Union Defends Northwest Pilots

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The Delta branch of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), the union that represents the pilots of Delta Air Lines, has issued a statement concerning the NTSB investigation into Northwest Flight 188, in which two pilots flew past their destination and did not respond to messages from ATC and dispatch. "To date, all crew statements related to this case have been voluntary," said Lee Moak, chairman of the Delta branch. "We are disappointed that these voluntary statements are being used without regard for the breach of trust and confidence their use will cause." Taking disciplinary action against the crew, Moak said, could cause pilots to question the integrity of voluntary safety programs. "The continued viability of these programs themselves will be placed at risk. That will, in turn, cause irreparable harm to the safety of our nation's aviation system," Moak said.

"In any aircraft incident, there is always more to the story than first appears in the press," he added. "We do not condone the abandonment of due process that will result from a rush to judgment; instead we implore all interested parties to move with deliberate and unemotional professionalism as the events surrounding this incident are investigated." At no time during the incident were the passengers, crew or aircraft in danger, the union said. The statement also was critical of the NTSB actions so far. "The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents and promoting transportation safety," Moak said. "They are not charged with prematurely releasing self-disclosed information to be sensationalized in the press."