LaHood promises scrutiny of 'distracted flying'

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2009; 4:58 PM

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Wednesday promised more scrutiny of "distracted flying," a week after a Minneapolis-bound commercial jet overshot its destination airport by 150 miles.

The Transportation Department is in the midst of a review of how distractions, such as text messaging, affect the safety of the U.S. transportation system. The department will expand the review to cover distractions in the cockpit, a spokeswoman said.

The pilots told federal investigators Sunday that they each accessed laptops during a discussion about work issues, a violation of airline policy. It is unclear which Federal Aviation Administration rules, if any, the pilots violated by using laptops.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday revoked the pilots' commercial flying licenses. In letters to each pilot, the FAA appeared to largely base the revocations on the pilots' inability to stay in radio contact with air traffic controllers and their deviating from their original flight plan without proper clearances.

Former transportation safety officials said the incident touched a nerve with many Americans, who remain jittery about flying. The U.S. commercial aviation system had enjoyed two years -- 2007 and 2008 -- without a single death from a major airline crash. The trend ended in February when a commuter jet crashed into a house in upstate New York, killing 50 people.

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