Upclose and personal with an Airbus A320

Upclose and personal with an Airbus A320

NOTE: This blog was updated, see below.

The good news is the pilots were not sleeping on Northwest Airlines flight 188 that missed Minneapolis by 150 miles. The bad news is they still missed the airport and the real reason is not enough to save their jobs.

The Airline Biz Blog has a great run down of the complete text of the current NTSB text on the incident. Some of the bigger points:

* The Captain, 53 years old, was hired in 1985. His total flight time is about 20,000 hours, about 10,000 hours of A-320 time of which about 7,000 was as pilot in command.

* The First Officer, 54 years old, was hired in 1997. His total flight time is about 11,000 hours, and has about 5,000 hours on the A-320.

* Both pilots stated that they were not fatigued. They were both commuters, but they had a 19-hour layover in San Diego just prior to the incident flight. Both said they did not fall asleep or doze during the flight.

* Both said there was no heated argument.

* Both stated there was a distraction in the cockpit. The pilots said there was a concentrated period of discussion where they did not monitor the airplane or calls from ATC even though both stated they heard conversation on the radio. Also, neither pilot noticed messages that were sent by company dispatchers. They were discussing the new monthly crew flight scheduling system that was now in place as a result of the merger. The discussion began at cruise altitude.

* Each pilot accessed and used his personal laptop computer while they discussed the airline crew flight scheduling procedure. The first officer, who was more familiar with the procedure was providing instruction to the captain. The use of personal computers on the flight deck is prohibited by company policy.

* Neither pilot was aware of the airplane’s position until a flight attendant called about 5 minutes before they were scheduled to land and asked what was their estimated time of arrival (ETA). The captain said, at that point, he looked at his primary flight display for an ETA and realized that they had passed MSP. They made contact with ATC and were given vectors back to MSP.

* Both pilots said there are no procedures for the flight attendants to check on the pilots during flight.

It is against Northwest Airline’s policy for pilots to access laptops while in flight and these pilots have been doing their job long enough to know this. They had the radio on, but were engrossed in their conversation and laptops to notice people were concerned they lost contact and missed the airport. It is too bad that one incident like this will ruin these pilot’s careers, but with so many lives and Northwest Airline’s reputation at stake, there needs to be serious consequences for their actions.

UPDATE 4:33pm:
Airline Biz Blog is reporting that Delta Air Lines (parent of Northwest Airlines) is stating the pilots will lose their jobs.  The airline’s policy states that using laptops while in flight will lead to a pilot’s termination. Delta CEO Richard Anderson said: “Nothing is more important to Delta than safety. We are going to continue to cooperate fully with the NTSB and the FAA in their investigations.”

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

Southwest Airlines Goes Green

Maybe having wireless aboard planes isn’t such a good idea…

Temo Madrigal

I am going to disagree with Jennywa. I don’t think it’s the wireless to blame. These pilots simply made a mistake and they will have to pay the consequences. I feel that since no one was hurt, they should be allowed to keep their jobs, yet be punished in a different manner.

and rightfully so. in a career that comes inherent with responsibilities such that of a pilot, there is absolutely no room for rubbish. i mean laptops?? c’mon

They were having sex!

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