An air controller at Kennedy Airport turned the tower into Romper Room, letting his 7-year-old son and young daughter radio instructions to five pilots on two days last month, aviation sources said yesterday, the New York Post reported.
The controller, identified by the sources as Glenn Duffy, 48, of Long Island, N.Y. and his supervisor were placed on administrative leave yesterday after a media storm began to brew over the February incidents.
"Comair 7-4-4 clear for takeoff!" Duffy's daughter chirped to a Charlotte, N.C.-bound aircraft, according to a recording of the shocking Feb. 17 incident.
"JetBlue 3-8, clear for take off!" she added moments later. An adult voice — possibly her father's — can be heard prompting her in the background.
The little girl was a hit, at least with the JetBlue pilot.
"Departure JetBlue 3-8, nicely done," he responded, adding, "See you later."
The child — age and name unknown — took her turn at the helm the day after Duffy's son talked to three pilots, ably mimicking a controller's fast-paced slang, according to a transcript
Child: A-Mex 4-0-3, contact departure. Adios!
Pilot: Contact departure Aeromexico 4-0-3. Adios!
The boy apparently liked the "adios" bit so much, he used it again in talking to a JetBlue pilot.
Child: "Contact departure. Adios, amigos!"
Pilot: "Adios, amigos! Over to departure JetBlue 1-9-6."
"This is what you get, guys, when the kid is out of school," a controller remarks.
The pilots didn't seem to mind taking orders from grade-schoolers. One chuckled, and another said, "Wish I could bring my kid to work."
"Awesome job," a Sacramento-bound JetBlue pilot told the young radioman in an encouraging tone.
While they're on administrative leave, Duffy and the supervisor will continue to draw their salaries, said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. Further investigation could lead to their suspension without pay or dismissal.
The pair earned a rebuke from FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, a former pilot.
"This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA's own policies, but commonsense standards for professional conduct. These kinds of distractions are totally unacceptable," Babbitt said.
Not even officials of Duffy's union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, could stand up for him.
"We do not condone this behavior in any way," the union said in a statement. "It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves."
A recording of the Feb. 16 incident appeared two weeks ago on the Web site LiveATC.net, which posts recorded radio chatter from air-control frequencies around the world.
But FAA officials in Washington didn't act until yesterday, after the incident became news.