Missed Flight Destination Raises Fatigue Concerns

October 23, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

This shows a Northwest airliners jet at Minneapolis airport on August 20, 2005.  (Paul J. Richards/Getty Images)
This shows a Northwest airliners jet at Minneapolis airport on August 20, 2005. (Paul J. Richards/Getty Images)
Pilots of the Northwest Airlines flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis who went off course came under investigation on Thursday for allegedly falling asleep. Federal officials are trying to determine whether fatigue might be to blame.

Pilots of Airbus A320 missed their destination by 150 miles and failed to take steps to get back on course and resume radio contact, crossing various air-traffic-control zones, revealed transportation safety officials close to the situation.

The incident prompted transportation safety officials, among others to investigate whether the two pilots fell asleep at the controls or were simply distracted.

The flight heading to the Minneapolis – St Paul International (MSP) airport was operating with 147 passengers on board and members of the crew.

Pilots on the Airbus A320 briefly lost radio contact with air-traffic controllers before turning the plane around and landing. The incident comes as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reviewing its decades-old rules on how long commercial pilots can fly and remain on duty.

Controllers at the Minnesota airport concerned about the fate of the people aboard asked the pilots of other aircrafts to rouse the Northwest crew, according to transportation safety officials. Military officials who were also alarmed of the situation were considering sending fighter jets to intercept Airbus A320.

According to the FAA, the crew is also being investigated by the FBI and airport police. The two pilots said that they were engaged in a heated conversation over airline policy during the flight and they lost awareness of the situation.

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were sent to the National Transportation Safety laboratory in Washington for investigation.

Northwest airline is an offshoot of Delta Air Lines.