One of the more surprising — and disturbing — aspects of the story surrounding Northwest Airlines Flight 188 (that’s the one where the pilots were so busy with their laptops that they forgot to land the airplane) has been the number of other airline pilots who have been posting on various professional bulletin boards that it wasn’t a big deal. Many have said — perhaps with some justification — that the jet landing on a taxiway in Atlanta was a bigger story.
Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but it’s obvious the FAA, which revoked the pilots’ licenses last week, don’t think so.
Today, I got a copy of the letter the FAA sent last week to pilot Tim Cheney, and have posted it here.
It’s unlikely you’ll ever read a more harshly worded letter from a federal agency.
It also has the clearest indication yet of what happened (or didn’t) and when.
Meanwhile, the New Yorker Cartoon Lounge takes a typical swing at the story, with its theory of what happened:
CHENEY: O.K., I’m gonna go to sleep, you keep flying the plane.
(Fifteen minutes later.)
COLE: Shoot, did he say he was gonna go to sleep and I should keep flying the plane, or that I should go to sleep and he would fly the plane?
COLE: If only he weren’t asleep, I could ask him!
COLE: Hmm. I’m pretty sure he said I should go to sleep and he’d fly the plane. Yeah, now that I think about it, that sounds right.