A child apparently directed pilots last month from the air traffic control center at John F. Kennedy Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports, according to audio clips. The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it was investigating.
"Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic," the FAA said in a statement. "This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees." The agency declined to comment beyond the statement.
Recordings from mid-February -- during a weeklong winter break for many New York schoolchildren -- were posted last month on a Web site for air traffic control-listening aficionados.
The child can be heard on the tape making five transmissions to pilots preparing for takeoff.
In one exchange, the child can be heard saying, "JetBlue 171 contact departure." The pilot responds: "Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job."
The child appears to be under an adult's supervision, because a male voice then comes on and says with a laugh, "That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school."
In another exchange, the youngster clears another plane for takeoff, and says, "Adios, amigo." The pilot responds in kind.
The FAA said the control tower is a highly secure area for air traffic controllers, supervisory staff and airport employees with a need to be there. FAA spokesman Jim Peters said children of the tower's employees are allowed to visit but would need to get approval from the FAA first.
The union representing air traffic controllers condemned the workers' behavior.
"It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and everyday in the advancement of aviation safety," the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in a statement.