Distracted Flying

Packed plane lands on wrong runway in Atlanta! Another packed plane overshoots its destination (Minneapolis) by 150 miles after an hour of no radio contact with air traffic controllers!

Both of these incidents actually happened ... today!

There is speculation that the overshoot incident was caused by either pilot distraction or pilot fatigue. I don’t like either possibility.

And you wonder why my minor fear of flying is on the verge of becoming major. Sure, the per capita possibility of dying in a car crash is far greater than in an airplane crash, but the illusion of control I have while driving is very comforting.

I used to fly a lot. For example, I probably flew twenty or thirty times in an eighteen month period in 1983 and 1984 (work conventions, job interview, long-distance relationship). But I’ve only flown ten times (five round-trips) in the eight years since September 11, 2001.

Sure, I’ll book a flight again one day; but I’m in no hurry.

Here is info on today’s incidents:

From AOL News
October 22 2009
On Monday, a Delta jet flying into Atlanta mistakenly touched down on a taxiway instead of the runway it was cleared to land on, reported CNN today.

The aircraft was flying in from Rio de Janeiro just after 6am when it accidentally descended in an area designated for planes to wait until takeoff instead of landing on a parallel runway.

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International is the world's busiest airport, but at the time the taxiway was empty. "Landing at about 160 mph, if the Boeing 767 had hit another plane, the results could have been catastrophic," reported local news station WSB-TV.

From Comcast News
MINNEAPOLIS — Two Northwest Airlines pilots failed to make radio contact with ground controllers for more than an hour and overflew their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles before discovering the mistake and turning around.
The plane landed safely Wednesday evening, apparently without passengers realizing that anything had been amiss. No one was hurt.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the crew told authorities they became distracted during a heated discussion over airline policy and lost track of their location, but federal officials are investigating whether pilot fatigue might also have played a role.
The National Transportation Safety Board does not yet know if the crew fell asleep, spokesman Keith Holloway said, calling that idea "speculative."