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Pilots Who Missed Airport Busy With Laptops

The pilots of Northwest Airlines Flight 188, which overflew the runway at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last week, told investigators from the National Transportation Safey Board that they used their laptop computers -- a violation of company policy -- while discussing airline crew scheduling procedures.
The pilots of Northwest Airlines Flight 188, which overflew the runway at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last week, told investigators from the National Transportation Safey Board that they used their laptop computers -- a violation of company policy -- while discussing airline crew scheduling procedures.Both pilots told NTSB investigators that they lost track of time.

Thankfully, the plane landed without anyone being injured. It could have been much worse. Distractions, in the form of gadgets or gabbing in the next seat, can be deadly.

In August, a plane and a helicopter collided over New York, killing nine people. The air traffic controller at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport who was supposed to be working to prevent such incidents was reportedly involved in a telephone conversation at the time of the accident. It must have been an important call.

A year ago in Los Angeles, a train engineer had reportedly sent a text message on his mobile phone just 22 seconds before the commuter train he was driving hit a freight train, killing 25 people.

Last month, U.S. transportation officials said that almost 6,000 people were killed and over 500,000 were injured last year in crashes involving driver distraction. Much of that distraction can be attributed to mobile phones.

Just to put that number into perspective, the National Counterterrorism Center said that 19 U.S. citizens were killed in terrorist attacks in 2008.

As we become more connected with the network, we're becoming less connected to reality. Distraction is the ultimate killer app.