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NWA MSP overflight info...hmmm

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Well-known member
Feb 23, 2005
Got this from a friend. Not sure of it's accuracy but an interesting take on the incident.

Hi All,

I had a one hour conversation with Tim Cheney yesterday and would like to
shed some light on what happened to cause the over flight of their
destination, MSP.

Before I begin with details, I wanted to say right up front that although
there are many events that helped to cause this, Tim takes full
responsibility and places no blame on anyone but himself. He is very
humbled by what has happened and fully understands that as captain, he
was responsible for the a/c, crew and passengers. That said, he wanted me to
know how it all happened. Secondly, he has the full support of his neighbors
in Gig Harbor , WA , as well has his church parishioners. One of his neighbors
wrote a letter to the Star & Tribune in Minneapolis saying how great a
family the Cheney's were, I agree.

On their flight from San Diego to Minneapolis , after passing Denver , the
f/a called the cockpit to let them know Tim's crew meal
was ready. Tim was the "flying pilot" on this leg, so he told his F/O
that when the f/a brings the meal up, he will step back to use the restroom.
When Tim returned, the F/A left the cockpit and he began to eat his crew
meal. When a pilot leaves to use the restroom, it is customary for the other
pilot to brief him on his return on "any changes", such as
altitude, heading, course changes or atc center frequency changes, etc. In
this instance, nothing was said....even though the f/o had received a
frequency change. The problem that occurred was that the f/o never got a
response on the new frequency....it was not the correct frequency....it was
a Winnipeg Canada Center Freq.

Now, Denver Center is trying to get a hold of them because they never
checked in, because the f/o had dialed in the wrong freq......that is who
called them so many times....but, then there was a shift change at Denver
Center and no one briefed the new controller that there was a NORDO A/C
(non communications) in their airspace....so, in actuality, atc basically
"lost" this a/c.....see Wall Street Journal article below.

Tim told me he heard atc chatter on the speaker and so
never thought they were out of radio range.....but, of course, they were
hearing pilots talk on Winnipeg Center . For non-pilots.....when we don't
hear anything for a long while...we ask atc if they are still
there....sometimes they are and sometimes you are out of their area and need
to find a new frequency. With this chatter going on, there was no concern
that they were not being controlled.

Then Tim told the f/o that the new bidding system was horrible and that his
November schedule was not what he hoped for. He mentioned that his son was
going into the Army in Dec. and he wanted certain days off so he
could see him off.....the f/o said he could help him, he knew more about
the new bidding system. Tim got his lap top out and put it on his
left leg and showed the f/o how he bid. He told me he had his lap top out
for maybe 2 minutes. Then the f/o said that he would show him how to do it
on his laptop. He had his laptop out maximum of 5 minutes.

Let's also add the 100 kt tail wind that they had to the discussion,
not helping matters.

The f/a's called the cockpit on the interphone(no they did not kick the
door, no, no one was sleeping, no, no one was fighting) and asked when they
will get there. They looked at their nav screens and were directly over MSP.
Because they had their screens set on the max, 320 nm setting, when the f/o
called on the frequency, which of course was Winnipeg
Center, he saw Eau Claire and Duluth on his screen. They asked where they
were and the f/o told them over Eau Claire , which was not even close, but
MSP had disappeared from the screen even though they were right over the

They were, as you all know, vectored all over the sky to determine if they
had control of the a/c and Tim kept telling the f/o to tell them they have
control they want to land at MSP, etc. They landed with 11,000 pounds of
fuel(no they did not come in on fumes, but had 2 hours in an A320) and not
but 15 minutes past scheduled arrival, even though they left San Diego 35
minutes late due to an atc flow restriction.

In the jet-way awaiting them were FBI and every other authority you can

Aftermath and tidbits:

Although these pilots filed an NASAP Report, which was designed to have
pilots tell the truth about events, so the FAA could learn from them, they
had their licenses revoked by the ATL F.A.A. even before they came out of
their meeting with NTSB and NASAP meetings.

ATL FAA is really big on this new regulation which will allow pilots to take
a short nap in flight so they will be rested for the approach...they were
insistent that they were sleeping.

MSP FAA, Vance (do not know last name) was the person who handed Tim his
revocation letter(which was leaked to the entire world by the ATL FAA). Tim
said Vance had tears in his eyes and walked away, said nothing. It was
later learned that the entire MSP FAA office did not agree at all with
revoking their pilot's licenses, but had no jurisdiction over the matter,
since ATL FAA had control because of Delta.

The pilots have been to Wash. D.C., ATL and MSP for several meetings. In
ATL, they met with the chief pilots and Tim said they could not have been
nicer. They are working to resolve this, not to try and fire them. But of
course, they will have to get their license back for Delta to consider
allowing them to continue flying. The appeal has been files for the FAA to
reinstate their licenses or to settle on some form of punishment, etc.

When Tim and his wife were in MSP for a meeting with the NTSB, they happen
to be staying at the same hotel as the NTSB was. The next morning in the
lobby, the NTSB official came over to Tim and said he did not know why they
even called them in for this event. There was no safety issue. Also,
MSP Center informed Delta that there never was a problem and no aircraft
were near their plane. Even though no radio communications, they had been
followed and separated.

Yes, the company tried to contact them on ACARS, but the 320 does not have
a chime...it has a 30 second light which then extinguishes. Tim always has
121.5 tuned, but as we all know as pilots, it can get very noisy at times
and we turn it down and sometimes forget to turn it back on. He told me this
may have been the case.

So there were so many factors which helped to cause this episode. Anything
would have likely prevented it.....properly checking in on the new frequency
would have been the first one.....

A note about laptops.....in NWA's A.O.M (I think it stands for airman's
operation manual), it does not say we can't use a laptop, however in Delta's
A.O.M., it does, we are transitioning now and we actually have pages from
both airlines. When our union showed this to the attorney's,
they could not believe the confusion put on our pilot group. But, D.C.
F.A.A. put out a new possible ruling which will disallow all laptops......so
stupid, don't they know Jet Blue has laptops on every aircraft and soon all
airliners will for the electronic Jepp charts.

These are the facts and again, Tim said he feels very bad for the company
and pilots and is hoping for a positive outcome on their appeal. With 24
years at NWA, 21,000 blemish free hours, it would be a mistake to ruin his
career over this in my opinion.

Thank you,


F.A.A. Fails to brief new controller on duty (WSJ Article)
Very questionable "Letter"...

To say that there wasn't a safety issue is BS.
Any commercial airline flying around our National Airspace Environment without radio contact for the amount of time they were is a safety issue.

Maybe everything that was posted in the letter happened, but then it's just purely bad luck that all those little things added up to what we have today.

Let's face it, if it wasn't a slow news day/week this story wouldn't have gotten as much press as it had. That being said, this is and was a failure of the system, in so many ways~
Very questionable "Letter"...
Maybe everything that was posted in the letter happened, but then it's just purely bad luck that all those little things added up to what we have today.

Understandable, yes. Purely bad luck, hardly.

Bad luck is hitting a flock of geese, or an engine blowing up on rotation... bad luck is not playing with your computer while you neglect the world blasting by at 600 mph.

These guys were obviously out to lunch that day, could have happened to anyone. Unlucky, is not how I'd categorize this situation.
So according to this "letter", they were only on their laptops for 7 minutes however they still managed to be out of radio contact for over an hour. Something still is very fishy about their story and to say it was not a safety hazard is complete BS. I understand people make mistakes but this is unacceptable and they deserve to be fired for it.
Let's see, failed to hear atc, failed to hear 121.5, failed to get acars, failed to realize plane was just flying straight off course. Failed to act like pilots. Admit you were asleep. But I guess it wasn't so bad since they were only 5 minutes late. Shouldt get license bake just for lying
Is this why in the regionals form? What I don't understand is that they're trying to actually get an appeal like this was nothing. This is what happens when you have 21000 hour pilots that have been pampered all their career. I hope the FAA denies even balloon ratings for them.
I think taking their licenses away is too much. They can't even fly a 172 around the pattern VFR on a sunday afternoon, but they should loose thier jobs. That is enough punishment. If what i read is true anyways. It the not telling the truth a million times that makes me think they should loose their jobs.
I think taking their licenses away is too much. They can't even fly a 172 around the pattern VFR on a sunday afternoon, but they should loose thier jobs. That is enough punishment. If what i read is true anyways. It the not telling the truth a million times that makes me think they should loose their jobs.

LOSE.....not loose

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