The school-age son and daughter of a Stony Brook man who is a veteran air traffic controller communicated with pilots on successive days in mid-February from the Kennedy Airport control tower, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday.
No one appeared to be home at Duffy's house Wednesday night.
A preliminary review of incidents on Feb. 16 and 17 found that the controller had let his son communicate five times with various pilots just after 5 p.m. on Feb. 16 and his daughter talk twice to pilots on Feb. 17 at about 4:15 p.m., officials said.
Initial reports of the boy's transmissions were broadcast Tuesday night by a Boston television station. Word that another of the man's children - a daughter - had been allowed to direct air traffic by speaking to pilots via radio from the tower emerged Wednesday.
The FAA said it had placed both the air traffic controller and a supervisor at Kennedy Airport on administrative leave, and the agency's administrator said the two had violated FAA policies and "common-sense standards for professional conduct."
The FAA did not release the name of the controller or the supervisor. A union official said the two were on paid leave.
Steve Abraham, a representative with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association who works in Kennedy's control tower, said he had no comment on the case.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, in a statement issued before the FAA said a second child had contacted pilots from the tower, called the Feb. 16 incident at Kennedy "a lapse in judgment" by the controller and a violation of FAA policy.
"These kind of distractions are totally unacceptable," Babbitt said. He ordered a review of air traffic control policies and procedures related to facility visitors.
The children's visits to the Kennedy tower - which occurred during the school recess following President's Day - became public when audiotapes of the boy's Feb. 16 exchanges with pilots preparing for takeoff were obtained and broadcast Tuesday by WFXT-TV in Boston.
Sources said the boy was repeating what an adult air traffic controller had told him to say.
After one exchange, in which the child seems to clear a departure, the pilot responded, "Over to departure JetBlue 171. Awesome job."
A male voice from the tower replied with a laugh: "That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school."
In another exchange, the child cleared a pilot and said, "Adios, amigos."
NATCA, which represents controllers, said in a statement, "We do not condone this type of behavior in any way. It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day in the advancement of aviation safety."
The FAA Wednesday also suspended all unofficial visits to FAA air-traffic-control operational areas, including control towers and radar rooms, until investigation of the incidents is complete.
An FAA official familiar with the investigation said that it's not unusual for a member of the public to visit a controller facility with the approval of FAA supervisors. But only a professional air traffic controller or a controller in training can speak to a pilot over air-traffic-control frequencies and direct air traffic, the official said.
With Gary Dymski and Bill Mason