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

Washington DC
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Fall-out from last year's highly publicised Northwest Airlines Airbus A320 overflight continues, with the US Federal Aviation Administration asking operators to address cockpit distraction through crew training programmes.

In October 2009 the Northwest A320 crew overflew Minneapolis by 240km (130nm) because they were using laptops for personal use and lost situational awareness, says the 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 flightdeck, 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 certificates of each pilot. But in March the agency said the pilots could reapply for their licences in August, and the pilots dropped their appeal against the revocation. Current regulations allow for pilots with suspended licences to reapply one year after revocation.

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