic controller and the supervisor on duty have been suspended, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency is not identifying either employee.

At times the pilots seemed amused rather than worried upon hearing the young voice. One pilot told the boy, who is believed to be 8 or 9 years old, that he did an "awesome job" and another called him "amigo." But a debate has arisen over whether peoplehave overreacted to the situation.

The FAA has called the behavior "not acceptable," but others are saying it goes beyond that.

"Given the child was involved with actual air traffic was a fireable offense…not only a cavalier attitude but a shirking of his responsibilities," Mary Schiavo, an aviation attorney, said.

Retired air traffic controller Bob Richards echoed Schiavo's comments, calling it "bad judgment."

Richards said that while it is not uncommon for family members of control tower workers to see what happens behind the scenes, they should not be speaking to pilots.

"I never saw a controller's family get on a frequency and talk to airplanes," Richards said.

In a statement, the FAA said it has suspended "all unofficial visits to FAA air traffic control operational areas, such as towers and radar rooms," during the investigation. The agency said it would also conduct a review of its policies regarding visitors.

John Nance, an ABC News consultant and a former pilot, said the incident was "the equivalent of having my kid on my knee while landing an airplane as a commercial pilot -- it is simply not permissible."

But while Nance called the incident "a rather substantial error in judgment on the part of the controllers," he said there was no danger to the airplane or passengers.

"Safety wasn't involved because we have a very exquisitely developed method of read back, and the controller was right there with this kid. If the kid had said something wrong and that had been read back incorrectly, he would have been able to catch it instantaneously," Nance said.

Passengers at airports across the country had mixed opinions. One woman said, "It was just a little kid trying to have fun" while another said, "You can't be fooling around like that."

The air traffic controllers' union said it is also taking this matter seriously. In a statement it said: "We do not condone this type of behavior in any way" and that it does not represent "the highest professional standards controllers set for themselves."

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