NWA Flight Misses MSP by 150 miles.

Bob Collins breaks the story

And a few moments ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a news release detailing a puzzling lapse by a Northwest Airlines flight crew over Minneapolis yesterday: On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at 5:56 pm mountain daylight time, an Airbus A320, N03274, operating as Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight 188, became a NORDO (no radio communications) flight at 37,000 feet.

The flight was operating as a Part 121 flight from San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California (SAN) to MSP with 147 passengers and unknown number of crew.

At 7:58 pm central daylight time (CDT), the aircraft flew over the destination airport and continued northeast for approximately 150 miles. The MSP center controller reestablished communications with the crew at 8:14 pm and reportedly stated that the crew had become distracted and had overflown MSP, and requested to return to MSP.

Now, we could wait for a rational or reasonable explanation OR we could speculate wildy.

I think you know which I prefer.

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7 Comments so far

  1. Aaron (s4xton) on October 22nd, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    Bob Collins reprinting an NTSB press release does not constitute “breaking” a story.


  2. David (jacc) on October 22nd, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

    Lighten up Francis.


  3. Mike M (unregistered) on October 22nd, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

    I was on an AA flight out of LAX to Boston back in the early 90’s; an L1011 I think it was. Perfectly clear and smooth as glass somewhere over the Rockies finishing a nice lunch in business class when suddenly the plane rolls hard to a ~30 degree bank, starts pulling up and the engines are spooling up. I guess it was probably over 2 G’s. Some passengers were gasping, a few started crying and I’m sitting there thinking that maybe we are just about to hit or miss another airplane. After 10 seconds we roll out but are still at full throttle and climbing. A minute later the captain comes on and says “Sorry, we had a problem with the auto pilot.” Ten minutes later the power backs down and we’re leveling off. Of course the typical non-aviation person thinks the auto pilot caused the hard turn but I know – NO WAY was that an AP run-away! (I’m a pilot myself).

    Besides hitting some rough weather later on, the rest of the flight was fine. After landing I waited for others to get off so I could be last to ask the flight crew on the way out – “Hey, too bad about the auto pilot; you did a great job hand flying all the way here from the Rockies!” (I knew it wasn’t true…) So the pilot chuckles, “No, we got the AP back, it had only disengaged.”

    Busted… Pilots know what happens when an AP disengages in flight and now you’ll know too – NOTHING AT ALL. It controls the trim so when it stops adjusting the trim the plane just merrily keeps flying in whatever attitude/direction it was going. So the flight crew must have fallen asleep, (literally or figuratively matters not), the AP disengaged and we slowly departed our ATC assignment for who knows how long and when the crew discovered it – they quickly got back to the assignment before ATC noticed. (ATC doesn’t really ‘watch’ you every second of the flight BTW so if there’s no other traffic near you and you screw up – back then you could get away with it, I don’t know about now.) So that’s my little story – falling asleep, not watching the gauges, etc. may be a lot more common than most people realize.

    And ask me about the night the pilot brought his girl friend up into he cockpit to sit on his lap in a Casa 212 on a Puerto Rico flight I was on…(Executive Air/American Eagle)


  4. Therese Steinlauf (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2009 @ 12:43 am

    Too busy twittering and texting.


  5. Mike M (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2009 @ 7:37 am

    And what about ATC? I’m not certain but isn’t a flight’s scheduled arrival time highlighted on the board of whoever is handling a given airport’s approach control? Where were those guys in this? Do they just say, “Oh well, I guess that flight changed their mind and went somewhere else; 3 no trump.” Not that’s it’s their responsiblity to wake up a pilot or worry about planes that haven’t reported entering their air space but you’d just think one of them might be a little curious that the flight is still on the board an hour later and you haven’t heard a peep from them. That plus happening to actually LOOK at one of the little dots on the radar screen and seeing that it’s them overflying your area at 370. Geesh!


  6. David (jacc) on October 23rd, 2009 @ 10:10 am

    @mike – That is horrifying. I know the ATC isn’t always watching, but I think they monitor odd lilts etc with computers these days.

    As for the ATC that is a great question, what were they doing? Why weren’t jets scrambled, or were they?


  7. lax car service (unregistered) on November 17th, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

    Lol. That’s pretty funny. I love your options.



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