Monday, October 26, 2009
Cats Who Nearly Crashed Airplane Were Shopping Online, NTSB Says
Two cat pilots who work for American Airlines have told investigators that they were buying “cute outfits” on their laptops, a clear violation of company policy, while the plane they were piloting nearly crashed into the Rocky Mountains, the National Transportation Safety Board said today.
The pilot, Xango, a 9-year-old, neutered, Siamese Mix, and co-pilot, Slim, a 10-year-old, neutered, Domestic Short Hair, were both perusing scarves and hats “with ears on them” when they noticed the plane about to crash into the rocky crags, and quickly pulled up.
The cats said in interviews conducted over the weekend that they were not fatigued while shopping online and didn't fall asleep, the board said in a statement.
The flight recorder showed officials every website the cats had visited since takeoff
Instead, Xango told investigators that they both had their laptops out and that he was shopping while the co-pilot, who had more experience with navigation, began mixing drinks and blending strawberry margaritas. The pilots were out of communication with air traffic controllers the whole time.
The flight recorder data reported to the NTSB showed that the cats had been to over 120 different websites, including the Kitty City Gazette, since takeoff.
Aviation safety experts who are investigating the near-crash said it was more plausible that the cats fell asleep during that phase of the flight than that they had become so focused on a silly website that they had actually forgot what they were doing and nearly killed 324 people.
Xango said he’d found “just the right scarf” before having to pull up the plane
Air traffic controllers in Seattle and Denver repeatedly tried without success to raise the cats’ flight by radio. The airline even tried contacting them using a radio message that played “Baby Got Back“ by Sir Mix-a-Lot. No one could get a response from the cats.
Authorities became so alarmed that National Guard jets prepared for takeoff at two locations and the White House Situation Room alerted senior White House officials, who monitored the flight in case it had been hijacked.
"It's inexcusable," former NTSB Chairman Jarrod Wheatly said. "I feel sorry for the cats involved, I know they didn’t get their purchases made in time, but sometimes you lose the internet connection up there."
Xango was sent to his room without dinner after the incident
Both cats told the board they had never had an accident, incident or violation, the board said. After nearly crashing the plane and killing all 324 people on board, Xango was sent to his room without dinner, where he reportedly cried for six hours straight.
The cats acknowledged that while they were engaged in shopping on their laptops they weren't paying attention to radio traffic, messages from their airline or their cockpit instruments, the NTSB said.
The panel ruled that from now on, pilots would not, for a period of time, be able to surf the internet on laptops or buy outfits online unless one of the two were actually flying the plane.
Sharyn Thoma-Guay reporter-at-large
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