Flight 188 Pilots Meet NTSB

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The pilots of the Northwest Airlines that overshot their destination of Minneapolis last week met with federal investigators Sunday but there was no word of what transpired there by our deadline. Capt. Timothy Cheney and FO Richard Cole have consistently said that they were distracted by a conversation in the cockpit and simply lost track of time and where they were when their radio went silent for 75 minutes on the last part of the flight from San Diego. There seems to be gradual acceptance of that version of events in both the mainstream and aviation media, which widely speculated they'd both fallen asleep. However, Cole has since spoken twice to the media, insisting both pilots remained awake as they flew over the Twin Cities and headed east across Wisconsin for about 150 miles. The cockpit voice recorder aboard the A320 is an older one with a 30-minute loop so there may be no way to prove or disprove the pilots' claim. However, it was revealed Friday that radio contact with the aircraft was finally accomplished using the Denver Center frequency.

Regardless of how the pilots missed dozens of audible and visual cues that they'd blown past their destination, the incident has renewed scrutiny on the professionalism and conduct of airline pilots. Cheney and Cole have been suspended as the investigation into the incident gets under way. Media scrutiny has intensified on the response of authorities on the ground that night. There have been reports that Wisconsin Air Guard fighters had been put on alert but for reasons that are so far not clear never made the intercept.