Pilots Who Forgot to Land No Longer Allowed to Fly

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The Northwest Airlines pilots who failed to respond to air-traffic controllers for 90 minutes, missed their destination by 120 miles, and claimed they had "lost track of time" while using their laptops, have been stripped of their licenses by the FAA.

The pilots were said to have broken several federal regulations.  The report didn't say which ones, but most likely the ones that say pilots are supposed to respond to air-traffic controllers, land when they are supposed to land, and just generally fly the plane rather than dicking around on their laptops.

I'm paraphrasing.

"Shouldn't we land?" "No . . . That's just what they'll be expecting us to do." The pilots told the NTSB that they had been using their laptops to practice using new scheduling software that is being phased in by Northwest.  Since these guys are in their mid-50s, they probably were not caught up in World of Warcraft or something like that, but there is still something odd about the software-practice excuse.  Even if a plane is on autopilot, 90 minutes seems like an awfully long time to stare into a laptop with that kind of single-minded concentration WHILE YOU HAPPEN TO BE IN CHARGE OF AN AIRPLANE.

According to the NYT report, the men admitted that during the 90 minutes in question, "they heard voices on their cockpit radio, but ignored them."  Attention, Northwest Airlines: if your scheduling software is really so complicated that it could cause two pilots to ignore the increasingly concerned voices of a dozen different air-traffic controllers for an hour and a half, you need new software.

Link: New York Times