National

Oct 26, 2009 3:58 PM by Associated Press

NTSB: Wayward pilots were working on laptops

Two Northwest Airlines pilots reportedly told federal investigators that they were going over scheduling using their laptop computers in violation of company policy while their plane overflew their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles.

National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement Monday that the pilots said in interviews that they were not fatigued and didn't fall asleep, as many aviation safety experts have said was likely.

The board said the pilots told investigators the first officer was instructing the captain on monthly flight crew scheduling. The pilots were out of communication with air traffic controllers and their airline for over an hour and didn't realize their mistake until contacted by a flight attendant.

Safety investigators, meanwhile, were interviewing the three flight attendants from the plane on Monday.

Air traffic controllers tried for more than an hour Wednesday night to contact the Minneapolis-bound flight, which later turned around and landed safely.

First officer Richard Cole has said he and the captain, Timothy B. Cheney, were not sleeping or arguing in the cockpit. "It was not a serious event, from a safety issue," Cole said late Friday in front of his Salem, Ore., home. "I would tell you more, but I've already told you way too much."

Officials on the ground alerted National Guard jets to prepare to chase the airliner, which had 144 passengers on board, though none of the military planes left the runway.

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