Thursday, March 04, 2010

Pushing Tintin





A child has been directing air traffic out of one of the world's busiest airports. No biggie, you might think. In fact you might be quite glad to know that someone with 20-20 vision and no history of psychosis has your life in his young hands. But this is JFK, New York - you know, the place where they're usually a bit tetchy about who is pushing tin around in their airspace.

Dave Pascoe, owner operator of ATC, a website which allows you to listen live to broadcasts from air traffic control towers thinks the whole thing's a bit of a storm in a post 911 security-cleared plastic tea cup. He says it's a noble thing that a father would take his kid to work.

Just so I'm clear - it's not okay for me to take nail clippers or a water bottle onto a plane in case I've cleverly disguised them as WMDs but I can listen in on everything that's going on in a commercial airliner's cockpit? The redoubtable aviation expert goes on to say,

'I have every belief that they'd make sure there were additional eyes there.'

It's certainly a relief to know that the child in question wasn't left in charge while the tin pushers popped out for a burger although more concerning that he might be trying on a different set of eyes at a critical moment. JFK tower is a highly professional organisation, according to Dave,

'Supervisors are there and multiple people are there making sure by looking through binoculars and radar.'

How reassuringly hi-tech. Dave wants us all to just calm down and get our priorities up to speed,

'A father was taking his child to work and let the kid clear planes for takeoff, and now the world thinks it's an unsafe place.'

Well, that does rather put things into perspective. It's slightly worrying that the world is suffering this crippling self-doubt but not something I can really tackle here. That an air traffic controller feels he's due a Homer moment in the same way that, say, a chartered accountant would and allows little Bart a brief swivel in Daddy's chair, I would say does warrant a little reflection. At least we know the guy isn't sexist. He took his daughter in the following day and let her 'talk to two planes'. What the planes said back is, sadly, not recorded.

The delightfully named Randy Babbitt, (I wonder what his nickname is), from the Federal Aviation Administration called the incident 'a lapse of judgment'. No Randy, a lapse of judgment is when you photocopy your genitals after too many eggnogs at the office Christmas party. If this wasn't CNN, I'd be counting my mickeys right about now.

Naturally, there will be a 'full investigation'. Here's my suggestion for a question,

Why is it that passengers need to have a full body scan to even get into an international airport these days but anyone can walk into the JFK control tower without a security pass?

Seriously, I do love these stories...