Pilots who missed destination 'distracted'


WASHINGTON – Pilots of a Northwest Airlines jetliner that overshot its destination by 240km (150 miles) last week told US investigators they became distracted during an extended discussion of crew scheduling that included their use of personal laptops, officials said yesterday.

“The pilots said there was a concentrated period of discussion where they did not monitor the plane or calls from [air-traffic controllers] even though both stated they heard conversation on the radio,” the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said after interviewing the pair.

“Both said they lost track of time,” the safety board said in a report on their investigation, which included disclosures about the nature of the conversation and the use of laptop computers.

The two veteran commercial pilots said they were not fatigued during the evening flight on October 21st from San Diego to Minneapolis, countering speculation they may have fallen asleep.

Air controllers and airline dispatchers sought to contact Flight 188, an Airbus A320 with 144 passengers, for more than an hour with the aircraft at 37,000ft.

Neither pilot was aware of the aircraft’s wayward state until a flight attendant asked them about their scheduled arrival time, the NTSB said.

The captain looked at his flight display data, realised the mistake and then contacted controllers for permission to turn around.

The aircraft landed without incident in Minneapolis.

Delta Air Lines, which owns Northwest, has relieved the pilots from active flying pending the outcome of government and internal investigations.

The use of personal laptops violates company policy, the safety board said. – (Reuters)