Thursday, March 4, 2010

ADIOS - Dad Controller!

I love the fervor over the kid that found his way in to Kennedy’s air traffic control tower. The media was all in a tizzy that the iron fortress of tower security had not only been breached but it had been defiled by a child! Yes, these days it takes some planning and a little patience to get cleared for an invite to a FAA controlled airport control tower. But other than the fact it was a kid up top, it is not THAT unusual that guests may be stopping by for an escorted visit.

The emphasis is on ESCORTED. Nobody is wandering around flicking switches and taking chances with America’s airport tower safety despite the uproar over this kid’s brief radio transmissions. I am confident that more than one controller was at hand to make sure the hand-off transferred without a hitch. In fact, other than not specifically giving the radio frequency to the AeroMexico flight (and not having a valid FCC radio license), I thought the kid did a credible job at the comm., not to mention the Spanish send-off. In the stressful daily rigor of flying the big iron, I would bet most pilots listening turned a smile for a moment or two.

The sad fact though, in these times, the supervisory controller and the controller handling the AeroMexico and Jet Blue flights will at the very least face a reprimand in their service jackets. The FAA notoriously does not have a sense of humor even though everyone knows there was no discernable lapse in safety during this incident. I do not know what the Air traffic controllers union has in the way of a contract but even if they do not fire the guy, the FAA could easily have the chutzpah to bounce the controllers out of the glass house for awhile if not fire them outright.

All of this makes me a little sad though. When I was a kid, it was routine that youngsters would get a thrill in a jet flight to tour the flight deck and talk to the Captain and crew. Along with my little set of wings (metal in the day but now plastic if even offered), those were special moments that kids today will rarely experience.

Even as recent as the last couple of decades, I remember hot towels offered on flights, decks of cards, and yes, cabin participation games by the flight attendants with PRIZES. Regular people would even wear sport coats or nice skirts when traveling. Now I am happy if I just don’t have to sit behind somebody with a ripped t-shirt scrawled with profanity. I have learned to fight back though if my fellow passengers strike my ire. I routinely carry a defensive bag of Corn Nuts and I am not afraid to deploy them. No there are few people strong enough to endure the pungent waft of corn odor from a masticulated bag of those diamond hard golden hulls.

With all the hassles though, I am not ready to say Adios to the dips in the less-friendly skies just yet. Whether it is a happy kid in the tower or a faceless pilot at the pointy part of the plane, I still need somebody to move me around in those big Boeing tin cans for the foreseeable future. Hmmm, I oddly have developed an urge for a big ol’ bag of Fritos and some bean and garlic dip! Go figure?

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