Northwest Airlines Flight 188

Northwest Airlines Flight 188 was a regularly scheduled flight from San Diego, California, to Minneapolis, Minnesota. On October 21, 2009, the flight landed over one hour late in Minneapolis after overshooting its destination. Flight 188 was piloted by Timothy Cheney as captain and Richard Cole as first officer, who admitted to being distracted. As a result of this incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked the pilot certificates of the two pilots on October 27, 2009.
The Airbus A320 took off from San Diego International Airport at 5:01 p.m. CDT (3:01 pm in San Diego). It was scheduled to land at 8:01 p.m. CDT.
Just under two hours later, at 6:56 p.m. CDT, Air Traffic Control lost radio contact with the aircraft while it was over Denver. Air traffic controllers at both Denver ARTCC (where contact was lost) and Minneapolis ARTCC made several unsuccessful attempts to reach the pilots. When other pilots in the area got word of the situation, they tried to help the controllers and attempted to raise the pilots as well. Northwest also sent them a text message, which went unanswered. The Airbus being flown was not equipped with an audible chime to alert the pilots to a message. Authorities were concerned enough that NORAD readied fighter jets to check on the welfare of the plane. Officials at the White House Situation Room were also alerted.
The pilots weren't aware of their location until a flight attendant asked them what time they were due to land. The overshoot concerned air traffic controllers enough that they had the pilots perform a series of maneuvers to confirm the pilots were in control of the plane, as well as to verify that the transponder target they were receiving on their radar was indeed Flight 188. The aircraft finally landed, over an hour late, at 9:04 p.m. CDT. The cockpit voice recorder was removed from the aircraft, but there was only 30 minutes worth of information. Over an hour's worth of information would have been needed for all of the information of the portion of the flight past Minneapolis to be available.
On October 27, 2009, the FAA revoked the pilot certificates of the two pilots. The FAA found that the pilots were out of radio contact with air traffic controllers for 77 minutes. It cited the pilots for failing to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances, operating the plane in a careless and reckless manner, and other safety violations.
The pilots said they did not hear their flight number called on the radios, but heard consistent chatter which led them to believe they were on frequency. There had been a frequency change in flight by the First Officer (Cole) while the Captain (Cheney) was out of the flight deck for a restroom break. The FO failed to check in on the new frequency and instead misdialed the radio to an active Canadian Center frequency.
"You engaged in conduct that put your passengers and your crew in serious jeopardy," FAA regional counsel Eddie Thomas said in a letter to Cheney. Northwest Flight 188 was not in communications with controllers or the airline dispatchers "while you were on a frolic of your own. ... This is a total dereliction and disregard for your duties." A similar letter was sent to Cole. The revocations of the pilots' certificates became effective immediately. In March 2010 both Cheney and Cole agreed to forfeit their pilots license.
The FAA is also investigating its air traffic controllers for the delay in notifying NORAD about Flight 188. Air traffic controllers are supposed to alert NORAD within 10 minutes of losing radio contact, but they waited over an hour. The plane passed through two Denver ATC sectors without controllers being aware that it was out of contact.
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