The Letter No Pilot Wants

Careers and reputations have been sunk by momentary lapses in judgment. There is the more prominent, and unfortunately frequent, news about politicians and business leaders caught in the act of indiscretions for love or money.
Negligence can be as destructive.  This letter and the  reported facts surrounding the infamous Northwest flight 188 to Minneapolis are finally available. Some say the Revocation Order is too severe. Years of effort and two careers gone in a flash.  (Actually in an hour and a half) . The FAA disagrees and explains that it placed passengers and crew at serious risk in the published Determination of Emergency.

The pilots said they “heard voices on their cockpit radio but ignored them”.  For a really long time. Sophisticated cockpit avionics and planes that are able to “self land” are no excuse to disengage from Really Important Stuff. Complacency is the enemy of every pilot.  Perhaps the airlines ought to review whether seniority is the best way to ensure who sits in the left seat.

The plane flew on autopilot to the last point specified by the crew, a point in mid-air at which the crew would ordinarily receive instructions from air traffic controllers about which approach pattern to use. The autopilot then displayed a notice on the electronic cockpit displays that it had run out of instructions, and the plane continued on the same heading and the same altitude, 37,000 feet, awaiting further instructions. Crew members told investigators that when a flight attendant, apparently surprised by the plane’s failure to begin its scheduled descent — contacted them on the plane’s internal telephone system, they saw the notice on their screens and realized they had flown past their destination.

and maybe flight attendants deserve a raise!


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