Oct 27, 2009

Wayward pilots lose licenses

The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the licenses of the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot a Minnesota airport by 150 miles during a 78-minute period of radio silence last week.

Capt. Timothy B. Cheney, 53, and First Officer Richard I. Cole, 54, were piloting Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego, California, to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport Wednesday when air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the Airbus A320 over the Denver, Colorado, area.

Were the pilots distracted? Catching up on their sleep?

The cockpit voice recorder may not tell the tale.

Federal investigators struggled to determine what the crew of a Northwest Airlines jetliner were doing at 37,000 feet as they sped 150 miles past their Minneapolis destination and military jets scrambled to chase them. Unfortunately, the cockpit voice recorder may not tell the tale.

New recorders retain as much as two hours of cockpit conversation and other noise, but the older model aboard Northwest's Flight 188 includes just the last 30 minutes - only the very end of Wednesday night's flight after the pilots realized their error over Wisconsin and were heading back to Minneapolis.

Link here and here.