Many people do not know that the number one cause of airplane crashes is not weather conditions or mechanical problems – it is pilot error. And this week a story in the national news brought new attention to inattentive pilots who could put the lives of their passengers at risk.
This week a Northwest Airlines pilot and co-pilot faced scrutiny from the FAA and their airline employer after the pair overshot the airport they were landing at by over 150 miles. A short investigation revealed that both pilots were busy surfing the internet on their laptops instead of focusing on their job to fly a commercial jet carrying dozens of passengers. The two men, who lost their pilot license earlier this week, did not look at where the plane was going and did not respond to requests for information by air traffic controllers. The laptops blocked their view of the airplane’s controls.
Other pilots interviewed after the airplane accident say that it is easy to get bored while at a cruising altitude – and that distractions can often lead to crashes. They also noted that activities like using your laptop, reading a newspaper, or reading a novel is strictly prohibited. Pilots are allowed to read airplane manuals, however, and chat with others in the cockpit.
Three different plane crashes in the recent past have been blamed on pilot distraction, and the FAA is looking into tightening regulations related to pilot distraction in order to curb fatal airplane accidents. However, some pilots argue that most of flying is in fact automated and that anyone would be hard pressed to stare at the controls for multiple hours.