FAA Revokes Northwest Flight 188 Pilot Licenses

 - October 28, 2009, 5:23 AM

The FAA has revoked the licenses of two Northwest Airlines pilots who overflew their destination airport by 150 miles on October 21 while operating Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis (MSP). The emergency revocations cite violations of a number of Federal Aviation Regulations, including failure to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances and operating carelessly and recklessly.

Both pilots told National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators that while engaging in a concentrated period of “discussion” they failed to monitor the airplane or calls from ATC, even though both said they heard conversation on the radio. Both also admitted to using their personal laptop computers while they talked about a new flight-crew scheduling system put into place as a result of Northwest’s merger with Delta Air Lines, causing them to lose track of time. Company policy prohibits the use of personal computers on the flight deck. Neither pilot said he noticed messages sent by company dispatchers.

Air traffic control lost radio contact with Flight 188 at 5:56 Mountain Daylight Time, as the Airbus A320 cruised at 37,000 feet. The flight carried 144 passengers, the two pilots and three flight attendants from its departure airport, San Diego International. At 7:58 Central Daylight Time, the airplane flew over the destination airport and continued northeast for some 150 miles. The Minneapolis center controller reestablished communications with the crew at 8:14 p.m. CDT. At that time the crew requested a return to MSP. 

The revocations went into effect immediately. The pilots have 10 days to appeal the emergency revocations to the NTSB.