Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Buffoonery in the Sky’s

Another Delta Airline crew is in deep do-do for perhaps sleeping at the controls?


U.S. safety investigators are reviewing a flight by Delta Air Lines Inc.'s Northwest unit that overshot its destination at the Minneapolis airport yesterday after losing contact with air traffic controllers.

The pilots said they were "in a heated discussion over airline policy" and "lost situational awareness", the NTSB which is investigating the incident, said today in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported the pilots may have fallen asleep. The safety board doesn't "have any evidence of that yet at this point", Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, said in an interview.

The flight from San Diego on an Airbus A320 overshot the Minneapolis airport and flew over Wisconsin before turning around and heading back to its destination, according to Houston-based flight-tracking service The flight, Northwest 188, landed at 8:54 p.m. local time, more than an hour after it was scheduled to arrive, according to

Wow, I always wonder if that happens. I am sure if they were indeed discussing "airline policy" it was not the 'Sterile Cockpit' policy which simply states that no discussion other than that necessary to fly the plane should be conducted. The truth will be in the cockpit voice recorder, if it has a capacity longer than an hour. Most CVR's only record that last 20 to 30 minutes of cockpit audio before the memory is "reaped" and reused in the next 20 to 30 minute interval. Could be an interesting couple of days over at Delta, maybe a Safety Stand down is called for?

This brings to mind this story: I know an AW that related this story to me, a long time ago (AW's in the Navy are enlisted aircrew men, Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operators is the official title, you see them a lot as rescue swimmers). Back when the USN was still in the ASW business, he was one of four out on an ASW Mission which are necessarily long missions, 4 to 6 hours. Since an ASW search is mainly a hunt for sounds made by the submarine while it is submerged the AW in the S-3 air crew is real busy. He told me that he was concentrating on chasing down what he thought was a live contact, using the aircrafts automated system to launch and deploy his sensors, the aircraft will pretty much fly by computer dropping out his expendables without any other help, so long as the Auto Pilot is latched by one of the Pilots. So, he is busy for quite some time and finally decides he has enough to call a contact and when he looked around him, well everyone else in the crew was sleeping. The TACCO next to him was curled up snoring and since they had a curtain between the flight station separating the two front seats from the back two seats he had to get up and open it to find both front seaters snoozing too.

He woke them all up and got them to head back to the ship where they could all get some proper sleep. We had always joked that the AW being the only enlisted in our Air Crew was the only "adult" in the bunch, here it proved true. I wonder what would have happened if he too had decided to cop a few zee's as well.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Ed Murray said...

But that was appropriate Jimmy, we always called AW's the Aviation Waitresses. Therefore waking the crew up would have been on the pre-catching the wire checklist ;-)

JimmyT said...

Ed, yeah Aviation Wave, or Aviation Buffersmates, they had the shiniest decks on Ike!!

I was good friends with the AW corps in -31, I used to tell them a good AX could replace an AW any day of the week but the only part of an AX's job they could do was Field Day!!

BT: Jimmy T sends.