WASHINGTON - The two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot Minneapolis have blamed air traffic controllers in part for the Oct. 21 incident, saying controllers violated procedures.
Capt. Timothy Cheney, 54, of Gig Harbor, Wash., and First Officer Richard Cole, 54, of Salem, Ore., said in documents filed Nov. 24 with the National Transportation Safety Board that controllers did not follow rules and practices contained in the Federal Aviation Administration's air-traffic-control manual and did not coordinate effectively with Northwest dispatchers. The documents offer no details on those violations.
Cheney and Cole are appealing the FAA's revocation of their pilots' licenses. The pair were out of radio contact for 77 minutes as their Airbus A320, carrying 144 passengers from San Diego, flew more than 100 miles past Minneapolis. The plane was over Wisconsin before controllers could reestablish contact.
The pilots later told authorities they had been working on crew scheduling on their laptops and did not realize they had missed their destination until a flight attendant using an intercom asked when the plane would be landing.
Cole also said in his filing that he should not be punished, or that his punishment should be mitigated, because he relied on Cheney as the pilot in command of the jet to fulfill his responsibilities.
Both pilots told investigators they had had no previous incidents. Cheney was hired by Northwest in 1985 and had about 20,000 hours of flying time, about half of it in the A320. Cole had about 11,000 hours of flight time, including 5,000 hours in the A320.
The FAA said the pilots violated numerous federal safety regulations. Their appeals will be heard by an NTSB administrative law judge.
Northwest parent Delta Air Lines, which suspended the pilots, is cooperating with NTSB investigators and conducting its own investigation, spokesman Anthony Black said yesterday.