Now That Was Really Scary
Perhaps you heard recently about the Northwest Airlines flight on October 21st which overshot its intended destination (Minneapolis) by 150 miles and whose pilots were out of contact with ground control for 77 minutes. As you might imagine, a lot of officials became very concerned. One of those concerns was that terrorists had taken control of the plane.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released transcripts that show numerous attempts were made to establish radio contact with Flight 188. When air traffic controllers finally reached the pilots they were told that the pilots had been distracted, but no further details were provided at that time.
The FAA has established a standard whereby controllers are to notify the military when a plane goes out of contact for five to 10 minutes. In this instance the controllers waited 69 minutes before making the necessary military contact, which the FAA described as unacceptable. The agency announced that it plans to strengthen procedures for alerting the military when controllers lose communication with a plane.
Given our economic times, discount airfares, and cheap hotels are important but they dont begin to compare to the importance of travelers safety, part of which requires pilots to stay in touch with ground control and strictly following their flight plans.
Later, the pilots explained to the National Transportation Safety Board that their cockpit distraction was caused by the pilots reviewing the complicated new crew scheduling program on their laptop computers, resulting in them overshooting their destination.
While working on a new crew scheduling might explain (mind you, not justify) why the plane overshot its destination, you still have to wonder why the pilots were out of radio contact for more than one hour.
It was only thanks to a flight attendant asking the pilots about the landing time that they became aware of their plane overshooting Minneapolis and contacted ground control.
Describing the pilots actions as extremely reckless and endangering the public by flying over one hour without communication with controllers, the FAA has revoked the licenses of the two pilots.