Pilots of Northwest Flight 188 which overshot its scheduled destination by about 150 miles last week have told investigators that they were using laptops and lost track of their duties.
Captain Timothy Cheney and first officer Richard Cole were distracted for more than an hour as they cruised in the dark at 37,000ft in a Northwest Airlines jet carrying 144 passengers.
The pilots told National Transportation Safety Board that they missed their destination because the first officer, Richard I. Cole, was then tutoring the captain, Timothy B. Cheney, in a new scheduling system put in place as a result of Northwest’s merger with Delta in 2008, which included their use of personal laptops in the cockpit.
On the ground, officials feared the aircraft had been hijacked and alerted the military, which put two jets on standby.
The pair denied they fell asleep in the cockpit and said they had simply lost track of time.
Delta Airlines, which owns Northwest, said in a statement the use of laptops or “engaging in activity unrelated to” flying violates company policy.
The pilots have been suspended as the NTSB continues its investigation.