Naptime Nothing New for Pilots

Cole, Cheney interview by NTSB investigators
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2009 5:45 AM CDT
The Minneapolis skyline rises through the rain as an arriving Northwest Airlines jet taxis at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last week.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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(Newser) – Pilot naps and arguments are hardly unique in airline screw ups, statistics reveal as investigators try to figure out what caused Northwest Airlines flight 188 to overshoot its destination airport by 155 miles. Pilots Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole, who were interviewed yesterday NTSB investigators, claim they missed the Minneapolis airport because they were distracted by an intense argument. That story recalls an Eastern Airlines flight that crashed in 1974 after the pilots angrily argued about Richard Nixon's pardon.

But several investigators believe Cheney and Cole nodded off. A review by the Allied Pilots Association found several cases of unauthorized pilot naps. In one instance, an anonymous pilot recalled dozing off on an overnight flight to South America, reports USA Today. "When I woke up, I looked over at the captain. He was sound asleep," recalled the co-pilot. "I estimate that we were both asleep for 30 minutes. Just lucky that nothing happened."