'Awesome': air traffic control's take a child to work day

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The Independent US

The job of directing air traffic at one of the world's busiest international airports is hardly child's play. So how was it that, one day last month, pilots of two packed aircraft – one with JetBlue, the other Aeromexico – found themselves being cleared for take-off by a kid?

If this is hard to believe, then listen to the tapes of events at New York's JFK airport, as an astonished America did yesterday. Child: "JetBlue 171, clear for take-off." Pilot: "Clear for take-off, JetBlue 171." Child: "JetBlue 171, contact departure." Pilot: "Over to departure, JetBlue 171, awesome job."

Awesome indeed for someone too young for a driving licence, but the authorities are not impressed. The Federal Aviation Authority confirmed it had launched an investigation into an incident which seemed to involve a father bringing his son to the control tower on a day when the schools were on a break.

"That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school," another voice, apparently of a genuine controller, is heard saying on the tape.

"Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved are not controlling air traffic," the FAA said. "This behaviour is not acceptable."

Preventing distractions in control towers has been a top priority for years, particularly since a Delta plane hurtled down an incorrect runway in Kentucky in 2006 and crashed. The sole controller had turned his back to do paperwork.

"This is awful," Doug Latto, an aviation lawyer, told Fox News. "We've seen controller distraction result in aviation accidents."