The US FAA will allow the two pilots of a Northwest Airlines A320 that in October 2009 overflew their destination and ignored air traffic control calls for 91 minutes to reapply for their various licenses starting 29 August, two months earlier than usual.
The concession, though small, coincides with pilots dropping their appeal to the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the FAA's emergency revocation of their airline transport pilot (ATP) certificates after the event. During the investigation, pilots told investigators they were using personal laptops on the flight from San Diego to Minneapolis.
By losing their ATP, the pilots by default were stripped of all lower licenses, including the private and commercial pilot certificates. Appeal aside, the pilots by law would have been able to reapply for their licenses one year after the revocation. A date for the appeal hearing with an administrative law judge had not been set.
The FAA says the pilots entered into to the settlement to "remove the uncertainty and burden that would be associated with pursuing further litigation" and to "avoid further publicity".
In addition, the settlement is not an agreement by the pilots to the truth of the allegations made by the FAA in the revocation order. Those accusations include putting the crew and passengers "in serious jeopardy" during the event, amounting to a "total dereliction and disregard" of duties.
A Delta Air Lines spokesman says the pilots remain suspended "pending the completion" of its internal investigation of the incident. "Any status change [to their license] would be independent of the investigation and have no bearing on the final outcome," he adds.
Delta and Northwest merged in 2008, and were granted a single operating certificate in December 2009.
The settlement letter is provided below.