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Airplane misses Minneapolis: Were the pilots sleepy or fighty?

There was a lot of excitement in the air Thursday, although that’s not precisely the way it was reported. No, when the tale of Northwest’s Airbus A320 first made Internet headlines, it wasn’t excitement that caused the airplane to overshoot MSP airport by more than 100 miles, it was exhaustion, as summed up in Emily Kaiser’s as-it’s-happening report on City Pages. This was a rather nerve-wracking notion; sure, we’ve all fallen asleep on the bus and missed our stop, but we’re not the driver.

It’s not really clear where the reports of the pilots being asleep came from. John Welbes investigates the event for the Pioneer Press and comes away with a very different explanation: “The National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday said the pilots in charge of Northwest Flight 188 blamed a ‘heated discussion over airline policy’ for causing them to lose ‘situational awareness.‘ “

Needless to say, a tale like this had reporters scampering for coverage (WCCO’s Esme Murphy immediately posted this to Twitter: “Anyone on the Northwest flight from San Diego last night that overshot Mpls because pilots were a)asleep,or b)fighting call me.”). Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins was one of the first to start posting information, which he quickly revised as more came in, and now includes an interview with a passenger: “They said it was because a highway was under construction in Minneapolis,” he says. Collins also posted an image of the airplane’s flight path, with a looping ampersand at the end as the pilots realize their error and double back, originating from a site called FlightAward.

Joan Lowy of the Associated Press lists just how many warning signs the pilots overlooked when they passed over the Twin Cities, including a big one: Minneapolis has a lot of lights; Eau Claire, Wis., where the plane wound up, doesn’t. Also, we might point out, the smell of cheese curds probably should have alerted them that they had strayed into Wisconsin.

There was a routine on “Hee Haw” in which a discussion between Roy Clark and Archie Campbell would turn on whether news was good on not, and so let us start out by saying that our next story takes place on a La-Z-Boy in Proctor, which seems like good news, because how much trouble can you get into on a La-Z-Boy in Proctor? But it’s bad news, because the La-Z-Boy was motorized, and could go up to 20 miles per hours. But that’s good news, because it means the owner, Dennis LeRoy Anderson, could drive his lounge chair to the bar. But that’s bad news, because he drove it home drunk and crashed it. But that’s good news, because DWI stories usually aren’t as entertaining as this. Paul Walsh of the Star Tribune has the tale.

Minnesota has a new drug, sort of. On Thursday, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that bong water can be legally treated as a controlled substance, as detailed in a story by the Associated Press’ Steve Karnowski ; specifically: “a person can be prosecuted for a first-degree drug crime for 25 grams or more of bong water that tests positive for a controlled substance.” Hopefully, this will deter curious smokers who decide to sip the bong water, which is not good, if various Internet testimonials are to be believed. Just look at the words of this poor stoner: “I really wish I threw it up.

Jean Hopfensperger of the Star Tribune looks into the problems census takers have in locating Minnesota’s homeless population, and techniques used for getting them counted, which includes setting up tents and serving free chili and sandwiches inside. Census workers suspect the number of homeless will have gone up: One is quoted in the story as saying, “I think with the foreclosures, lack of job opportunities and all of the economic news, we’re going to find a significant number.”

Anybody who has been to an apple orchard this fall can tell you that the corn mazes can be a little frustrating. They’re unexpectedly easy to get lost in and, worse still, when it gets dark, children run through the maze shouting, “Malachai. He wants you, too!” which is, frankly, a little unnerving. So we must tip a respectful hat to Jonathon Bryce, an escape artist from Bloomington, who is actually going to be buried under three tons of corn at a Shakopee corn maze. The Pioneer Press’ Richard Chin interviews Bryce, who has this to say, “When you’re under that much corn, the weight is indescribable.”

The photo of the day belongs to the Minnesota Zoo, republished on the FOX9 site. It shows three grizzly bears in the process of destroying and consuming a 500-pound pumpkin, which they managed to take down in 10 minutes. It’s not quite as good a bear photo as this one, but it’s still pretty good.

In Sports, Goldy Gopher got himself into a bit of hot water before the start of last week’s Penn State-Minnesota game, as shown on a YouTube video: PSU defensive end Jerome Hayes paused to pray before the game, and Goldy knelt down opposite him in mock prayer. While the GopherHole board didn’t seem to think it was a big deal (“I think he was actually praying,” one commenter says), the University has apologized, according to the Associated Press, saying, “the mascot didn’t intent to offend anyone or trivialize religion.” Semi-professional atheist P.Z. Myers takes issue with this on his blog, saying, “I call shenanigans. He was too trying to trivialize a religious ritual … and we like him for it.”

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by William Souder on 10/23/2009 - 10:39 am.

    Is it just me, or has anyone else had a problem with the geography in most of the reports about this incident? Several accounts have the plane overshooting MSP airport and traveling on to the northeast for 150 miles until it was over Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

    Eau Clair is less than a hundred miles from Minneapolis, and is slightly south of due east.

  2. Submitted by LJ Lincoln on 10/23/2009 - 12:22 pm.

    I drive pilots from MSP to the hotel and then back to the airport – it’s my job. They land the plane MD11/AIRBUS A320 and within 15 minutes, I am loading their luggage in the car and off we go. These guys are tired… very tired. They are always short on sleep and many of them will fall asleep in the car before I can get on 35W from MSP. I’ve heard pilots talking about falling asleep in flight. If you saw as many tired pilots as I do… you would not fly. A comment I heard last week from the pilots in the back seat…”They wouldn’t have so many planes dinged up or crashed if they gave us more rest”

  3. Submitted by Max Sparber on 10/23/2009 - 01:22 pm.

    Geogowhat?

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/24/2009 - 09:08 am.

    I didn’t know there still was a Northwest Airlines. Didn’t they merge with Delta?

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/26/2009 - 07:29 am.

    It was a Delta plane. It just hadn’t been painted over with Delta colors.

    I think the news media has made a mistake in identifying the plane as being from Northwest Airlines, a company which no longer exists, at least not as an entity that hasn’t been totally taken over by Delta.

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