When controllers at Minneapolis Center first made contact with wayward Northwest Flight 188, they said, “I just have to verify that the cockpit is secure,” and the crew responded “It is secure and we got distracted, we were, ah…”. Transcripts released Friday by the FAA claim the next part of the sentence was unintelligible, but the issue was not dropped. When asked, “Northwest 188, do you have time to give a brief explanation of what happened?” the crew responded, “… cockpit distractions, that’s all I can say.” The crew was asked to elaborate six minutes later and responded similarly, “We’re just dealing with some company issues here, and that’s all I can tell you right now at this time.” In interviews after the October 21 flight that took the Airbus A320, in radio silence, 150 miles past their destination of MSP, the crew told investigators they’d been using laptops trying to understand work schedule software. Cockpit security and an explanation weren’t controllers’ only concerns. Another was fuel.
The October 21 flight from San Diego to Minneapolis (and beyond) carried 144 passengers for an extra hour and fifteen minutes. Lost to radio communications for 78 minutes, controllers at Minneapolis asked other Northwest flights to check Denver’s frequency. When finally reached by controllers, the crew said, “we’re good on fuel,” adding that the aircraft was carrying more than two hours’ worth. The FAA has classified the incident as a “pilot deviation” (similar to flying at the wrong altitude). Find the list of transcripts online, here.
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