Off-Course Pilots Cite Computer Distraction
Any employee at a company that has gone through a merger knows how distracting it can be when the new owner imposes new rules. That distraction, not a nap, was what two Northwest Airlines pilots say caused them to fly far beyond the Minneapolis airport last week, federal investigators reported Monday.
The pilots told the National Transportation Safety Board that they missed their destination because they had taken out their personal laptops in the cockpit, a violation of airline policy, so the first officer, Richard I. Cole, could tutor the captain, Timothy B. Cheney, in a new scheduling system put in place by Delta Air Lines, which acquired Northwest last fall.
The interim report from the safety board ran counter to theories in aviation circles last week that the two pilots might have fallen asleep or were arguing in the cockpit.
Each pilot, in separate interviews with the safety board that totaled more than five hours, denied those theories.
“Both said they lost track of time,” the report stated. It also said that the pilots had heard voices over their cockpit radios but ignored them.