The co-pilot of a Northwest Airlines flight that overshot the Minneapolis, Minnesota, airport by 150 miles says he and the pilot weren't asleep and they weren't arguing.Well, let's see. According to the details printed in the Obama-approved media they never changed frequencies leaving Denver Center, otherwise this wouldn't make sense:
"But other than that, I cannot tell you anything that went on because we're having hearings this weekend, we're having hearings on Tuesday. All that information will come out then."
Cole said there's been "a lot of misinformation that's going on. Things are being said that didn't happen, but I can't go into any details."
Ultimately, controllers contacted two other Northwest planes, asking them to try to reach Flight 188 through its last known frequency. One of those planes succeeded, prompting the pilot to contact Minneapolis, Church said.So their defense seems to be they just missed the assigned frequency and forget to check back in with ATC for 90 minutes. Recall in the Buffalo crash the late 40-ish pilot was engaged in a conversation with his early 20-ish female co-pilot and also lost 'situational awareness'. Since both of these guys were 50-somethings the sleep apnea thing sounds more plausible, although the first officer seems adamant it was only a radio foulup:
"I can tell you that airplanes lose contact with the ground people all the time. It happens. Sometimes they get together right away; sometimes it takes awhile before one or the other notices that they are not in contact."Right, but that doesn't explain losing awareness of position in the sky--the loss of radio contact doesn't render a flight blind. Something was preoccupying this crew before they reached the standard terminal arrival route into the MSP airport, about a hundred miles west of the airport or in the least they weren't watching their navigation instruments. Let's hope such things aren't more common that we know.
Or maybe we should make something out of the fact one of the pilots is named Cheney. Hmm. Guess we'll find out more on Tuesday.
Not sure this is enough to explain things, nor will it calm the fears of nervous fliers:
"Neither pilot said he was aware of where the plane was until a flight attendant called the cockpit about five minutes before the plane was to have landed and asked their estimated time of arrival, the report said.If the FA called the cockpit "five minutes" before scheduled landing time and the pilots suddenly noticed they had passed the airport at that moment, then they couldn't have been very far past the airport, although to be fair, an airplane at 37,000 feet flying at 500 mph could cover 150 miles in a little less than 20 minutes, so maybe they had a strong unforecast tailwind and the pilots thought they had more time to play around.
"The captain said, at that point, he looked at his primary flight display for an ETA and realized that they had passed" the airport, it added.
Still, it's hard to imagine a pilot with 20,000 hours losing full situational awareness to a laptop while in flight to the point of ignoring ATC, other traffic, and standard arrival procedures. Since laptops tend to leave tracks this excuse should be pretty easy to confirm.