Federal Investigators: Pilots were on Personal Laptops

POSTED: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 9:44am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:59pm

New revelations about what distracted two Northwest Airline pilots that caused them to be out of communication for more than an hour as they overshot their destination last week. The pilots were interviewed as part of a National Transportations Safety Board investigation.

The Northwest Airline pilots deny they were fatigued when flight 188 overshot the Minneapolis Airport by 150 miles. "Nobody was asleep in the cockpit, no arguments took place, but other than that I can not tell you anything that went on," said co-pilot Richard Cole during a recent interview.

Federal investigators say the pilots did tell them their distractions included a bathroom break, and that they were going over scheduling using their personal laptops in violation of company policy. Air traffic controllers tried 13 times for more than an hour Wednesday night to contact the flight, which later turned around and safely landed. Both pilots said they lost track of time.

"The bottom line is, where were you when we were trying to reach you? And why did you not see Minneapolis when you went zipping right past it," said aviation expert Jim Tilmon. Officials on the ground had prepared the National Guard to send jets to chase the airliner, which had 144 passengers on board. The military planes never ended up leaving the runway.

Robyn Blilie was on the Northwest flight that landed an hour late. She said, "I really want to know what happened. I think I deserve to know what happened."

Both men face the possibility of losing their pilots license as the mystery of what happened unfolds. Investigators also interviewed flight attendants and other company personnel to gather details of what happened.