The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the licenses of two Northwest Airlines pilots who accidentally flew more than 100 miles past their destination.
First Officer Richard Cole and Captain Timothy Cheney said they were not asleep at the controls, as had been previously suspected. They said they were so engrossed in their laptop computers that they pased the airport in Minneapolis and ignored radio communications
Passengers on the Northwest Airlines flight have been offered $500 rebates.
"This explanation that they were both engrossed working on the computers, that was admission that no one was in control of the flight," said John Wiley, retired pilot and writer for Aviation Week. "That's unacceptable."
The decision was made even though the pilots contended no passengers were ever in danger. The plane was flying on auto pilot, which may have contributed to their lack of attention.
"Sure you can be bored," Wiley added. "But part of the job is learning that you have to stay involved with the airplane. This crew didn't. And that is expected to cost them their jobs."
It was the flight attendants who snapped the pilots out of their inattentive state, by asking them when they would be landing.
"I have to tell you that any time you go an hour and 18 minutes and don't even think about whether you've talked to ATC, Air Traffic Control, that raises questions of responsibility," said John Nance, former commercial airline pilot.
Both pilots are experienced. They said they were engrossed in the new crew schedules on their laptops that came as a result from Northwest's recent merger with Delta.