Thursday, March 4, 2010

Houston, Wii Have a Problem

"I can't stand to fly, I'm not that naive ..."
"Superman" ~ Five for Fighting

"Through a glass eye, your throne
Is the one danger zone
Take me to the pilot for control
Take me to the pilot of your soul ...."
"Take Me to the Pilot" ~ Elton John

Once again, boys and girls, it's time for our (seemingly) daily lesson in common sense. Because clearly, when it comes to airplanes and common sense, there doesn't seem to be much of the latter left, does there? Between the Totally Stupid Assholes at TSA who think it is funny to play practical jokes on unsuspecting passengers and almost daily reports of Passengers Gone Wild, there is no lack of such.

I'm talking, of course, about the incident dominating much of the airwaves for the past 24 hours, that of the young child heard on tape from the air traffic control tower of JFK Airport in New York City, clearing one plane for takeoff and communicating with a second.

This morning brings the news that the child in question is a 9 year old, and that air traffic controller Dad brought his daughter (the aforementioned child's twin) in the following day and repeated the same on-the-job training (albeit a decade or so early). I guess the family's Wii was broken and that the kids needed some sort of video game entertainment to occupy themselves.

In case you've missed the audio, give a listen:

Couple things on this. First, I'm well aware that in the court of public opinion on this, my .02 on sale is very much not in keeping with the common thought, which is that Daddy was right there, that Daddy was giving him the commands to say, that other pilots and ATCs say no harm, no foul. I understand this logically. And, knowing that Dad is a parent of twins and knowing firsthand how parenting twins can render one feeling like one's mind is in the clouds, he does garner some sympathy from me.

But I'm still infuriated enough about the incident to give you my opinions anyway.

First lesson of the common sense lesson of the day, boys and girls: We're not talking about an airport in Podunk. We're talking JFK. Which, last I checked, was in New York City.

Now, in my world, there's no room for any shenanigans involving aircraft anywhere, most especially in post 9/11 New York. How does the song go? "In a New York minute, anything can change." I think we saw that pretty clearly on a seemingly picture-perfect day, did we not? So, first rule of thumb: if you're in any way remotely responsible for operating aircraft anywhere (but especially New York, Washington, and the like), there's got to be zero tolerance for shit like this. That means no kids in the air tower, nor the cockpit, no photo opportunities with low-flying Air Force Ones in New York, none of that crap. 'Kay?

You can say everyone was fully in command. But let's play devil's advocate for a second. What would have happened if Dad keeled over of a heart attack or something while giving his kid instructions to clear a plane for takeoff? Maybe another person would have taken over, but can you imagine the chaos that would have rained down if such a tragedy would have occurred?

New York or Podunk, kids have no business being at the helm of a plane or its controls. Did anyone's thoughts immediately go to Jessica Dubroff when hearing this story of the kid clearing the plane for take-off? (Don't remember the story or know who she was? Jessica was the 7 year old girl who, in April 1996, attempted to set a world record for being the youngest person to fly a plane. She died trying, after her co-pilot decided that taking off in a heavy, sudden thunderstorm - which ultimately was a factor in Jessica crashing the plane minutes thereafter - in order to honor one's promises to the media was more important than Jessica's life and those, including her father, who were on board.)

There was also the case in Russia of Aeroflot Flight 593, the 1994 crash in which the pilot's 15 year old son was seated at the controls and unknowingly disabled something connected with the autopilot device, sending the plane into a freefall and 75 people to their deaths.

Bottom line, for me, is that this speaks to something far more deeper in our society. When we allow kids to sit in the seat of an air traffic controller, something is wrong. We want so desperately for our kids to like us, for them to have the coolest experience of all their peers, that we've lost our inability to set limits, to say no.

I don't know for a fact if that was part of the mindset that this Dad had when he allowed his 9-year old to give the commands to other pilots. Maybe I'm casting too much blame on one person for society's ills and our whacked mentality when it comes to our kids.

We don't have all the answers in this case yet, and maybe we won't. What I do know is what this case illustrates on so many levels:

When we as parents and as a society respond with a collective shrug of the shoulders to an incident like this without seriously considering the what-ifs, the apparent utter lack of common sense, and what this permissive culture says about us, then Wii are clearly losing our way, flying blindly into turbulent skies.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Laura said...

Just as I finished reading this and was going to comment, I heard on the news that the controller and supervisor have been suspended.
That is what I think. How could that father's mind been completely focused with the distraction of having his children (even if it was one at a time) there. I hear people say that there was no harm, that he was simply telling the kid what to say. And what if something happened while he was doing that? I have kids (grown now) and I had enough trouble concentrating on one thing while making sure I knew what they were doing, or while they were pestering me about one thing or another. And this is while doing my job (we have our own business). But I wasn't guiding planes on take-off and landing with hundreds of lives depending on me doing my job correctly.
My two cents...

Sarah Laurence said...

I hadn't heard of the incident (busy week!) but it sound like a very poor judgement call indeed.

I love your banner photo.

Nice to connect with you through Beth!