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Co-pilot: No sleeping or arguing in cockpit

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Pilot: No one was asleep
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Northwest Airlines co-pilot denies reports of cockpit argument
  • Northwest flight overshot Minneapolis by 150 miles
  • NTSB investigating 78 minutes of radio silence
  • Flight crew cooperative and sober, police report says

(CNN) -- The co-pilot of a Northwest Airlines flight that overshot the Minneapolis, Minnesota, airport by 150 miles says he and the pilot weren't asleep and they weren't arguing.

However, Richard I. Cole, who spoke to CNN affiliate KGW-TV from his Salem, Oregon, home, wouldn't say much more Friday. He said an investigation will reveal what took place.

After repeatedly saying he couldn't talk about the case, Cole said that contrary to media reports, "Nobody was asleep in the cockpit. No arguments took place.

"But other than that, I cannot tell you anything that went on because we're having hearings this weekend, we're having hearings on Tuesday. All that information will come out then."

Cole said there's been "a lot of misinformation that's going on. Things are being said that didn't happen, but I can't go into any details."

Video: What went wrong?
Video: Plane overshoots runway
Video: Pilots' silence 'unacceptable'
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Northwest Flight 188 -- an Airbus A320 carrying 144 people and five crew members -- flew past the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport beginning about 7:56 ET Wednesday night while en route from San Diego, California.

There were 78 minutes of radio silence. Air traffic controllers re-established radio contact after the plane had flown about 150 miles past its destination.

Watch as a passenger wonders what was going on

Police who met the wayward jet said the pilots were "cooperative, apologetic and appreciative."

The airport police report, released Friday, said officers asked flight attendants to keep passengers in their seats while they checked out the cockpit.

The report identified the pilot as Timothy B. Cheney and Cole as the first officer.

"The pilot ... indicated they had become involved in conversation and had not heard radio communications," the report said. "They indicated there had been no involvement from anyone in the cabin."

The report said, "Both volunteered to a preliminary breath test with the result being .000 for both parties."

The lead flight attendant told officers she was unaware there had been an incident aboard, the report said.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, is hoping the plane's cockpit voice recorder will either confirm the pilot's account or provide evidence of another possible explanation, including whether the captain and first officer had fallen asleep.

Earlier, the NTSB released a statement that said, "The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness."

Watch how the Flight 188 drama unfolded

The voice recorder is capable of recording only 30 minutes of audio, federal accident investigators said Friday. The plane was in the air for another 45 minutes after radio contact was restored, meaning that if the recorder was working properly, anything the pilots would have said during the time they were not answering radio calls would have been recorded over.

But a former accident investigator said the voice recorder may still provide valuable information, because the pilots could have discussed the earlier events on the way back to Minneapolis.

The separate flight data recorder also could prove valuable because it would have recorded actions taken by the pilots during the 78 minutes they did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers, the investigator said.

Watch as a former NTSB official calls the long silence "unacceptable"

The safety board said Friday that experts were reviewing the solid-state voice recorder. It said the recorder "captured a portion of the flight that is being analyzed" and added there would be no further comment.

 
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