SmackDown: Did Air Traffic Dad Really Do Anything So Wrong?
Filed under: Opinions
Airport Dad Was Wrong.
by Brett Singer
Some people don't mind that an air traffic controller allowed his kids to chat with pilots who were flying planes in and out of one of the nation's busiest airports.
Airplane Kid's dad was just having a little fun, right? As one of our readers put it, "I wish everyone would lighten up!"
Here's what I wish: That people with important jobs would take them seriously.
It's no secret that America has gone crazy for security, especially at our airports. All it takes is one incident for a new screening procedure to be put in place. (If you're annoyed that we have to remove our shoes, blame would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid.)
Despite the legitimate questions on how effective these methods are -- remember the lovesick guy who inadvertently bypassed security at Newark Liberty International Airport in January? -- these screenings are important. It shows we're doing something.
Feeling secure while flying is what gets many of us on a plane in the first place. We might get irritated when asked to throw out our water bottles, take out our laptops and pack sunscreen into insect-sized bottles. But we do it.
So, if the first order of business is actual safety in the skies, what follows is that airport security must be treated seriously. Not seriously in a frenzied, grab-every-person-with-a-head-scarf-and-strip-search-them way. No, we simply want the people who work for the aviation industry to treat us, and the regulations, with respect.
When an air traffic controller let not one, but two of his children direct flights at New York's JFK airport, it's not cute. It's irresponsible.
"Lighten up?" How about, "Do your job." Did the air traffic controller's actions actually put anyone in danger? It would appear not, since, thankfully, no planes crashed. But what if the pilots had been startled upon hearing a child's voice on their headsets that they bumped into the steering column, causing a bit of turbulence? (I am not exactly Captain Chesley Sullenberger when it comes to piloting knowledge, in case you were wondering. Just go with me here for a minute.)
Picture this: One of the overhead bins opens and something heavy falls on your kid. OK, nobody dies. But it's pretty startling. If you say that scenario is unlikely, you are correct. But, you know what makes the possibility of pilots being startled at the sound of a child's voice coming over their headsets while they're flying a plane completely impossible? If a child isn't talking to a pilot.
I hate to be a pill, but as a dad, I know that not every situation is appropriate for children. Taking the kids to work is something all parents should do, if they can. Those last three words are the important ones. Do you want an 8-year-old manning the 911 phone lines? Or tagging along to fight a four-alarm blaze? How about preparing your food? Is that acceptable?
Besides, the official version of this practice is called "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day." Not "Let Your Kids Do Your Job for You Day."
In response, the FAA has suspended the controller and his supervisor. Should they be fired? A commenter at ABCNews.com writes, "Leave him alone and get back to something important like health care or our failing budget." It's a good sound bite, except that the FAA is in charge of aviation, not health care.
Even though no harm was done, and no harm was likely to be done, letting kids direct flights is at best silly, and at worst potentially dangerous. Whether or not the workers' actions are worthy of a pink slip is up to their employer. But whatever they decide, hopefully other air traffic controllers will think twice before putting their kids on the mic.
At least while my family and I are in the air.
Tom and I want to know whose side you're on. As competitive dads (but perfectly collegial work buddies), we will be continuing this argument at the next staff meeting.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.