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Pilot who overshot airport denies crew was napping

  1. Oct 24, 2009 #1

    Astronuc

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    Talk about distraction on the job.

    Pilot who overshot airport denies crew was napping
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091024/ap_on_bi_ge/us_northwest_airport_overflown [Broken]
    The pilot and first officer were apparently having a heated discussion and did not realize they were approaching their destination.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/video/as...000-feet/CEE2B5A4-5EA0-4DCF-975A-AC8CF5BF52F2
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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  3. Oct 24, 2009 #2

    Moonbear

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    Re: Oops!

    It's hard to believe it was an argument distracting them. Afterall, wouldn't the communication from the tower asking them where the heck they were going when they missed their landing have gotten their attention?

    I don't really think it matters either way, though. That's a pretty major error to be distracted or napping or something else for a half hour past your destination and out of communication with the towers for that entire time.

    I did get a good laugh from the speculation of one person who commented on one of the many news stories about this...that person asked, "Were the pilots of opposite sexes?" (I suppose the implication could be the same for same sex pilots, but the question did a nice job of getting the point across of what they were suspecting was going on in the cockpit without coming right out and saying it.)
     
  4. Oct 24, 2009 #3

    Astronuc

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    Re: Oops!

    Post 9/11, a plane going off-course is pretty serious. Apparently the Air Force had 4 fighter jets ready to chase the plane!

    It's not clear at the moment why they didn't respond to the tower, but perhaps they did not have their headphones on - so they could argue.


    Experts Puzzle Over How Flight Overshot Airport

    :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  5. Oct 24, 2009 #4

    BobG

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    Re: Oops!

    Lucky. In 1972, one of the instrument lights burnt out in an L-1011 flying over the everglades. The crew had trouble figuring out how to reinsert the lens cover after replacing the bulb. They were all so involved in solving that problem, that no one noticed the alarm indicating the plane was losing altitude. http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19721229-0#

    Apparently, the discussion was about the Delta-Northwest airlines merger and how it will affect pilot seniority (there might be some clause that arguing in the cockpit will cost a pilot all of their seniority). Situations like these are why pilots are banned from internet forums while flying a plane. http://xkcd.com/386/
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  6. Oct 24, 2009 #5

    Moonbear

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    Re: Oops!

    From what I read, it wasn't really evident that it was a post-9/11 type rule. Afterall, ON 9/11, they were scrambling fighter jets to track down the stray planes too. It sounded more like it was a longer standing rule to check on a plane, and even confirm it's location, when communication is lost. When the cockpit isn't responding to air traffic control, I'm sure they have to assume anything and everything from a hijacked plane to a malfunction of electrical or communications systems to pilots asleep at the controls.
     
  7. Oct 24, 2009 #6
    Re: Oops!

    There is a second oops to all of this. The FFA failed to notify NORAD when they should have.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/10/23/airliner.fly.by/
     
  8. Oct 24, 2009 #7

    Moonbear

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    Re: Oops!

    From the article edward posted, it looks like the first officer has realized that claiming they were distracted by an argument isn't any better of a defense than sleeping, since he's now denying it.

    In retrospect, and with everyone safely on the ground, it may be a good thing this happened. It is now bringing to light problems with responses on more than one level to get them fixed before there's a serious problem, such as a hijacking.

    Another thing that comes to mind is that perhaps someone needs to do a more thorough background check on both the pilots and the air traffic controller who didn't report the incident. If someone WAS thinking about hijacking a plane, or trying to repeat a 9/11 type scenario, wouldn't this be the test you'd want to try? Find out how long and how far off course you can go before fighter jets can respond or get to the plane? This is probably the least likely explanation, but with something this bizarre, perhaps no stone should be left unturned.
     
  9. Oct 24, 2009 #8

    russ_watters

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    Re: Oops!

    Not sure I agree: this is a pretty well documented problem among pilots and a facet of human nature that is difficult to overcome. Most plane crashes involve a component of pilot inattentiveness. So regulators, manufacturers and airlines are all pretty vigilant in fighting the problem.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  10. Oct 24, 2009 #9
    Re: Oops!

    Hm, in my past job, I would have launched those fighters immediately. Loss of radio contact & aircraft not following flight planned route = highest alert state. Automatic "scramble".

    There may have been considerations though, that are not released.
     
  11. Oct 24, 2009 #10

    Moonbear

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    I was referring more to the added problem that the FAA was slow to report that there WAS a problem.

    In a case like this, is there a way for anyone on the ground to bypass the cockpit and directly contact the flight attendants in the cabin? For example, so they would know there was a potential problem and go knock on the cockpit door...maybe they could have gotten the attention of a distracted pilot that way, or if there was still no response, consider that it could have been a medical emergency leaving them incapacitated to respond (not sure what would afflict two pilots at once, but perhaps a fume or something might). This wasn't a case of zoning out for 5-10 minutes (also potentially dangerous if it was the wrong 5 minutes, but well within normal ranges of human attention spans), but I think altogether it was over an hour that they were out of communication and unable to be roused by radio calls too them. While we have no idea what was happening in that cockpit, there WERE people on the ground fully alert and aware of the problem, and they too did not follow procedures they were supposed to follow in a timely manner. That person on the ground is supposed to be the safety net for when something goes wrong on board the plane, and that failed in this case too.
     
  12. Oct 24, 2009 #11

    turbo

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    Re: Oops!

    I wonder what will shake out. F-16s were scrambled when Payne Stewart's rented Learjet went off flight-plan in Florida air-space, and there was a series of rendezvous by other F-16s until the plane ran out of fuel and crashed in South Dakota. That plane had only 2 passengers and 2 crew, so how does an off-course airliner with about 150 passengers not get jets scrambled for investigation and escort?
     
  13. Oct 24, 2009 #12

    Moonbear

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    Re: Oops!

    They probably were still on course with auto pilot engaged until they overflew the airport, which is when the articles say they did contact NORAD. What is the protocol for loss of communication, but flight still on planned route? What if the problem was loss of radio communication? How does the plane get guided to the ground in such a case? Is it the same thing, that you'd have a fighter jet escort to lead the way? Or does some other protocol kick in? I assume part of it would be to clear other flights out of the way in case they can't hear instructions even if all else were working right and they were fully awake.
     
  14. Oct 24, 2009 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Oops!

    It gets worse - there are cases where the pilots managed to somehow land the aircraft at the wrong airport. In 2004 Northwest did this at Rapid City, and in 1995 Northwest also did this at Brussels (instead of Frankfurt).

    Hmmm...I'm sensing a pattern. What airline was this again?
     
  15. Oct 24, 2009 #14

    Moonbear

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    Yep, Northwest. Apparently, they have trouble flying in other directions.
     
  16. Oct 24, 2009 #15

    turbo

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    Re: Oops!

    That's the direction Stewart's Lear jet flew went it went off flight-plan. Conspiracy? :eek:
     
  17. Oct 24, 2009 #16
    Re: Oops!

    Well if a plane goes out of contact I'm pretty sure it's assumed the plane has gone down. Fighter are of course scrambled for a 'search and rescue' as well as local police and other agencies.(assuming by contact you meant all contact including the transponder) The pilots are of course trained for these situations and have a huuuuuuge book which is on board that they have to go through step-by-step. I'm pretty sure that controllers losing contact with the plane would force the pilots to have to fly below a certain altitude and make an emergency landing ASAP. A plane flying around an airport at regular altitude is a major accident waiting to happen which is why they have to reduce altitude and land. (say to 5000 feet vs what the plane was flying at when communcations was lost... 37 000 ft).

    If it is just the radio communications that goes down they probably have to remain in a holding pattern somewhere. Fights would of course be scrambled ready to intercept... once radio contact is re-established they would go through protocols to ensure that it was in fact the pilots in control and then the plane would be allowed to land.
     
  18. Oct 24, 2009 #17
    Re: Oops!

    They should just improve the autopilot and replace the co-pilot with a dog. The pilot's job will be to feed the dog, and the dog's job to bite the pilot when he tries to touch the controls.
     
  19. Oct 24, 2009 #18

    Astronuc

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    Re: Oops!

    The first fighter jets were scrambled after the first aircraft (FLT 11) hit the WTC (0845 EDT).

    http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a852otisscramble#a852otisscramble

    At the time NORAD was apparently doing some unrelated exercise. They didn't immediately realize what was happening.

    Now, whenever a plane deviates from flight plan, they system responds, although it appears with the current incident there was a delay.
     
  20. Oct 26, 2009 #19

    Astronuc

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    Re: Oops!

    Wayward pilots were working on their laptops
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Wayward-pilots-were-working-apf-1739616008.html [Broken]

    Good thing they weren't logged into PF. :rofl:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  21. Oct 26, 2009 #20

    Moonbear

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    Re: Oops!

    Okay, I've lost track of time working on my computer before, but how do you end up completely oblivious to people trying to contact you? Good thing they weren't watching some football game or cartoons; they might not have heard anyone calling their name until they were swimming in the Atlantic. (The women will understand that one. :biggrin: :devil:)
     
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