Oklahoma State University - Tulsa
AVED 3433-Aviation Ethics
December 1, 2012
Dr. Jerry McMahan
Ethical Dilemma of Overshooting Airports
On October 21, 2009 Pilot Timothy Cheney and Co-pilot Richard Cole of Northwest Airlines flight 188 had overshot Minneapolis International Airport by 150 miles, which carried 147 passengers because the pilots had been busy using their laptops. The pilots had only received a slap on the wrists from the FAA; however their punishment should have been a bit harsher because the lives of everyone on that flight were put at risk because of irresponsible pilots. Ethical Dilemma of the Pilots
The Flight Control tower at Minneapolis International were not able to contact the pilots, no one knew what the crew of the Northwest Airlines jetliner was doing at 37,000 feet after they flew past the airport. To make matters worse, military jets had been called to scramble to chase the plane and if it had been shot down everyone on board would have died because of the inattentive pilots. The excuse from one of the pilots was that they were not doing anything that would threaten the people in the back at all accord to an interview from Associated Press (CBS News, 2009). This is a poor excuse because the lives of everyone on board were at risk and the plane could have been shot down. The pilots also failed to answer the radio messages sent from air traffic controllers and pilots from other nearby aircraft, this was the neglect of the Northwest Airlines pilots who were supposed to be in charge of the safety of their passengers and crew. Technical Dilemma
The flight had also contained an older model of a cockpit voice recorder which only recorded the last 30 minutes of cockpit conversation whereas the newer models record up to two hours of data, so the NTSB was only able to capture the last 30 minutes before landing (CBS News, 2009). This made the NTSB investigation more difficult, the laptops should have been taken away until the investigation was over due to the fact that no one knows exactly what the pilots were doing on their laptops that caused them to be distracted for so long, for all we know they could have been watching porn. There was a system in operation on the aircraft which is supposed to send text messages to a plane in flight, New York Times mentions, it does not sound a chime or other aural alarm nor does it alert ground personnel that the message got through (Wald, 2009). If this technology was revamped to sound aural and visual alerts that cannot have the volume turned down then perhaps an event like this would never happen again.
The FAA administered the punishment of revoking the pilot ratings and certificates while offering the pilots a chance of regaining their certifications and pilot ratings. This was pretty much just a slap on the wrist; the pilots could have been charged with multiple counts of accidental attempted murder. Another issue is that the FAA should have foreseen these events ahead of time and issued federal rules that prohibit pilots from using personal electronic devices. Which at that time according to an article from The Huffington Post the only federal rules that apply to pilots use of laptops and personal electronics only apply if the plane is flying below 10,000 feet, meaning that pilots can use a laptop above 10,000 feet (Lowy, 2009). Minnesota Public Radio stated that the pilots and FAA wanted to resolve the case in the interest of avoiding further publicity, the agreement also stipulated that settlement is not an admission by pilots that they did anything wrong (Karnowski, 2010). The FAA should never allow publicity to affect their decision on disputing a case, especially when two inattentive pilots put the lives of everyone on board a flight at risk. The FAA simply rewarded these pilots for not performing their line of duty. Captain Cheney did however admit fault when he...