You may have heard about the air-traffic controller at JFK who let his kid step up to the microphone and start directing planes last month. And you can’t quite hate the FAA for coming down like a ton of aircraft parts on the guy. It’s bad enough up there, where the flights are arriving and departing more than once per minute, 1,300 times per day. People are berserk about this, and it looks like he’s going to get canned. He sure as hell shouldn’t have done it.
But come on. The dad told the kid to say “you’re cleared for departure,” and the kid said “you’re cleared for departure.” Then the pilot told him he was awesome, and dad stepped back up to the desk. On a safety-risk scale of 1 to 10, this is a zero. It’s clearly the appearance of concern, rather than actual concern, that’s causing people to freak out here. Firing the guy? When there is a severe shortage of good controllers? Reprimand him, suspend him for a week, whatever. Send a message, and move on.
By the way, I am so jealous of that kid. (One of my best memories of being 6 years old centers around a trip to see the mainframe at my dad’s workplace, back when few people had ever seen a real computer outside the movies. I came home with a printed-out ASCII-character-based picture of Snoopy, which I kept for years.) Get me up in the tower at JFK, even today, and you’d have to pry the mic out of my hands.