News Columns & Blogs

Distracted pilots were the problem

The Air Line Pilots Association has judged the Federal Aviation Administration to have acted prematurely in revoking the licenses of the Northwest Airlines pilots who flew 150 miles past their Twin Cities destination last week because they were riveted by their personal laptops. Union officials want the FAA to "recommit to protect the integrity" of voluntary safety reporting programs, under which pilots are supposed to be able to disclose mistakes without fear of punishment. That process has its place. But these weren't two store clerks lost in harmless conversation. They zoned out for 91 minutes at 37,000 feet with more than 140 passengers aboard. To many fliers, the FAA's swift action seemed appropriate.