The journalism gods turned prankish Friday. As Chesley Sullenberger was taping a PBS News Hour interview about how he how saved 155 lives by landing safely in the Hudson River last January, two other pilots were overshooting Minneapolis by 150 miles.
The incident recalled an old standup routine in which Bob Newhart comes on the intercom as a clueless cockpit voice to ask, "Would any of you folks back there recognize Cleveland if you saw it?"
Now, the Northwest pilots are facing suspension as the FAA tries to figure out what caused their lapse to send fighter planes scrambling and put the White House situation room on alert.
“We were not asleep, we were not having an argument or fighting,” one of them insists about the mysteriously missing hour and a half of their flight as Sullenberger promotes the book which dissects his own life to explain those three minutes in which he and his co-pilot worked feverishly to save all those lives.
Millions fly daily to zigzag the world, and the voice that welcomes them onboard might just as well be computer-generated for all they know or care. At least for a time now, some will stop and give a fleeting thought to who is up front with their lives in their hands.