NPR logo Wayward-Pilots Probe Documents Released By Safety Board


Wayward-Pilots Probe Documents Released By Safety Board

There are some interesting details to be had in the numerous documents the National Transportation Safety Board released Wednesday from its investigation of the two pilots who flew past Minneapolis in October because they were distracted by their conversation and their personal laptops.

Here's one. According to one of the reports, Captain Timothy Brian Cheney told investigators that Northwest Airlines bankruptcy and its later acquisition by Delta Air Lines:

... Made a financial impact on his retirement, and had been a distraction that created a "bitter and angry" environment that he tried to leave out of the cockpit. He characterized pilot morale as average and that it was better now than it was three years earlier.

He obviously didn't do a good enough job of keeping the discontent out of the cockpit since according to what he told investigators he was complaining about how a scheduling system that was new to Northwest pilots like himself hadn't given him the results he had hoped for and would require him to make frequent commutes from his Seattle home to Minneapolis.

The reports also reveal that Cheney also didn't give his co-pilot, first officer Richard Irwin Cole the highest marks. When investigators asked him what he thought of Cole, he said described him as:

OK, but I've flown with better.

By contrast, Irwin had very positive things to say about Cheney: According to the report:

He said the captain was personable, nice, and had a good attitude.

The reports essentially recount what has already been reported, that the pilots were distracted by a discussion of scheduling and were using their personal laptops. The use of those computers violated Delta policy.

Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis flight, with 144 passengers on board, was out of contact for an hour and 17 minutes and was over Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a little more than 100 miles away from its scheduled destination.

The flight attendant reports don't help the pilots, either. One flight attendant recalled calling the cockpit to find out when the plane would be landing — the attendants had been told earlier the flight would land at 8:01 pm — only to be told by the pilot on the phone that the plane would land at "12 Greenwich." When the flight attendant, who was unidentified, indicated he or she didn't know what time that was locally, the pilot said: "I was hosed and hung up," the flight attendant reported.