According to this morning's news, the official explanation of why a Northwest Airlines airliner overflew its intended destination by 150 miles is that the two pilots were both using personal laptop computers to try out new crew scheduling software.
Consider that it is illegal in many - if not most - states to use a cell phone or send/receive text messages while driving, because the danger of accidents goes up tremendously when the driver is distracted.
Is "distracted flying" a crime? Perhaps not, but it is breathtakingly stupid. Defenders of the pilots say that the passengers were in no danger because the autopilot was on and all the navigational instruments were working, but that's baloney. These two men had the lives of scores of passengers in the aircraft in their hands...and thought it was more important to play with their laptops than to do their jobs.
There are enough distractions that affect us when we drive, walk, or fly. Common sense demands that we minimize those distractions to ensure everyone's safety. Delta Airlines (the parent company of Northwest) has given each passenger a $500 travel voucher as compensation for the "inconvenience." I suppose inconvenience is better than death. But the airline needs to fire both pilots and enforce safety standards.
I fly a lot. I expect that in exchange for the fare I pay, not to mention the extra amounts I pay for luggage, a decent seat, and "gourmet chocolate chip cookies," I will be safely transported from A to B. But I'm not sure any more.
John, what's your opinion as a professional air traffic controller?
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.