Errant Northwest flight triggers FAA request for carriers to limit cockpit distraction

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Fallout from a highly publicised Northwest Airlines overflight continues as the FAA today asked operators to address cockpit distraction through crew training programmes.

The crew of Flight 188 in October 2009 overflew Minneapolis by 150 miles because they were using laptops for personal use and lost situational awareness, says FAA.

In a formal "Information for Operators" bulletin, the FAA is asking operators to address cockpit distraction through formal training programmes, and to create a safety culture to control cockpit distractions.

"When there are two or more professionals on the flight deck, they must hold each other to the highest safety standards. Allowing distractions is unacceptable," says FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

After the incident the FAA revoked the air transport pilot (ATP) certificates of each pilot. But in March the agency said the pilots could re-apply for their licenses in August, and the pilots dropped their appeal of the revocation. Current regulations allow for pilots with suspended licenses to re-apply one year after revocation.

Northwest and Delta Air Lines merged in October 2008, and obtained a single operating certificate in December 2009.