Distracted Northwest Pilots Who Had Licenses Revoked Can Reapply <


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Distracted Northwest Pilots Who Had Licenses Revoked Can Reapply

By Mike Mitchell
  March 16, 2010 - Under a settlement agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday, pilots Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole can reapply for their licenses August 29, 2010. On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at 5:56 pm mountain daylight time, an Airbus A320, N03274, operating as Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight 188, became a NORDO (no radio communications) flight at 37,000 feet.

The flight was operating from San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California (SAN) to MSP with 147 passengers. At 7:58 pm central daylight time (CDT), the aircraft flew over the destination airport and continued northeast for approximately 150 miles. The MSP center controller reestablished communications with the crew at 8:14 pm and reportedly stated that the crew had become distracted and had overflown MSP, and requested to return to MSP.

Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. – Fighters from two North American Aerospace Defense Command sites were put on alert when the Northwest Airlines commercial airliner that was not responding to radio calls from the Federal Aviation Administration.  Before the fighters could get airborne, FAA re-established communications with the pilots of the Northwest Airlines commercial airliner and subsequently, the NORAD fighters were ordered to stand down.

The pilots of Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight 188 were out of contact with air traffic controllers who frantically tried to reach the plane for 1 hour and 18 minutes. Upon landing the pilots were interviewed by the FBI and airport police. The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness. 

The FAA has sent out letters of investigation to the two pilots involved Timothy B. Cheney and First Officer Richard I. Cole. The letters stated "Depending on the outcome of their investigation, their action could lead to emergency suspension or revocation" of their licenses.  

Both pilots and crew were interviewed by NTSB investigators. The following is an overview of the interviews: Both pilots stated there was a distraction in the cockpit. The pilots said there was a concentrated period of discussion where they did not monitor the airplane or calls from ATC even though both stated they heard conversation on the radio. Also, neither pilot noticed messages that were sent by company dispatchers. They were discussing the new monthly crew flight scheduling system that was now in place as a result of the merger. The discussion began at cruise altitude. On October 27, 2009, pilots Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole had their pilots licenses revoked by the FAA.

Interview: Reo Pratt, Northwest Airlines A320 Aircrew Program Manager (APM)
    First Officer Richard Irwin Cole
Interview:     Captain Timothy Cheney
Bill Trinka, Dispatcher
    David P. Francisco, Chief Dispatcher
Interview:      Vance Harris, Northwest Airlines Principle Operations Inspector (POI)
Statements - Flight Attendant
Statements - Minneapolis ARTCC Controller
Statements - Denver ARTCC Controller
Selected Air Route Traffic Control Center
Transmissions Overlay Report

Revocation letter Richard Cole

Revocation letter Timothy Cheney

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