Northwest Pilots: 'No Excuse' For Lapse

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Both pilots who were distracted on their laptops while flying a Northwest Airbus A-320 off-course in October told NTSB investigators they were sorry and at a loss to explain the lapse. The NTSB's summary of its crew interviews (PDF) was released on Wednesday among a slew of documents from its investigation. In the summary, the NTSB said First Officer Richard Cole told investigators there was no excuse for not monitoring the aircraft and he had to take blame. Both pilots had tunnel vision and were focused on their discussion of a complicated new crew scheduling system, Cole said. "The F/O said he never thought he could be so distracted for so long," according to the NTSB summary. Capt. Timothy Cheney also told the safety board he had "no excuse" for the lapse in attention. "I let my guard down ... I wish I could explain why," he said.

Cheney said that when they began the discussion about the schedule, he expected it would only take 10 minutes or so. He was later "blown away" when he realized how much time had passed. He told investigators he was embarrassed by the lapse. "I was wrong," he said. "I let another force come from the outside and distract me." In 24 years of flying, he had never experienced a similar situation. "You don't know how sorry I am," he said. Northwest Airlines Flight 188 went NORDO (no radio communications) for 77 minutes while flying from San Diego to Minneapolis on Oct. 21. The flight overflew Minneapolis by more than 100 miles before re-establishing radio contact with air traffic controllers and landing at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. There were no injuries to the passengers and crew aboard. Both pilots have lost their jobs and their FAA certificates. The NTSB investigation is ongoing. Click here for the full listing of documents in the docket.