Northwest Airlines-NWA (subsidiary of Delta Air Lines) (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and Delta Air Lines are cooperating with the federal investigation concerning an incident that occurred yesterday evening (October 21). The flight crew of flight NW 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis/St. Paul overflew its MSP destination by approximately 150 miles! The flight was also reportedly out of radio contact for over one hour. The crew finally realized its mistake and requested ATC permission to turnaround and fly back to MSP. The pilots have been suspended pending the results of the investigation. The crew members were reportedly arguing over pilot and company issues. The aircraft involved was Airbus A320-212 N374NW (msn 1646).
A clear case of the pilots dozing off! It is understandable to once in a while miss a handoff to another atc center sector. It is standard practice to leave your nuber 2 vhf radio to monitor 121.5 the worldwide emergency frequency. If you lose your frequency atc will attempt to contact you on 121.5 directing you to the appropriate frecquency to re establish communications. Also atc will attempt to have other company aircraft send a msg to operations to ACARS the aircraft in question which presents a “COMPANY MESSAGE” on the ECAM screen. The A/C routing in the FMGS will have a “DISCONTINUITY” between the routing and the approach phase in this particular case. When the aircraft closes in on the Discontinuity it will present a messsage “DISCONTINUITY AHEAD” if nothing is done, the A/C will hit the discontinuity and continue on the heading it was on prior to reaching the discontinuity. It will also give a mode reverson sounding a triple click to make the crew aware that the went from NAV to a HDG mode in this case. The aircraft continued on current hdg and altitude for 115 NM. The thing that woke them up was the flight attendants calling the cockpit on the interphone which produces a loud annoying horn which will definetely wake someone up. This is when the crew woke up and realized they had overflown their destination. Realizing the cockpit voice recorder in this A/C only records 30 minute loop there will be no tale of the tape.
Thank you Rbro for your insight and experience. I think the NTSB will quickly get to the bottom of the incident this coming week when they interview the pilots on the record as part of an official investigation.