Northwest 188 co-pilot blames pilot as FAA probes overshoot


The co-pilot of Northwest Flight 188, which overshot Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport by more than 100 miles in October as air traffic controllers tried in vain to make contact via radio, is telling investigators that he deserves a break as he tries to get his license back because he was following the lead of his pilot.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Richard Cole told the Federal Aviation Administration that he "reasonably relied on the performance" of the captain, he "reasonably relied on the performance" of the captain, as the flight from Houston blew past the airport and on into Wisconsin:

As part of his formal appeal to the Federal Aviation Administration to continue flying, co-pilot Richard I. Cole, 54 years old, argues that he deserves a lesser punishment partly because he "reasonably relied on the performance" of the captain, who was actually flying the plane, "in meeting his required duties and responsibilities." Capt. Timothy B. Cheney, 53, makes no specific assertions about the co-pilot's responsibility in his appeal.

In November, the FAA released transcripts and audio of the communication between the Flight 188's cockpit and air traffic controllers. In that exchange, Cheney and Cole said they were "distracted," but wouldn't elaborate. In the Journal report today, they confirmed that they had their laptops open as they flew, check into pilot scheduling issues.

Worried about a possible hijacking, the military says fighter jets were ready to intercept the flight, but they didn't hear from air traffic controllers until after the pilots were back on the radio.