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Wed, Mar 19, 2008

ATC Tapes Show go! Pilots Were Unresponsive For 17 Minutes

Controller Attempted Contact 11 Times Before Response

Did two pilots flying a go! Airlines CRJ200 from Honolulu to Hilo last month actually fall asleep on the job? Well, there's no official word just yet... but air traffic control tapes recently released by the FAA seem to point towards that possibility.

According to the tapes, obtained by Honolulu's KGMB-9, controllers attempted to contact the pilots 11 times as their jet flew past its destination on February 13, and 15 miles out to sea at FL210.

The controller first attempted to contact the pilots about 15 minutes after the plane left Honolulu, on the 214-mile island hop. It took another 17 minutes before the flight crew finally responded.

"Air shuttle 1002, guys, I’ve been trying to contact you for the last 90 to 100 miles," the controller told the pilots. "I understand you’ve passed Hilo, I’m going to turn you back to the northeast bound to get you back to the Hilo airport. Is there some kind of emergency situation going on?"

"Uh, no emergency situation," the captain replied... in a tone of voice one could describe as 'groggy.'

The jet later landed without incident. As ANN reported, in its preliminary report the National Transportation Safety Board noted no mechanical anomalies with the airliner, or any other immediately apparent reason for the pilots to run quiet for so long. The Board also dismissed the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Airline analyst Peter Foreman told the television station it's clear something was amiss in the cockpit of Flight 1002. "By the time you get 60 miles from your destination, it’s time to descend," he said. "So obviously someone was not minding the store."

Both pilots remain grounded until the investigation is complete.

FMI: www.mesa-air.com, www.ntsb.gov

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