Working On Their Laptops, Wayward Pilots Say

The Northwest Airlines pilots who flew their jet past its Minneapolis landing by 150 miles could lose their jobs -- and their licenses.

Captain Timothy Cheney and First Officer Richard Cole told investigators they were engrossed in a complicated new crew-scheduling program on their laptop computers while air traffic controllers, other pilots and the airline itself tried to contact them.

Delta Airlines, which owns Northwest, says using laptops or engaging in activity unrelated to the pilots' command of the aircraft during flight is strictly against the airline's flight deck policies. The airline says violations of that policy will result in termination.

Delta has suspended the two pilots pending an investigation.

There are no federal rules that specifically ban pilots' use of laptops or other personal electronic devices as long as the plane is flying above 10,000 feet. But a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration says "it depends upon how it's being used."

The FAA has warned the pilots their licenses could be suspended or revoked.

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