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Northwest pilots miss the mark in Minneapolis

Did you hear the one about the pilots who totally overshot their destination by 150 miles and ended up at 37,000 feet above a totally different state? If not, it's a must read. And unfortunately it's no joke.

A Northwest Airlines plane headed to Minneapolis somehow missed the bright city lights and didn't realize it until they were in Wisconsin. Hello? Anybody there? I guess it's the equivalent of missing your exit - I've done that many times, but I'm not a professional chauffeur with 144 passengers in the back.

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But one wonders what in the world those pilots were doing for nearly an hour while air traffic controllers and the flight attendants were trying to reach them? The pilots say they were having a heated debate about airline policy. A 60-minute discussion usually loses its heat after about, oh, 5 minutes.

Sleep apnea has been raised as a possibility. Hmm - both of them nodded off at the exact same time? Rick Seaney over at FareCompare.com wrote recently about how the FAA should and may consider allowing pilots to take a nap since FAA rules permit them to work up to 16 hours a day - but only 8 hours can be in the cockpit. What do you think? Do pilots need some down time up there? Or is napping a no-go for those in the air? Maybe there's more to this mishap than a bedtime story?

And did you hear the one about the Delta plane that landed on the taxiway instead of the runway? - the equivalent of going in through the out door. (That was a great album!)

Photo: The flight path of Northwest Flight 188 on Wednesday as released by FlightAware.com.

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