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UPDATE: Northwest Airline Overshoots Airport by 150-Miles

UPDATED Monday, March 15, 2010 --- 3:25 p.m.

By STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot the Minneapolis airport have agreed not to fight the revocations of their licenses but could fly again.

Under a settlement released by the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday, Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole can apply for new licenses Aug. 29. That's more than 10 months after they flew an Airbus A320 with 144 passengers about 100 miles past their destination before discovering their mistake.

The pilots told investigators they became distracted as they were working on their laptop computers on a complicated crew scheduling program.

Air Line Pilots Association spokeswoman Linda Shotwell says the union and pilots decline to comment.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, December 16, 2009 --- 10:00 a.m.

By JOAN LOWY
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pilots of the Northwest Airlines plane that overshot Minneapolis described to safety investigators being caught completely by surprise when a flight attendant called them to ask when the plane would be landing.

According to interviews and other documents released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board, the captain of Flight 188 said he looked up from his laptop to discover there was no longer any flight information programmed into the Airbus A320's computer. He said his navigation system showed Duluth, Minnesota, off to his left and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, ahead on the right.

The plane carrying 144 passengers had been out of radio contact for 77 minutes as it flew across a broad swath of the country on Oct. 21, raising national security concerns.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, December 16, 2009 --- 8:15 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal safety officials say they will release information gathered in their investigation of the Northwest Airlines plane that flew more than 100 miles past Minneapolis while pilots worked on their laptops.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it will make public on Wednesday about 400 pages of interviews with Flight 188's pilots and flight attendants, as well as air traffic controllers, among other information.

Since the board's investigation is continuing, investigators aren't expected to offer any conclusions.

The plane carrying 144 passengers was out of contact with anyone on the ground for 77 minutes as it flew across a broad swath of the country on Oct. 21, raising national security concerns.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, November 27, 2009 --- 12:00 p.m.

UNDATED (AP) -- Even after air traffic controllers re-established contact with the crew of a Northwest Airlines plane that flew past Minneapolis last month, they still weren't certain that the crew was in control of the cockpit.

Transcripts released today by the Federal Aviation Administration reveal that the controllers repeatedly asked the crew what had happened -- and that the crew would only say that there were "distractions."

First, there was nearly 90 seconds of conversation about the route they should take back to their destination of Minneapolis. Then, a controller said, "I just have to verify that the cockpit is secure."

A pilot said, "It is secure, we got distracted." He said he and the other pilot never heard a call from the ground.

A different controller took over, and after about five minutes of talk about routes, the controller asked for an explanation of what happened.

A pilot responded, "Cockpit distractions, that's all I can say."

Controllers ultimately had the pilots perform several turns to verify that they were in control of the plane. It landed safely in Minneapolis and was met at the gate by police.

The pilots have told the National Transportation Safety Board that they were looking at their company's complicated new crew-scheduling program over their laptop computers.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, November 27, 2009 --- 10:45 a.m.

By JOSHUA FREED
AP Airlines Writer

New transcripts from the Northwest Airlines flight that overflew Minneapolis show air traffic controllers asking the crew about what happened, and whether they had enough fuel.

The Federal Aviation Administration released the transcripts of the flight, which missed Minneapolis and flew over Wisconsin before the pilots realized they were out of contact and landed safely.

The transcript shows one of the pilots on Northwest Flight 188 telling controllers that they had been distracted because they were dealing with company issues. That came after controllers asked them to elaborate on the distraction.

Controllers also asked about fuel. The pilot on the plane responded that they had about two hours of fuel left.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, October 29, 2009 --- 7:45 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's top aviation official says air traffic controllers didn't notify the military as quickly as they should have when they lost contact with the Northwest Airlines plane that ended up overshooting its destination by 150 miles last week.

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt said late Wednesday that the flight was on course and gave no indication of hostile intent while air traffic controllers repeatedly tried to raise the plane as it flew from San Diego to Minneapolis.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday that controllers waited about 40 minutes after losing contact with the plane before notifying the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Babbitt said a review was under way.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, October 27, 2009 --- 5:35 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators have revoked the licenses of the two Northwest Airlines pilots who flew past their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles last week.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday the pilots had violated numerous regulations, including failing to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances and operating carelessly and recklessly.

The pilots -- first officer Richard Cole of Salem, Ore., and captain Timothy Cheney of Gig Harbor, Wash. -- told investigators they lost track of time and place while working on their laptop computers.

The pilots' union had cautioned against a rush to judgment. The pilots, who said they had no previous accidents or safety incidents, have 10 days to appeal the emergency revocation.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, October 27, 2009 --- 8:40 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Northwest Airlines pilots who flew their jet past its Minneapolis landing by 150 miles could lose their jobs -- and their licenses.

Captain Timothy Cheney and First Officer Richard Cole told investigators they were engrossed in a complicated new crew-scheduling program on their laptop computers while air traffic controllers, other pilots and the airline itself tried to contact them.

Delta Airlines, which owns Northwest, says using laptops or engaging in activity unrelated to the pilots' command of the aircraft during flight is strictly against the airline's flight deck policies. The airline says violations of that policy will result in termination.

Delta has suspended the two pilots pending an investigation.

There are no federal rules that specifically ban pilots' use of laptops or other personal electronic devices as long as the plane is flying above 10,000 feet. But a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration says "it depends upon how it's being used."

The FAA has warned the pilots their licenses could be suspended or revoked.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, October 26, 2009 --- 2:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two Northwest Airlines pilots tell federal investigators that they were going over scheduling using their laptop computers while their plane overflew their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles.

National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement Monday that the pilots said in interviews that they were not fatigued and didn't fall asleep, as many aviation safety experts have said was likely.

The board said the pilots told investigators the first officer was instructing the captain on monthly flight crew scheduling. The board said the use of laptop computers in the cockpit is prohibited. The pilots were out of communication with air traffic controllers and their airline for over an hour.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, October 24, 2009 --- 3:35 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — There was concern at the White House about that wayward Northwest Airlines jet that flew past its scheduled destination in Minneapolis.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told The Associated Press on Saturday that senior White House officials were alerted by the White House Situation Room and they closely monitored the incident.

Shapiro didn't say if President Barack Obama was informed about the wayward plane.

Northwest Flight 118 was out of communications with air traffic controllers for over an hour Wednesday night. The plane carrying 144 passengers and five crew members was destined for Minneapolis but overflew the airport by about 150 miles before controllers were able to re-establish contact.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Saturday, October 24, 2009 --- 9:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the pilots whose Northwest Airlines jet flew 150 miles past its destination Wednesday insists they were not dozing.

Richard Cole tells The Associated Press that neither he nor his fellow pilot Timothy Cheney were asleep. Northwest has temporarily suspended both pilots while the investigation goes on.

Cole says he and Cheney were not arguing, adding "there was nothing serious going on in the cockpit that would threaten" the safety of the passengers and crew in the back of the plane.

Airport police in Minneapolis say breathalyzer tests of the two men were negative. But aviation safety experts and other pilots are saying it's hard to believe their story that they were absorbed in a heated discussion about airline policy.

The FAA says it's sent letters to both pilots telling them they're being investigated, and that their licenses could be suspended or revoked.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The pilot of Northwest Flight 188 gave two thumbs-up to show everything was OK when the plane rolled up to its gate at the Minneapolis airport.

The response from police officers showed that things were not OK.

A police report on the incident released Friday says officers crowded onto the plane and told a flight attendant to tell everyone to sit down.

Then they turned to the pilot, Timothy B. Cheney, and first officer, Richard I. Cole, to find out just what had caused the airplane to soar 150 miles beyond its intended airport before the crew realized its mistake and landed the plane safely.

The report noted the men passed alcohol breath tests and were apologetic. They told authorities they had been having a heated discussion about airline policy.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, October 23, 2009 --- 4:50 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minneapolis airport police say controllers tried to contact the pilots of a wayward Northwest Airlines jetliner by radio, data message and cell phone after it failed to land as scheduled.

Federal officials are investigating how the San Diego-to-Minneapolis flight overshot the airport by 150 miles on Wednesday. The pilots have told authorities they were distracted by a heated conversation.

A police report released Friday identified the pilots as Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole. The report offers few new details about why they flew past the airport.

The three-page report says the pilots "were cooperative, apologetic and appreciative" and both voluntarily submitted to alcohol-breath tests. The tests found no evidence that the pilots were drinking.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, October 23, 2009 --- 3:35 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As investigators try to figure out why a Northwest Airlines plane flew 150 miles past its destination, the flight and cockpit recorders are being brought to Washington.

But they might not be much help to the National Transportation Safety Board. The voice recorder aboard the plane that overshot Minneapolis on Wednesday night was an older model that records only 30 minutes at a time.

Flight 188 was out of contact with air traffic controllers for more than an hour before the pilots realized their mistake and turned back. During that time, controllers tried desperately to raise them and asked other pilots in the area to try as well.

A controllers union spokesman says pilots from two other planes were finally able to get through. A source close to the investigation says a flight attendant in the cabin also contacted the cockpit by intercom.

Meanwhile, police and FBI agents on the ground were preparing for the worst, and the Air National Guard put fighter jets on alert.

The plane was carrying 144 passengers and a crew of five from San Diego. The pilots have been suspended.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, October 23, 2009 --- 10:05 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Could they have fallen asleep?

That's the question being asked about two Northwest Airlines pilots after they overshot Minneapolis by 150 miles Wednesday night and air traffic controllers were unable to reach them.

The pilots should have received numerous warnings as they approached and passed their destination. Besides the repeated attempts by controllers to reach them, they would have also had cockpit displays and the lights of the city to give them clues.

But a source close to the investigation says it took a flight attendant contacting the pilots by intercom to make them realize their mistake.

The plane had been out of contact with controllers for more than an hour. The pilots have told authorities they were having a heated discussion over airline policy and were distracted.

Federal investigators haven't yet questioned the pilots and don't know whether they might have fallen asleep. The plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have been sent to Washington for analysis.

Northwest has suspended the pilots while it conducts its own investigation.

The plane was carrying 144 passengers and a crew of five from San Diego.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted Thursday, October 22, 2009 --- 5:35 p.m.

By STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Federal officials say they are investigating whether pilot fatigue was a factor in a Northwest Airlines jet overflying the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles.

The plane landed safely Wednesday evening after crew members discovered their mistake. None of the 147 passengers and crew was injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the jet was flying from San Diego to Minneapolis and lost radio contact with controllers before 7 p.m. It says the jet flew about 150 miles past the Minneapolis airport before communications were re-established at 8:14 p.m.

The FAA says the crew told authorities they became distracted during a discussion.

But NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway says the agency will look into whether fatigue played a role.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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