Delta Grounds Veteran Pilot Whose Error Caused Jet to Lose Power, Drop 1,100 Feet

Associated Press

Delta Air Lines says it has disciplined and grounded the captain of a jet who caused the plane to plunge 1,100 feet after takeoff from Los Angeles when he mistakenly shut off both engines.

The airline found the captain at fault in the June 30 incident, said Jackie Pate, a spokeswoman at Delta headquarters in Atlanta. Delta investigators cleared the aircraft’s first officer of wrongdoing, and he has returned to duty, Pate said Wednesday.

Delta would not identify the two pilots or provide details of the disciplinary action taken against the captain because it is considered a personnel matter, Pate said.


“He is not flying right now,” she said.

29-Year Veteran

The captain has been flying for 29 years and the first officer has 14 years of flying experience, Delta spokesman Dick Jones said.

The Boeing 767 jetliner was carrying 197 passengers and eight crew members from Los Angeles to Cincinnati when it plunged from 1,750 feet above the Pacific Ocean to slightly less than 600 feet, according to information federal investigators obtained from the flight recorder.

No injuries were reported, but the passengers were instructed to put on life jackets during the approximately 75 seconds the captain needed to restart the engines of the plunging jet.

The captain told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that he had pulled the wrong switch, cutting fuel to both engines and causing them to shut off. Reacting to a warning light in the right automatic engine control unit of the jet, he accidentally turned off the fuel switches to both engines while trying to disengage the engine control, NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said the captain told investigators.