‘Bring-Your-Kid-to-Work-Day’ Repercussions Echoing

JFK Tower controller Glenn Duffy, 48, and his family are dealing with the results of his lapse in judgment. Duffy allowed his twin 9-year-old children to issue a few ATC directions to departing airliners on the tower frequency on successive days to the apparent delight and appreciation of pilots who responded (click here to listen to the recordings).

The FAA has suspended Duffy and his supervisor pending an investigation, and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood have both issued strong public statements condemning the controller's judgment. Meanwhile, most pilots who have listened to the tapes agree — the children were parroting phrases their father fed them. The increased risk, if any, came from distraction associated with the kids' presence in the tower, not the clarity of their transmissions. (Ironically, one of the real controllers heard on the tape — whether it was the elder Duffy is not specified — had to correct himself during one of his transmissions, unlike the kids.)

But the story, first aired on a Boston television news program, ignited an Internet firestorm of outrage over children directing traffic at one of the world's busiest airports. Duffy, a 20-year-veteran controller, served as the Newark (NJ) Airport union representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in the 1990s and was a frequent critic of the FAA in that role. Still, his actions last month were condemned by the union as "not indicative of the highest standards controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day in the advancement of aviation safety."

According to reports, several pilots have taken to showing support for Duffy and his children by ending their transmissions with the informal sign-off used by one of the kids during those fateful two days, "Adios, amigos."

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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