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October 26, 2009

Still unclear why Northwest flight overshot Minneapolis by 100 miles

According to the Wall Street Journal:
"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."
This flight was out of San Diego rather than Seattle, but I'm flying Northwest to Chicago via Minneapolis in December.  Should I be worried? :)

The article also says:

"The investigation also is bound to revive the longstanding controversy over installing cockpit video recorders -- something the safety board advocates and pilot groups continue to strenuously oppose."
Personally, I'm all in favour of this, though I suppose I do see the pilots' reasoning for not wanting it.  But as a safety issue and perhaps as further information in the event of a plane crash (assuming the camera was strong enough to withstand it, much like the infamous "black boxes"), I think this can only be beneficial.  Isn't cockpit chatter already recorded anyway, or is that just radio traffic?  For some reason, I seem to remember that in various crash instances, and also in the case of United #93 on 9/11, there were recordings of cockpit chatter.  Wasn't that how they reconstructed some of the events on United #93?  I admit, I could be way off on that one.

Anyway, cameras to see what the pilots were doing and how they handled themselves in the event of an emergency would be extremely helpful, I would think.

What about you?  What do you think about this sort of thing?

Update (10/28/09):  Evidently, they had their pilots licenses revoked by the FAA, which I'm glad to see.


  1. They record phone conversations for customer service quality purposes. Seems like piloting aircraft has a lot greater safety implications.


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