Flight Attendant Caught Wayward Pilots Unaware

Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009 10:26 PM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

A call from a flight attendant to the pilots of the Northwest Airlines plane that overshot Minneapolis catapulted the cockpit crew from complacency to confusion.

Interviews with the flight crew and other documents released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board indicate the pilots were completely unaware of their predicament until the moment the intercom rang.

They were unaware that they had flown their Airbus A320 with 144 passenger more than 100 miles past their destination, that air traffic controllers and their airline's dispatchers had been struggling to reach them for more than an hour, or that the military was at that moment readying fighter jets for an intercept mission.

Special: Get Sarah Palin’s New Book – Incredible FREE Offer -- Click Here Now.

The plane 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.

Cheney, 54, and First Officer Richard Cole, 54, told investigators they had taken out their laptops and were absorbed in working on a complicated crew scheduling program that they were required to learn following Delta Air Lines' acquisition of Northwest a year earlier. Cole told investigators they became distracted as they "got deeper and deeper into it."

Cheney said he was "blown away" by how long the conversation — which was only supposed to take about 10 minutes — went on. Investigators wrote that Cheney felt embarrassed. Their report quotes him saying "I was wrong" and that he "let another force come from the outside and distract me."

The tension of the moment the pilots became aware of their predicament was evident in the crew interviews.

According to a statement signed by flight attendant Barbara Logan, she called the cockpit around 8:15 p.m. CDT to find out when they would be landing. She was told they would land around 12 Greenwich Mean Time. "I said I did not know the time — he said I was hosed and hung up."

The lead flight attendant called to get gate information and was apparently also hung up on, according to Logan's report. That flight attendant later got through to the cockpit.

Investigators' interviews with Cheney and Cole also hint at tension between the pilots. The pair were flying together for the first time. Cheney characterized Cole's piloting skills as "OK, but I've flown with better." He complained that Cole had missed some steps when they were readying for takeoff because he apparently was still learning Delta's procedures.

Both pilots are appealing the FAA's revocation of their licenses. Cole has cited his reliance on Cheney as the pilot in charge as a mitigating factor in his case.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said the two pilots remain suspended while Delta investigates the incident.

Flight 188 wasn't the only Northwest operation that was hard to reach that night. A controller who called Northwest's dispatchers to ask them to contact the plane first encountered a recording telling him the phone number had been changed. He dialed the new number, but the phone rang 10 to 20 times without being answered, he told investigators. He hung up, then redialed.

This time, someone at the dispatch office answered the phone — and put him on hold.

The Federal Aviation Administration has since said the phone numbers controllers had for Northwest predated its acquisition by Delta and have now been updated.

Northwest dispatchers ultimately sent 15 text messages to the cockpit asking pilots to contact controllers, but there was no response. The pilots said they didn't notice the messages until after they re-established contact. Cole said he later inadvertently pushed the "delete all" button, erasing the messages.

The first controllers the pilots spoke to after becoming aware of their situation turned out to be in Winnipeg, Canada. They had failed to switch their radio frequency from one used by controllers in Denver to one used by Minneapolis controllers. They were still using the Denver frequency — which is the same as the Winnipeg frequency — when they tried to reach air traffic control.

The NTSB's investigation into the incident has also exposed weaknesses in communications between controllers and the Domestic Events Network, or DEN, which is essentially a running conference call between air traffic controllers, military commanders, and other authorities involved in aviation security that was established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The manager on duty at the Minneapolis air traffic control facility that evening couldn't be reached by the network at one point. The network's speaker is at her desk, but her duties overseeing controllers take her away from the desk.

The same manager also told investigators she asked someone on network to call her by phone to discuss the possible need for fighters to intercept the plane because she wasn't sure the network's communications were secure. Only later did she realize the network had been setup in part to provide secure communications.


© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Suspect in Killing of Deputies Was Twice Deported

Saturday, 25 Oct 2014 23:04 PM

Federal authorities say a man suspected of killing two deputies during a shooting rampage in Northern California was dep . . .

IRS Seizes Money From Those Accused of No Crime

Saturday, 25 Oct 2014 22:34 PM

The Internal Revenue Service has been seizing money from the bank accounts of individuals and businesses with no proof,  . . .

Teacher Tried to Stop Washington State Shooting

Saturday, 25 Oct 2014 15:56 PM

A union official says a newly hired high school teacher confronted a gunman during a deadly shooting at a Washington sta . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved