National

Oct 23, 2009 9:43 AM by Associated Press

Northwest pilot should have had warning of airport approach

Could they have fallen asleep? That's the question being asked about two Northwest Airlines pilots after they overshot Minneapolis by 150 miles Wednesday night and air traffic controllers were unable to reach them.

The pilots should have received numerous warnings as they approached and passed their destination.

Besides the repeated attempts by controllers to reach them, they would have also had cockpit displays and the lights of the city to give them clues. But a source close to the investigation says it took a flight attendant contacting the pilots by intercom to make them realize their mistake.

The plane had been out of contact with controllers for more than an hour. The pilots have told authorities they were having a heated discussion over airline policy and were distracted.

Federal investigators haven't yet questioned the pilots and don't know whether they might have fallen asleep. The plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have been sent to Washington for analysis. Northwest has suspended the pilots while it conducts its own investigation.

The plane was carrying 144 passengers and a crew of five from San Diego.

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