Last week a controller was suspended for allowing his children to talk to airplanes at Kennedy Tower. As a former air traffic controller who was fired by Ronald Reagan in the PATCO strike, I can sympathize.
When I worked in towers from San Diego to Westchester, New York nearly 30 years ago, it was very common for me to bring my three girls up in the tower to spend the mid shift with dad. Yes, I let them clear airplanes for takeoff too. I was not alone in bringing my kids to work the late shift with me. Many controllers did it then and I suspect it was pretty common practice until about a week ago. What I can’t understand is the outrage and indignation coming from so-called experts who say this fellow should be fired and maybe even prosecuted.
Pilots who have been around airports for years have heard voices of “controllers” whom they suspected might be a generation away from earning their ATC ticket. This was always late at night and always with very light traffic (like one airplane an hour) For the most part, the pilots understood the thrill the “controller” got, so they would acknowledge the clearance in their best Captain’s voice and take off. Yes, I remember coaching my daughters to say…”American 154 contact departure. So long”. And I also remember the look on my kids’ faces when they did that. Was air safety compromised? No. I was standing a foot away and saw EVERYTHING. I suspect the Kennedy controller was in the same position when his kids committed their vile despicable act.
Now, the aviation “experts” who’ve never stood a mid shift in a tower or radar room in their life are out there pontificating about air safety and security when what they should be doing is lobbying hard to change the working conditions that cause early ulcers, alcoholism, high divorce rates, and lung cancer from too many cigarettes.
When I worked in those towers and radar rooms, I was a single dad raising three girls by myself. Sometimes, there was no babysitter for me, but so what? I wanted my girls to be there seeing their dad do his thing. Perhaps the “experts” should spend a night or two in a tower cab with THEIR KIDS. Then they won’t be so quick to call for someone’s head.