This video describes Northwest flight 188, where two pilots overshot their destination by 150 miles, without contacting ATC for an hour. They cited 'cockpit distractions' as the reason and subsequently, both had their licenses permanently revoked.

What exactly was the license removal be for? Overshooting the runway? Not contacting ATC for an hour? And what are the quantitative rules on this, i.e. how long would you have to not contact ATC for or how many miles off course would you have to go to get your license revoked liked these two did (in a commercial setting)?

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    $\begingroup$ Overshooting the intended destination isn't exactly a runway overshoot, whether you're using the US or (apparently) UK meaning of the term "overshoot". $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 1, 2019 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


According to this CNN article the FAA revoked their licences with a letter containing the following reasons (emphasis mine):

The letter said the pilots were "extremely reckless."

"Not only did you not comply with ... [air traffic controller] instructions, you did not even monitor the aircraft's air-ground radios," the letter said. "You were disengaged and impervious to the serious threat to your own safety, as well as the safety of people for whom you are responsible. This is a total dereliction and disregard for your duties."


The FAA said the revocations cite several violations of regulations, including failure to comply with air traffic control and clearances and operating carelessly and recklessly.

As Adam pointed out in the comments, this would violate FAR 91.13:

§ 91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

(b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

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    $\begingroup$ I take it there is no regulation set in stone and the FAA has leeway to decide what extremely reckless means on a case-by-case basis? $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2019 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ @AEhere yes, I would assume so, too. There won't be any quantitative rules for this. The authorities (in this case FAA) will evaluate the severity of the incidence and then make a decision, which can however be appealed by the pilots. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Jul 23, 2019 at 9:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud have you read the wikipedia article and the references? what is it missing there that you are wondering "what the full story really is"? $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jul 23, 2019 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ Their distraction cover story was quite unbeleivable. Most professional pilots will tell you the likely truth was they both fell asleep. It's the explanation that makes the most sense. The crew of a CRJ200 once both dozed off following a departure from an airport in Hawaii, for about 15 min. One was just exhausted from circumstances that resulted in poor sleep the night before, and the other had undiagnosed sleep apnea and depending on coffee. The 188 crew likely decided that taking the heat for inattention was better than admitting they fell asleep; didn't work out for them. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud It's possible for the capt to reset the CVR, which erases it, but which is a very very bad thing to do. Which would explain only 30 min recorded and would be another large strike against them. The sanction was pretty severe, especially for the FO, and I'm convinced it was because the authorities had surmised what really happened and were pretty unhappy with both of them sticking to an implausible story line. If they had passed out and admitted so, they would have gone for medical assessments but probably would have had a better outcome. Someone gave them very bad advice I think, $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 23, 2019 at 17:01

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