Monday, October 26, 2009

Northwest Flight 188: Distracted by a Laptop?!

"Pilots Say They Were Distracted "
The Wall Street Journal (October 26, 2009)

"The pilots of Northwest Flight 188 on Sunday told federal investigators that they lost track of time and location -- but never went to sleep -- when they failed last week to respond to air-traffic controllers for more than an hour, according to people familiar with the crew's statements.

"During a session with a team from the National Transportation Safety Board, these people said, the cockpit crew recounted the same sequence of events it previously sketched out for airline superiors: They became distracted in conversation while cruising at 37,000 feet Wednesday night, didn't realize how long the plane had lost radio contact and flew more than 100 miles past their destination. Such a scenario is consistent with the brief statements first officer Richard Cole of Salem, Ore., made to reporters earlier in the weekend...."

Good News, The Flight Crew Wasn't Asleep; Bad News, They Weren't Flying the Plane

So far, the flight crew of Flight 188's behavior comes under the heading of 'yagottabekiddin!'

By the way: If you've been running into some articles talking about "Northwest" and others about "Delta" - they're both right, sort of. The pilots were on a Northwest airliner. Northwest is owned by Delta.

In a way, it's nice to know that members of the flight crew were probably awake. But - doing something on a laptop that was so engrossing that they overshot the airport by 150 miles? And didn't respond to air traffic control?!

This is post-9/11, folks.

There were interceptors ready to go up and deal with the nitwits: to get their attention, in this case, since Flight 188 had a worse-than-useless flight crew. If terrorists had taken over flight 188, I'm not sure what action would be taken. Probably something along the lines of what the passengers and crew of Flight 93 were involved in.

I know: it wouldn't be nice to shoot down an airliner with people in it. But it wouldn't be nice to fly an airliner with people in it into a skyscraper with people in it: and that's been done, folks. The real world tends to have big, hard facts in it, some with sharp edges. We can ignore them - but we get hurt when we do.

As for the dudes on the flight deck of Flight 188, I have some sympathy: I work and play on a computer, and sometimes lose track of time. But I don't play Donkey Kong while driving the family's van.

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