Off Course

I fly into Minneapolis on the average once a week, so I take local aviation stories pretty personally. The saga of two Delta (formerly Northwest) pilots who lost track of the time because they were absorbed with their laptops, reportedly analyzing how their schedules would be affected by Delta’s acquisition of Northwest, struck close to home. Actually, I’ve been on many flights that have overshot the MSP airport. If you arrive early or traffic is heavy, they’ll sometimes send you around Lake Minnetonka to eat up a little time. More often, if it looks like you might arrive early, they’ll have you circle around Eau Claire, Wisconsin for a while. As a last resort, if you’re on the ground ahead of schedule, they’ll just let you sit on the runway until a gate opens up.
This incident was different, though, because the overshot was accidental. The image of 150 passengers hurtling through the sky, off course, while their pilots are engrossed in something else, is undoubtedly a scary one. It inspired a couple of editorial cartoons. This one is by Michael Ramirez; click to enlarge:
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This one is by Nate Beeler:
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