Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flyover Land or Land-O-Nod

I was offended by the recent NWA debacle. While east coast and left coasters have referred to middle America as "flyover land", it was doubly disrespectful for our (formerly) own airline to not even bother to stop in Minneapolis. Flyover land indeed.
Concensus quickly grew that the pilot & co-pilot had fallen asleep. The aircraft was manned by the autopilot and the hum of engines on a mid-range flight could have lulled them to sleep. They deny this.
The piloting team claim they were distracted in a discussion over company policy. They lost situational awareness. That company policy discussion probably did not cover using laptops while on duty. That is verboten. Using their laptops is the second excuse we heard. What are we to believe? Two experienced pilots with 30,000 hrs of flight time were playing games, or reading the blogs or in a deep work related discussion?
The pilots are suspended and will probably be fired and have their licenses revoked.
The flying public will still be scarred. We cheered when Capt. Sully Sullenberger landed that plane on the Hudson river last year. People felt better when they saw gray hair on their plane's pilot. Now that confidence is eroding. The NWA pilots were in their 50's and should have known better than to get distracted or nap.

After a critical incident, management focuses on preventing a reoccurance. Maybe they can take some of my suggestions. Here they are:

Give the pilots plenty of caffeinated beverages but no key to the washroom. Try falling asleep with a full bladder.
Install a display like the one KLM uses on transatlantic flights. A simulated radar display tracks the plane on its route. If NWA had this, someone would have noticed in the cabin when it headed over Wisconsin.

Have new policy offering triple frequent flyer miles on miles when they "overfly".

Offer reduced fairs on childrens flying with a parent. Get more kids on those planes. Anyone who has traveled on a road trip with youngsters knows that they constantly ask, "Are we there yet?" Tired parents would ask the flight attendant who would notice if the plane wasn't descending or circling the airport when it should.

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