To the many woes plaguing airline passengers — smaller seats, higher ticket prices, fewer flights, etc. — add one more: Piloting while distracted.
The concern arises from a genuinely disturbing report that two Northwest pilots on a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul on Oct. 21 were so busy toying with their laptop computers that they forgot to land the plane. Oops.
This is not what the flying public needs to hear just as the peak travel period of the holiday season approaches. Nor was it some momentary distraction, but rather a prolonged period of inattention during which the pilots maintained radio silence for 90 minutes while frantic traffic controllers repeatedly tried to get a response from them.
The two-man crew overshot the destination in Minnesota by 150 miles — roughly the distance from Miami to Fort Myers — before concerned flight attendants worked up the gumption to knock on the cockpit door to inquire whether, you know, they might be landing anytime soon. By then, they were over Wisconsin, heading the wrong way.
Flying, experts insist, remains the safest way to travel. In this case, there was a happy ending — all 144 passengers arrived safely and have no doubt told and retold the story of their misadventure on wayward Northwest Flight 188 many times.
But it could easily have turned into a disaster if the pilots had strayed into the path of another air carrier, or run out of fuel. Even if this were just one isolated instance of pilot distraction, it is part of a larger pattern of drivers and vehicle operators being virtually, if not literally, asleep at the wheel.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.