Commentary: When pilots act unprofessionally

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramOctober 28, 2009 

Maybe we should be glad they weren't texting while flying.

But how comforting is it to learn that two Northwest Airlines pilots flew right by their destination last week because they were on their laptops messing with their schedules?

Earth to the crew of Flight 188?

Aren't the pilots supposed to be flying the plane?

Somehow, it seems this is not what flight attendants mean when they warn that electronic devices will interfere with communications.

On the way from San Diego to Minneapolis on Oct. 21, the flight crew was out of contact for more than an hour, which is what you might expect if a flight is in trouble.

The trouble was that Capt. Timothy B. Cheney, 53, and First Officer Richard Cole, 54, were violating company policy by using their laptops during the flight and were too distracted to notice that Northwest dispatchers were trying to reach them.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported Monday that "the pilots said there was a concentrated period of discussion where they did not monitor the airplane or calls from [the control tower] even though both stated they heard conversation on the radio."

Flight 188 flew 150 miles past its destination, the NTSB reported, and "neither pilot was aware of the airplane’s position until a flight attendant called about five minutes before they were scheduled to land and asked what was their estimated time of arrival."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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