Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

C'mon Boss, It's Not Like Anyone Got Killed  | e-mail post

Yesterday, Northwest Airlines fired the two pilots who earlier in the summer incorrectly landed an Airbus at Ellsworth AFB instead of Rapid City Airport. [Pioneer Press] [Star-Tribune] A tape provided by the Air Force to the Pioneer Press had one woman saying that because the airports are near one another, "when they pop out of the clouds, they see the (Air Force base) runway, they don't trust their instruments [which are locked onto the right airport] and all of a sudden make a dive."

Admittedly, the two airfields are near one another, as you can see on this TerraServer view. However, what might not be immediately obvious is that the runway at Ellsworth is nearly twice as long as the one at the Rapid City airport. Ellsworth is a B-1 bomber base and an emergency landing site for the space shuttle, so you know they've got a serious runway. The other thing you'll notice if you drill down into the image is that the Ellsworth runway is surrounded by a small city, you know, an Air Force base. I'm not sure if these pilots might have thought Rapid City just had a hell of a terminal, but I would think that if you're going to rely on your eyesight over your instruments, you should at least wear your glasses.

Now, the pilot's union is contesting the firings. The union representative called the firing excessive. He cited previous confusion by other pilots between the two locations, but did acknowledge no other Northwest pilot had made such a mistake.

Personally, I think the firing is pretty reasonable. Especially in this age of heightened sensitivity to the risk of terror attacks, especially using commercial airliners, there is a legitimate question of endangering passenger lives with this kind of recklessness.

Not to mention, I cannot even imagine how pissed off the 122 passengers must have been sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours at Ellsworth. They probably didn't even let the smokers out.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Thursday, September 09, 2004
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