Pilots miss landing plane by 150 miles
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Getting on a plane in the near future? You can now add a few things to your list of fears. In addition to worrying about being frisked by airport security, losing your favorite lotion because it’s more than three ounces in weight (and it could be an explosive) and getting queasy when there’s flight turbulence, travelers now have to worry whether not their pilots will be cognitive when the plane has reached its intended destination. Will the plane land where it is supposed to land?
Northwest Airline pilot Captain Timothy Cheney and first officer Richard Cole made the news for their flight from San Diego in October. Unfortunately, the news frenzy wasn’t due to the pilots’ heroic efforts as when Chelsey “Sulley” Sullenberger landed US Airways flight 1459 in the Hudson River in January. Nope, not these pilots. Cheney and Cole made the news for missing their intended destination of Minneapolis by more than 150 miles.
The pair was accused of falling asleep in the cockpit. (While this is possible, where were the flight attendants? Don’t they check on them and offer soda and peanuts, too?) They quickly denied the accusation, saying they were merely in a heated debate. My question is what were they arguing about for 150 miles? Later, the two said they weren’t asleep, and they weren’t arguing. The pilots say they were on their laptops.
If Cheney and Cole were on their computers, what were they doing for so long that they could miss the airport? What kept them from getting messages from the Minneapolis Airport control tower for more than 90 minutes? One pilot was apparently using his personal computer, a violation of company policy. Were they on Facebook? Playing Farmville? Having an all-out Superpoke war?
What will keep this from happening again with the other 3,500 national and international flights per day? The New York Times reported that the Federal Aviation Administration revoked the licenses of the two pilots. The FAA said the punishment was for “failing to comply with air traffic control
instructions and clearances and operating carelessly and recklessly.”
If it wasn’t for a flight attendant who contacted them via the plane’s internal phone system, the Northwest 188 carrying 144 passengers might not have landed safely.
Next time when boarding the plane and a man in a pilot’s uniform is spotted, “Do you plan on getting on the computer?” might be a good response to the hearty, but overused “Thank you for choosing our airline.”