Delta Aims To Prevent Crew Overflights

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Dispatchers at Delta Air Lines will soon be able to contact flight crews with special sound alerts, rather than text messages only, to avoid an incident like the one last October when two distracted pilots overflew their destination by more than an hour, the airline has told the NTSB. In a document filed with the safety board, the airline said it is changing its software so dispatchers will be able to send aural alerts to Airbus A320 and A319 cockpits, in addition to text messages. The two pilots, who at the time were operating as a Northwest Airlines flight, told investigators they were at a loss to explain how they flew so far off course without noticing. The Air Line Pilots Association told the NTSB it would also be a good idea to consider installing "crew alertness monitors" on A320s that automatically sound an alert and trigger red flashing lights if the crew goes quiet for too long. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association agreed in its statement to the NTSB that an aural alert system would be a good idea.

NATCA also suggested that controllers need to have current phone numbers for air carrier dispatch desks as well as refresher training on NORDO procedures. Click here for the NTSB collection of documents relevant to this ongoing investigation. The FAA has revoked the certificates of both pilots.