Thursday, December 10, 2009

Northwest Flight 188 incident: Pilots' appeal documents

by B. N. Sullivan

FAA logoAre you ready for another update on the Northwest Flight 188 incident? Readers will recall that shortly after the incident (in which the pilots of the Airbus A320 were out of radio contact with air traffic control for an extended period of time and overflew their destination while working on their laptop computers) the FAA revoked the licenses of both pilots. The pilots have since filed appeals seeking to have the license revocations rescinded.

Today a reader forwarded to me an email pass-around that included facsimile copies of the appeal documents as an attachment. Given that I have not seen the original documents, and considering that I received the copies via an email pass-around, I cannot guarantee that the copies are authentic, however they appear to be credible. I have uploaded them to my Web site, and anyone who is interested in having a look at them can access them there: NW Flight 188 Pilot Appeals (13-page 'pdf' file)

Highlights: The pilots deny that they "intentionally or willfully" violated any federal aviation regulations.

They appear to assign blame for the incident to air traffic control, stating:
The air traffic controller(s) did not comply with the requirements of the air traffic control manual and other relevant orders, rules, procedures, policies and practices with respect to Northwest Flight 188, nor coordinate effectively with Northwest dispatch, and such failure was a causal or contributing factor in the incident referenced in the Administrator's Complaint. Respondent asserts that he had a right to rely, and did rely, that the controllers would comply with all relevant orders, rules, procedures, policies and practices. Such reliance justifies a reduction, mitigation, or waiver of sanction.
The appeal goes on to claim that the sanction against them is "not in compliance with Board precedent and policy."

The pilots also claim that there were "mitigating facts and circumstances that caused or contributed to the incident, including but not limited to aircraft systems design and human factors, justifying a reduction, mitigation, or waiver of sanction."

Presumably both pilots will be able to present their case(s) in person at a hearing before the NTSB in the near future.