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Distracted Driving Takes to the Skies: Pilots Flew Past Airport While On Their Laptops

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The two Northwest Airlines pilots who flew more than 150 miles past their destination on Wednesday have admitted that rather than being asleep, which was speculated, they were actually using their laptops, which was so distracting for them that they didn’t realize they had missed their scheduled landing destination and failed to answer radio messages from the ground controller.

If texting while driving is dangerous, surely it is more dangerous flying while surfing the net. This is compounded when the lives of 144 people are at stake. The pilots claim that they were mulling over some complicated crew scheduling software, but does it matter what they were doing? All that matters is they were not flying the aircraft.

Every time I fly the flight attendant requires passengers to shut off all personal electronic devices. If it is important for the passengers to do this, surely it is more important for the pilots. The flight attendants should check the cockpit first and see what the pilots are doing. I’d feel better if I knew they were flying the plane, not playing sudoku.

Currently, according to the Wall Street Journal, Federal safety rules don’t prohibit laptops from cockpits. I think that should change. Better yet, perhaps airlines should require pilots to check their personal computers with the flight attendants before they enter the cockpit. A beeper might even be installed in the cockpit to sound an alarm if a personal computer is turned on. I, for one, feel that a personal computer has no place in the cockpit of an airplane.

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