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Northwest Pilots Blame Traffic Control, Each Other

The pilots of Northwest Flight 188, who overshot their destination by more than 100 miles this past October, have been busy casting blame around as they appeal the suspension of their licenses. But Captain Timothy Cheney and first officer Richard Cole can't seem to agree on who is at fault—except that it isn't them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Cole blames his captain, saying he "reasonably relied on [the captain's] performance in meeting his required duties and responsibilities." Cheney, on the other hand, points to numerous "extenuating circumstances," including "air-traffic control lapses" and even the "design of aircraft systems." He also suggests that both his and first officer Cole's cooperation with investigators should earn them some leniency. The pilots' appeals were filed separately, but both claim they "did not intentionally or willfully violate any federal aviation regulations."

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The FAA issued an emergency revocation of both pilots' licenses six days after the incident.

The Air Line Pilots Association is working to have the pilots' licenses reinstated, arguing that the punishment is too harsh for pilots with otherwise clean flying records. The Journal also points to more serious incidents in which pilots' licenses were eventually reinstated, including one of the pilots in a fatal US Airways runway crash in 1989.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not these two pilots will ever fly a commercial jet again, but given the precedent of reinstituting revoked licenses, my guess is that it will happen. With public opinion, the airlines, and the FAA against them, it may be a tough sell.

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