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NWA 188 Captain Explains Why Flight Overshot Minneapolis

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Ever since the pilots of NWA 188 overflew their Minneapolis destination, speculation has been rampant about what actually happened in the cockpit. It was widely assumed that the pilots had fallen asleep. I’ve just posted a long email, originally reported by the Dallas Morning News, which gives the full details of what happened on the flight as reported by Captain Tim Cheney to a friend. (www.maxtrescott.com) עוד...

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DORRON1
RONALD WILLIAMS 1
extra ride for the money :)
sumsum
sumsum 0
Sounds like they actualy got there faster than they should have with the delay taking off.
WeaselOne
Doug Chalmers 0
Thank you for a great post. I have no sympathy for the pilot or F/O. They got what they deserve. An incident like this tarnishes an airline's reputation needlessly...
5342G
5342G 0
The FAA records all transmissions between aircraft they are in communications with and retains those records for several weeks, longer if their is an incident or accident, or assumed violation. The same applies to controller relief briefings, they are recorded. So, it there is a question as to whether or not a controller gave the f/o of flight 188 the wrong frequency it would be on the tape. The same applies to the controller relief briefing, it the briefing was not complete as to a communications problem with flight 188 it would be known. This information is available via the Freedom of Information Act for a fee! One thing I will agree with is the Captains remarks that the is responsible for the flight and accepted responsibility for the incident.
dvbavcon
Dean Brossman 0
One thing I find unbelievable is that an experienced crew would go 78 minutes without contact from ATC and not think anything was wrong. In a typical scenario it is unusual to go 15 minutes without contact from ATC. I feel for the pilots and am glad to hear they take responsibility for the incident. I am sure the FAA acted accordingly.
MaxTrescott
Max Trescott 0
Dean, I totally agree with about going 78 minutes without contact. I was on a flight Saturday flying down the coast of Central California in a new Cirrus SR22 Perspective and we lost radio contact. We noticed we could hear other airplanes talking but were no longer hearing the controller. I bet we weren't in that situation for 5-10 minutes before we realized we need to do something. I would have been easy to look up the nearest Center frequency on the Perspective. But we didn't have to as another aircraft took it upon himself to call ATC and relay our call. ATC then passed the new frequency to him and he relayed it to us. Loosing ATC is so common and so easy to resolve that you really have to wonder how these guys got so far out of the loop.
crk112
crk112 0
The letter says the first officer had dialed in the wrong frequency. So it sounds like Denver Center probably gave them the correct freq, but it is not clear if he actually read back the correct freq. Bottom line is he tuned the wrong freq.

Also there's still a hole in this story... they say they only had their laptops out for a maximum of 5 minutes. They didn't account for the other 73 minutes or specify how long they were talking with one another. Even with a 100kt tailwind there is over an hour that is unaccounted for and still plenty of time to regain their situational awareness.
bsubsu
Philippe Boisseau 0
ok with matt davies, also it's necessary to maintain vigilance with the new aircraft technologie...
I hope for their to recover fully license.
Byteit
Doug Richardson 0
Although there was a violation of FAR's, there was no incident, accident or safety of flight issue. Losing thier careers after so much unblemished flying time is a shame.
MaxTrescott
Max Trescott 0
Bob, I get a lot of email from airline pilots who are sure that they were sleeping. I wonder if we'll ever know for sure what really went on up there.
Philippe and Doug, I'm sure they'll get their licenses back. The 3 727 NWA crew members convicted for flying drunk in 1990 all did. See details at: http://www.maxtrescott.com/max_trescott_on_general_a/2009/08/flying-drunka-true-story-of-redemption.html
I think the big question is whether they'll ever get another meaningful flying job again. I suspect they will, but it may be many years before they do.
Byteit
Doug Richardson 0
"I get a lot of email from airline pilots who are sure that they were sleeping"

Max,

A meaningful flying job is a relative term these days considering the state of the industry and monday morning armchair quarterbacks do have pilot's licenses.

I may be preaching to the choir but a professional pilot is one of the most scrutinized individuals. Annual training as well as line checks, FAA observers and bi-annual medical evaluations including EKG testing, make these people more than glorified bus drivers. Each day on the job has to be nearly perfect in health and performance or his/her job, license, medical certificate or all three may be taken away. The reality is that most any government employee or nearly any person can screw up daily at their job with few consequences and pilots may not.
mattdavis
mattdavis 0
Goes to show that it is usually a series of small mistakes that culminate in larger problems.
lennash
Len Nash 0
Bill Gates of Microsoft is "giving away his billions."
Sounds just like that email. . .
DORRON1
RONALD WILLIAMS 0
DORRON1
RONALD WILLIAMS 0
grandpa501
Les Eders 0
Yea sure...its always the other guy.... as far as his neighbors in Gig Harbor and his church supporting him ???? they were not on the aircraft and in no danger.....what a crock....they should not get their jobs back !!!!! They are irresponsible morons....
DORRON1
RONALD WILLIAMS 0
what if that was you sir ????
DORRON1
RONALD WILLIAMS 0
NO NO REPLY
smoki
smoki 0
What I find surprising in reading all the comments on this incident is the total lack of any acknowledgment that since 9-11-01 all domestic commercial flights have been operating on what amounts to a state of war footing vis-a-vis the threat of Islamic terrorism. Complacency is insidious and does creep back into operations when things are quiet as they have been for the past 8 years. Merely because we’ve been blessed with no attacks in the 8 year interim is no reason to assume there won’t be any. Hardly a day passes that the TSA is not tested and found wanting especially since political correctness has replaced common sense. ATC gets especially nervous when they can’t raise a flight especially one that goes without contact for over an hour (are you kidding me) and though they aren’t as spring loaded to push the panic button as they once were in the immediate aftermath of 911 they will notify NORAD of the possible need for an intercept. Reportedly the NORAD F-16s were manned and ready to launch when contact was reestablished with the flight. Had those fighters joined up and been spotted by the pax without prior warning from the cockpit you can be sure this whole matter would have taken on a much more serious tone than the mealy mouthed placating statements made by the crew that there were no safety of flight issues. Baloney! The crew’s explanation raises more questions than it answers. Given the terrorist threat that is as real now as it was prior to 911, which is no doubt preached at every recurrent training session with simulated threat scenarios played out involving the cabin crew etc. how can a cockpit crew fail to take a few seconds to access the onboard computer and ask it for an alternate center frequency if as much as 15 minutes passes with no calls from center. One wonders if they had been within radio contact and were on the right frequency if they would have answered up when called. I seriously doubt it which is why I agree that these boys were asleep at the wheel and were not monitoring the emergency guard frequency as required. Of course the laptop BS about the new bidding system, as bad as it is, sounds much better than admitting being asleep. Sorry but I find it hard to have any sympathy for this crew. I can’t see the FAA reinstating their licenses for a very long time if for no other reason than to make an example of this very poor cockpit behavior in this period of perilous flight operations. It’s a very dangerous world we live in compared to any time in our history which demands vigilance when operating a flight carrying innocent civilian passengers who expect the cockpit crew to be alert at all times in exchange for them paying handsomely for the privilege to travel by air.
smoki
smoki 0
I wanted to add a footnote to my previous post and that is on the issue of the missing third member in today’s cockpit crews. I operated in the days when an FE manned a separate panel behind the two pilots. Many were known then as PFEs which is to say they were professional flight engineers who though they could upgrade if they so chose could remain for their careers in the backseat on the panel. I can tell you from experience that on more than one occasion the FE pulled my behind out of the frying pan if by doing nothing more than uttering those immortal words when looking forward - “what the *$%# is that?” Such would likely have prevented the ‘miscue’ a while back by the delta 76 crew (its been a bad year for delta) who were arriving at ATL from a South American departure point on a declared medical emergency (check airman onboard had taken inexplicably ill) in the early morning hours (minimal departure traffic) and when they stepped over from their precision monitored approach to RW27L (vmc) somehow, someway, they lined up with the parallel taxiway to RW27R and completed by the grace of God an otherwise uneventful landing thereon amidst all those blue lights! While FE’s were the brunt of jokes about the calluses on their foreheads, the result of perpetually nodding off in flight - all joking aside - removal of the third set of eyeballs and more importantly removal of a third brain from the cockpit and replacing him/her with electronic gadgetry was in my humble opinion an unforgivable mistake. NASA proved 40 years ago on Apollo 13 that people not gadgetry made it the only successful failure in the history of manned spaceflight. My guess is that had an FE been on NWA 188 he/she would have said at some point “hey, has anyone heard from center lately or are we there yet?” In this case a curious flight attendant substituted for the FE but too late. Yes its true that airline pilots are probably the most scrutinized people in the world but its axiomatic that in whom much responsibility is placed, much is expected. Its funny but despite the stress of the pressures of the job, there’s never been a shortage of applicants. End of story.
Byteit
Doug Richardson 0
Wonderful reminiscing Paul. All that and it's still "hard to have any sympathy for this crew"?
I spent many years on a/c with 3 up front and that was wonderful. All the more reason to "get real" now and cut those guys some slack. No emergency, no incident and no threat doesn't equal losing thier lively hood. All this PC stuff and armchair flying judgement makes me doubt the coming generations. Yeager and the Appolo guys would have been strung up for what they did with the sentiments expressed here and on the news.
Fubared
Fubared 0
Chatter from Winnepeg.... you gotta be kidding me.

When a crew is given a frequency change on radio number 1, they dial in the new frequency on radio number 2. They then punch the radio number 2 button and ESTABLISH TWO-WAY COMMUNICATIONS with the receiving controller. If they do not get a response on that frequency in a few seconds (less than 30), they punch the radio number 1 button and go back and ask for the correct frequency. There is NO EXCUSE for losing radio contact at all, much less for almost an hour.

Read the lengthy he-said-he-said above submitted by our FlightAware colleague, jhwenger, then [color=red]Do the Math[/color]. The crew state that they had their laptops open for a combined total of 7 minutes! But they were out of communications from 7:23PM (CDT) to 8:14PM - a total of 51 minutes.

The assertion that ATC "lost" NWA188 is obviously made by somebody with no professional aviation background. And though I don't know what the WSJ said that applies to them as well.

When NWA188 physically entered the sector which they had been instructed to contact and that controller had not established two-way communications with the flight, the receiving sector will call the transferring sector and ask them to contact NWA188 and give him the correct frequency again. This happens every day and the transcript will bear this out.

There might be a [color=red]plausible[/color] reason for this incident to have occurred but, except for the [color=red]fell asleep[/color] option, I haven't heard one yet. What I find particularly interesting is how lawyers muddy-up the issue and generate sympathy (inserting church, community, teary FAA guy, son going in the army) for the perpetrators of what could have been a very real tragedy. The especially bad news is how many people fall for this crock.

Should these guys have their licenses permanently revoked? Not sure about the permanent part. Should they have told the truth from the get-go? Absolutely.

Here are the charges the FAA filed against the crew of NWA188.
[url]http://www.avweb.com/pdf/nwa188_pilots-revocation-letter.pdf[/url]

Here is what the crew of NWA188 have to say in response to the FAA charges.
[url]http://www.avweb.com/pdf/nwa188_pilotappeals.pdf[/url]
Fubared
Fubared 0
Chatter from Winnepeg.... you gotta be kidding me.

When a crew is given a frequency change on radio number 1, they dial in the new frequency on radio number 2. They then punch the radio number 2 button and ESTABLISH TWO-WAY COMMUNICATIONS with the receiving controller. If they do not get a response on that frequency in a few seconds (less than 30), they punch the radio number 1 button and go back and ask for the correct frequency. There is NO EXCUSE for losing radio contact at all, much less for almost an hour.

Read the lengthy he-said-he-said above submitted by our FlightAware colleague, jhwenger, then [color=red]Do the Math[/color]. The crew state that they had their laptops open for a combined total of 7 minutes! But they were out of communications from 7:23PM (CDT) to 8:14PM - a total of 51 minutes.

The assertion that ATC "lost" NWA188 is obviously made by somebody with no professional aviation background. And though I don't know what the WSJ said that applies to them as well.

When NWA188 physically entered the sector which they had been instructed to contact and that controller had not established two-way communications with the flight, the receiving sector will call the transferring sector and ask them to contact NWA188 and give him the correct frequency again. This happens every day and the transcript will bear this out.

There might be a [color=red]plausible[/color] reason for this incident to have occurred but, except for the [color=red]fell asleep[/color] option, I haven't heard one yet. What I find particularly interesting is how lawyers muddy-up the issue and generate sympathy (inserting church, community, teary FAA guy, son going in the army) for the perpetrators of what could have been a very real tragedy. The especially bad news is how many people fall for this crock.

Should these guys have their licenses permanently revoked? Not sure about the permanent part. Should they have told the truth from the get-go? Absolutely.

Here are the charges the FAA filed against the crew of NWA188.
[url]http://www.avweb.com/pdf/nwa188_pilots-revocation-letter.pdf[/url]

Here is what the crew of NWA188 have to say in response to the FAA charges.
[url]http://www.avweb.com/pdf/nwa188_pilotappeals.pdf[/url]
Nicholaskleyn
Nicholaskleyn 0
Some very interesting comments.
I think the whle thing has been blown out of proportion. Granted these two pilots screwed up and received their punishment, but no one was hurt, they realized their mistake and landed the plane safely.
In Fact I find the whole incident rather humerous.
I also find the media likes to try and sound like experts on it but they don't have a clue what they are talking about half the time. They make fools of themself with some of their reporting.
DORRON1
RONALD WILLIAMS 0
THEY SHOULD KEEP THERE JOBS NO ???? ASK I WOULD FLY WITH THEM YOU ALL WRITING COMMENTS NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG ON YOUR DID YOU ????? I HOPE SOME HOT SHOT FROM NO.WEST AIR READS THIS I SURE HE OR SHE HAS DONE SOMRTHING WRONG SOME TIME I SAY GIVE THEM THERE JOBS BACK NOW THANKS HOLLYWOOD FL.

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