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Pilots Who Overshot Destination Claim to Have Been Busy on Laptops

Crucial as they are to so many businesses, computers can also be distracting in the workplace. All too often, employees exchange YouTube goodies or IMs in lieu of doing real work. Most of the time, though, it's innocuous enough; we all need to shut off our minds at some point during the workday. Of course, our office isn't hurtling through the air at 30,000 feet, and our jobs don't entail keeping that office from becoming a pile of flaming fuselage.

According to CNN, the two commercial pilots who overshot their destination by a good 150 miles last week are now claiming that they were on their laptops in the cockpit, and just "lost track of time and location." Northwest Airbus A320 was making its way from San Diego to Minneapolis before aviation officials lost radio contact somewhere around Denver. Delta, the parent of Northwest, said in a released statement that "using laptops or engaging in activity unrelated to the pilots' command of the aircraft during flight is strictly against the airline's flight deck policies and violations of that policy will result in termination."

The pilots both passed breathalyzer tests administered upon their eventual landing in Minnesota, and neither claimed to be fatigued, or suffering from any medical conditions. The exact details of what distracted them, though, remain hazy at best. In a federal safety report released Monday, the pilots claimed to have had a "concentrated period of discussion where [they] did not monitor the airplane or calls" from air traffic control. Both admitted to hearing conversation on their radios, but neither noticed messages sent by Northwest dispatchers. The report quotes both pilots as stating that they'd accessed their laptops while discussing a new scheduling system that had been implemented since the Delta merger. Must have been riveting.

Officials hope that the cockpit's voice recording will shed some light on what exactly happened, though they're not sure how much it'll help. The recorder can only capture 30 minutes of sound, and whatever the two said while they weren't doing their job answering radio calls was probably recorded over. But everything they said as they steered the plane back, tail firmly between legs, would've been recorded, so officials might be able to, at least, hear them discuss what had happened. Everything turned out fine, and passengers even got some nifty vouchers due to the detour. We're eager to hear the details, though, because if a conversation can so fully distract you for 150 miles, it's got to be something good. [From: CNN]

Tags: airlines, airplane, employment, faa, laptop, top

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