As reported by CNN news channel on Thursday, an aircraft overshot the Minneapolis Airport on Wednesday evening. Fear was writ large on the faces of the staff of Air Traffic Control at Minneapolis Airport as they feared that Flight 188 from San Diego, California, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, had been highjacked.
Actually, this flight overshot its destination airport by about 150 miles on Wednesday, and investigators are looking into whether the pilots had become distracted or were sleeping.
It has been stated by the pilots on arrival at Mineapolis airport that they were discussing Airline policy and ignored their situation.
Air traffic controllers lost radio communication with the Northwest Airlines Airbus A320, carrying 147 passengers and crew, when it was flying at 37,000 feet. The aircraft did not descend and there was no communication with Flight 188 for more than an hour as it approached the airport, the board said.
When air traffic controllers finally made contact with the pilot, his answers were vague that controllers feared the plane might have been hijacked.
Controllers tracked the aircraft on radar as it flew over its’ destination Minneapolis Airport, and continued flying aimlessly for about 150 miles. The airport’s controllers then re-established communication with the pilot, who said they were distracted as they were discussing.
“The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness,” the board said in a news release.
The plane was handed off to controllers in Minneapolis as a NORDO, meaning “no radio communications.”
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said numerous controllers were involved in efforts to contact the plane, including text messages, and that “concern escalated” as the pilot neared the airport “without making any effort to descend.”
Ultimately, controllers contacted two other Northwest planes, asking them to try to reach Flight 188 through its last known frequency. One of those planes succeeded, prompting the pilot to contact Minneapolis, Church, the spokesperson for ATC said. “It was pretty good ATC detective work,” he added.
A Safety Board spokesman said they are examining all possible explanations for the incident, including whether the pilots might have fallen asleep. They said that the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder will be examined to ascertain why the aircraft overshot the airport.
Northwest Airlines issued a statement Thursday, saying it is cooperating with the investigation, as well as conducting their own internal investigation. The pilots have been relieved from active flying pending the completion of these investigations. It said Flight 188 landed safely in Minneapolis.
What is most surprising in such a situation is none of the passengers alerted the crew members that they were not landing in time. The passengers can always know where they are as some of them know the sit-rep by checking in on the ‘track your plane’ which tells them the distance from the destination, the time at the destination, aircraft height, aircraft speed, distance from destination and allied information.