Skip to comments.FAA revokes licenses of wayward Northwest pilots
Posted on 10/27/2009 5:39:04 PM PDT by SloopJohnB
The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday revoked the licenses of the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles.
The pilots Timothy Cheney of Gig Harbor, Wash., the captain, and Richard Cole of Salem, Ore., the first officer told safety investigators they were working on their personal laptop computers and lost track of time and place.
The pilots, who were out of communications with air traffic controllers for 91 minutes, violated numerous federal safety regulations in the incident last Wednesday night, the FAA said in a statement. The violations included failing to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances and operating carelessly and recklessly, the agency said.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.yahoo.com ...
And, why the delay on reporting something was amiss to the military.
I thought the military WERe alerted.
Someone dropped the ball along the way. There was a lapse. That is the bigger story.
I've thought about this a bit. I know these guys don't have Islamic sounding names. But I think this was a test of some kind.
I haven't flown in a while, but when I was flying under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) which is the way every airline flight must fly, you had to have your radio on, and tuned to your assigned Air Traffic Control (ATC) frequency all the time. This is because ATC might at any time, amend your clearance (assigned route) and give you a different one; or tell you to switch to a different frequency. They may tell you to go higher, or lower, go off in a different direction, or enter a rather precise holding pattern. You cannot just turn the radio down or off because you find it annoying.
As soon as you deviate from your clearance, ATC lets you know it. I still remember making a mistake one day and flying away from some point on a 205 degree heading instead of the 250 degree heading I was assigned. It didn't take two minutes before the got on my case and got me back to where they wanted me to be.
And while you're listening to the radio, you hear the same thing happening to other flights being worked by ATC. Most of the time it is a commercial airliner that deviates because they see something on their weather radar and I guess they're afraid if they ask it they can deviate, they will be denied. So you hear ATC scold them and the pilot says something like "We're getting right back to it (The assigned flight path)."
I suppose this deviation could have been instigated by the FAA, or the FBI, to test the response of whatever systems they have in place to handle another aircraft takeover.
But this was a test.
Of course their tickets should be revoked. What I don’t get is how come they weren’t listening to ATC communications? Did they have their headsets off? I recall that if I didn’t respond to an ATC communication soon enough due to being busy with another cockpit task, they WOULD get my attention. Questions, questions.....
That was what I heard as well. NORAD was responsible for not launching those fighters. Something smells.
Very, very interesting point! Never thought of that.
The likely story is they were sleeping. Laptops my eye!
Are these guys union?
If so, I bet they get back in.
Sleeping with their headsets off?
Could be. Hadn’t thought of that. The sleeping thing, the laptops, none of that makes any sense.
Pilot friend of mine says it’s really simple. “They fell asleep and tried to cover their sorry a$$es.”
It takes about 15-20 minutes to travel the 150 miles they overshot. Some of that time would have been spent trying to contact the crew. If you want to hang ATC on the basis of that timeline go ahead but the fact is nothing happens instantaneously in the real world even if armchair generals wish otherwise.
The Union can’t do a thing if the FAA revokes their license which the FAA has done. Their career is over. Maybe working the aisles at Lowes.
And to make matters worse they changed their story on what happended. Lying to the FBI might have consequences?
The article-and every story I’ve seen- says “out of contact for 91 minutes”.
Correct, and even if one did, which is HIGHLY unlikely, how about the other guy. This is just inexplicable.
Or if they are fatigued enough.
There's a joke here about stewardesses, terrorism, and the emplacement of an IUD but I can't quite put the pieces together.
Agree completely, but some people will always be longing for the ‘bigger story...’
This wasn’t the first time a crew fell asleep and it won’t be the last. The “I was training on Delta software” reeks of a self-sympathetic coverup.
Unless they hadn’t turned into the right frequency.
You don't if you're flying a plane on which *I* am a passenger. (/ sarc) But this latest twist doesn't add up.
I don't know. I had my share of early morning flights to some business meeting (or racetrack!) and then a flight home after I was done. I was never close to falling asleep. Even when nothing is going on, which is a lot of the time, there's stuff going on.
They would still be doing the navigation.
Though I have no doubt that some people are just better at it (staying awake) than others, I guess.
Me, I could never be a long haul trucker or pilot.
I’d be dead before the first week was out from nodding off at the wheel.
Of course they were asleep, but the real question is whether the passengers will get those extra FF miles.
I guess that would include time before and after they passed their destination. For the record, I haven’t seen that report. I’m an airline pilot and the consensus is that they were asleep. That’s the only logical explanation. But being asleep for 90 minutes? That’s hard to believe.
Maybe they were freepin’!
Mile High Club.
re: flying away from some point on a 205 degree heading instead of the 250 degree heading I was assigned
Ah yes, the words you NEVER want to hear from ATC, “State your intentions!” And they always say it in such an accusatory tone, like they just know you’ve screwed up and want you to ‘fess up right then and there!
Food for thought about the ATC's from a few days ago, especially items 2 and 3: I talked to an acquaintance who is a WN pilot. He says this incident is talk of pilots everywhere. what I got from him is this.
1) Him and every pilot he knows and has talked to all believe the crew was asleep. Maybe it was their last trip of the day and they were worn out, he doesn't know but he believes 100% it was zzz time.
2) The reports of the MSP tower telling a crew to change freqs and the report an FA called up and woke the crew are false from what he has heard from guys who were in the area and heard all this.. He says MSP tower were telling pilots the crew was handed over from Denver so the tower and everyone else was assuming they were on another center freq or MSP approach and that's where they were looking for him. He says that a pilot or a crew who were approaching MSP from the east and were only a few miles from the plane, on their own got a hunch and switched over to Denver center freq and after repeated calls raised the crew who sounded "out of it". That far away from Denver center they would not have heard Denver talking. This pilot, after hearing them say he was handed over but no one saying he actually made the switch checked on his own. Either way it pretty much looks like they were asleep since Denver centers airspace and never made the switch over since they were reached on Denver's freq. That raises the question of why did Denver not notice the crew didn't acknowledge the freq change. Why did MSP wait until the plane had flown 150 miles past MSP to ask someone to check Denver's freq? I believes that shows that maybe someone in Denver didn't admit of not getting an acknowledgment of freq channge until then. I would love to hear the tape of Denver center handing them off and seeing if there was an answer. If they answered then we know that's why Denver didn't worry but then that begs the question of why they were still on Denver's freq and never changed.
3) My pilot friend cannot believe how long they let this go on without Denver, MSP, someone not doing more or alerting other centers and aircraft much sooner about a wayward aircraft out of contact just cruising along. He believes this will also lead to some controllers being called in on the carpet and fired. As with many aircraft incidents it seems this went on and on and due to a failure of a chain of events, Denver not getting the acknowledgment and not doing something sooner, MSP approach not saying something sooner. etc. Of course there is alot we do not know yet so no one should jump to conclusions.
Like I said this is mostly hearsay, he heard a majority from other pilots who were in and around MSP and heard this first hand but you know how stories can change. But he adds and it sounds like common sense, that if they were in a heated discussion, unless they took their headsets off they still should have heard something from Denver for a while until they were out of earshot and what kind of professional pilots could be soo distract by a "heated conversation" that they wouldn't at least once realize they hand not talked to ATC on over an hour and where they were. Sadly he believes the CVR will show nothing as they were coming back to MSP and talking on their way back for over 30 mins so all the time out of contact was overwritten. He does say though that there may be a way to pull some of the overwritten data up but who knows. He says this situation is just more proof though of how over crowded and out of date the ATC system is. He truly believes this should have been caught much sooner....
They were out of contact for an hour and a half, not just during the time they were beyond their destination.
I suspect one reason there wasn’t more alarm on the ground was that their transponder was still squawking and their course did not change unexpectedly. In most hijack situation they disable the transponder right away.
But I am surprised they didn’t send a military plane up to get a look at the aircraft and see if there was anything obviously amiss. I would have expected them to be sending someone out to take a look pretty quickly after contact was lost, and especially when they deviated from their IFR clearance.
It will all come out sooner or later. I can’t imagine ANY scenario that will turn out OK for these pilots. Expect maybe they were part of a TSA test of the system to see what ATC would do under the circumstances. And I don’t see that as very likely.
There are a whole bunch of curious things about that flight that those of us interested enough in aviation to actually know a few facts can't help wondering about.
Was the flight on autopilot? Isn't it normal procedure to reduce cruising speed and begin descending a half hour before reaching the destination?
Shouldn't the speed for that last hour been closer to 300 Kt than 400 Kt?
All this suggests that they were "out of contact a lot longer than 40 minutes.
I just hope that the flight recorder has data for longer than the cockpit voice recorder did, and that the final NTSB and FAA incident reports have more credible explanations.
And for those who think you can't while flying, I knew a very good charter pilot who fell asleep flying a Beech BE95 (Travel Air) back in the 1960’s and went in a parking lot somewhere in Maryland. High speed, straight in.
There have been many many incidents, some fatal, some serious and some funny regarding pilots falling asleep.
Frankly, I think they screwed themselves because there is an excuse for falling asleep and they might have salvaged their careers, although been demoted, but playing with laptops?
That is inexcusable. You will recall that early on in your career it was drummed into your head that above all else, fly the airplane. Everything else is #2 or lower on the list. Even communications with air traffic control, important as they are, do not take precedence over flying the airplane.
Weather radar, setting way points, sick passengers,...a pilot has lots of potential distractions that must not be allowed to break rule #1...fly the airplane.
And those who do not follow that rule end up decorating the landscape with aluminum. One of the most outstanding examples of what happens to those who do not is the story of an aircraft, I forget what...seems like a Connie, back in the early sixties or maybe even earlier that flew into the FL swamps because the crew was obsessing over replacing a landing gear warning light. They thought the aircraft was on auto pilot but they did not have altitude hold engaged and it slowly descended into the swamp.
My point is that they knowingly and intentionally, if their story is true which I doubt, violated the most important rule in aviation: FLY THE AIRPLANE comes first.
So they should be terminated for either breaking that rule or lying.
I am confident that being deaf has a bearing on that statement.
I remember hearing that they were tuned to Denver Center enroute. Maybe they missed the call or forgot to change freqs to MSP approach.
They were either sleeping or spooning each other.
....due to a failure of a chain of events,...
It is never just one fault, but a series of events where each person involved in the chain thinks they can just ignore the “little” deviation from normal.
. National Transportation Safety Board Washington, DC 20594
. October 26, 2009
. NTSB ISSUES UPDATE ON ITS INVESTIGATION OF FLIGHT 188 THAT OVERFLEW INTENDED MINNEAPOLIS AIRPORT
. In its continuing investigation of an Airbus A320 that overflew the Minneapolis-St Paul International/Wold- Chamberlain Airport (MSP), the National Transportation Safety Board has developed the following factual information:. On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at 5:56 pm mountain daylight time, an Airbus A320, operating as Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight 188, became a NORDO (no radio communications) flight at 37,000 feet. The flight was operating as a Part 121 flight from San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California (SAN) to MSP with 144 passengers, 2 pilots and 3 flight attendants.
. Both pilots were interviewed separately by NTSB investigators yesterday in Minnesota. The following is an overview of the interviews:
. *.... The first officer and the captain were interviewed for over 5 hours combined.
*.... 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 said they had never had an accident, incident or violation.
*.... Neither pilot reported any ongoing medical conditions.
*.... 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. *.... Both said they lost track of time.
*.... 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.
*.... At cruise altitude - the pilots stated they were using cockpit speakers to listen to radio communications, not their headsets.
*.... When asked by ATC what the problem was, they replied "just cockpit distraction" and "dealing with company issues".
*.... Both pilots said there are no procedures for the flight attendants to check on the pilots during flight..
. The Safety Board is interviewing the flight attendants and other company personnel today.. Air traffic control communications have been obtained and are being analyzed. Preliminary data from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) revealed the following:
. *.... The CVR recording was 1/2 hour in length.
*.... The cockpit area microphone channel was not working during this recording.. However, the crew's headset microphones recorded their conversations.
*.... The CVR recording began during final approach, and continued while the aircraft was at the gate.
*.... During the hours immediately following the incident flight, routine aircraft maintenance provided power to the CVR for a few minutes on several occasions, likely recording over several minutes of the flight.
. The FDR captured the entire flight which contained several hundred aircraft parameters including the portion of flight where there was no radio communication from the flight crew.. Investigators are examining the recorded parameters to see if any information regarding crew activity during the portion of flight where radio contact was lost can be obtained..
. The Safety Board's investigation continues. .
You posted, in part: Frankly, I think they screwed themselves...
I think you may be on to something... I wonder what their wives have to say about what happened...
15 to 20 minutes to go 150 miles... hmmm... what might preoccupy someone, or two people, for that amount of time???
Yes, “They screwed themselves” is a pun, but I honestly did not mean it that way.
I meant that I think they screwed themselves legally and professionally because they chose a story for which there is no excuse for a professional pilot.
It was in 1972... an Eastern Airlines L-1011 wide body. It was the classic (and tragic) example of worring about the wrong malfunction. I recall it well because at the time, I flew Eastern often into Miami on L-1011s.
I would say he's correct!!
Plenty of excuses, but not much opportunity for 2nd chances once an 'ooops' gets publicized this broadly. Most 'ooops' don't get this much publicity.
The reality is that even though these guys made a serious mistake, no one was injured and no one was really in any danger of being injured.
In some ways, I feel bad for the pilots.
A commercial pilot's October 24 take on events from his outstanding blog site Flight Level 390 on the day to day rigors of flight ops and company politics:
Uh-Oh... Where Are We?
"I was working on another post, but decided to comment on the recent ruckus caused by an A320 that apparently overflew it's destination by, allegedly, 150 miles before turning back to the airport.
Thank you Lord that I was not the captain on that aircraft. Whew! Missed another bullet. I have no idea what happened on that flight deck, nor will I postulate about it. I saw one of the pilots on a mainstream media report (BIG MISTAKE!) denying that they were sleeping or arguing, so that points to a third possibility, I guess.
To the flying or, for that matter, the non-flying public, this incident surely seems mighty strange, but it has happened many times since the beginning of air carrier operations back in the late 1920s. Airline pilots, also, have landed at the wrong airport many times, landed on taxiways instead of runways hundreds, no, thousands of times, landed on the wrong runway countless times, and the list goes on.
Any airline pilot who has been at this game long enough has lost contact with ATC numerous times. Usually dispatch contacts the crew by email, or in the days before email, by company frequency.
To this point in my career, I have not (knock on wood) landed at the wrong airport, on the wrong runway, or overflown my destination.
Unfortunately, this incident will probably lead to more regulations on top of the suffocating layers of regs we currently work under. Not wanting to criticize without offering a solution, I fall back on my idea of Ameriflot, an Americanized version of the old Soviet air carrier, Aeroflot. We need a PCO (political correctness officer) sitting behind the comrade captain and an RCO (regulation compliance officer) sitting in the middle jump seat helping the crew navigate the maze of rules and regulations governing every flight.
Life on the Line continues...
I'm not an airline pilot, but I agree that 90 minutes does not pass my smell test. I could see them nodding for a few seconds or so just like most of us have done while driving and then waking in a panic. The best I can do as a passenger on a Red Eye with the cabin lights turned down, is 15 or so minutes of shut-eye at a clip. Every little bump reminds me that I'm not in bed, but in a tin can at 35,000 feet traveling at 600 mph. Not a place to rest easy.
I never understood how some people can get into a deep sleep on a flight. Maybe they just drink more booze before takeoff than me. ;~))
I started reading that and said hey, that sounds familiar, then I realized why. That was posted on Flyertalk by ME.