If you've been wondering about NW flight 188 (updated)

That's the one that "missed" Minneapolis, overshot by 150 miles or so, then did a U-turn over Wisconsin before returning for a safe landing. Afterwards the two pilots said they had been "distracted" by a discussion about new scheduling software on their computers and therefore just didn't notice that they were out of touch with air traffic controllers for 90 minutes. The FAA, in no-nonsense fashion, soon revoked the pilot certificates for both men.

The always-informative AVweb has an update on several developments.  A PDF of the original emergency-revocation letter from the FAA is here; a PDF of the pilots' legal appeal is here. Selections from the recordings of Air Traffic Control attempts to reach the plane are here.

I am not a lawyer or an airline pilot, but it seems to me that the heart of the two sides' cases are the contentions below. First, from the FAA letter explaining the emergency revocation. Click for a larger view, plus a chance to see the surprisingly colorful language government officials chose to use ("while you were on a frolic of your own" etc).


Now, one of a long series of defenses offered by the pilots' attorney -- in this case, that controllers (in some unspecified way) didn't do their duty and therefore added to the problem.
As always, judge for yourself. I will be interested to hear the full arguments about dereliction of duty on all sides.

UPDATE: Well, I said I wasn't a lawyer! Apparently the "colorful" language I noted, "on a frolic of your own," is a known term of art in the law world, sort of like "high crimes and misdemeanors" or "Oyez! Oyez!" (It involves whether an employer is vicariously liable for the deeds or misdeeds of an employee.) Now I know! Thanks to legally-educated readers for the info.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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