Mystery on flight to Minnesota

October 23, 2009 1:53:26 PM PDT
So what happened on board that Northwest flight from San Diego to Minneapolis, when the pilots were incommunicado for more than an hour, and, during that time, overflew the airport where they were supposed to land. Overflew it by 150 miles, at 37,000 feet.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the two pilots fell asleep in the cockpit ? and were finally awakened up by the crackle of communication attempts from air traffic controllers.

Turns out the cockpit voice recorder has only the last 30 minutes of conversations on tape, and we know the pilots were in communication with the tower for at least 45 minutes ? that's the time frame from when controllers finally contacted the pilots and when the plane landed. So the hope that the voice recorder would show ? what? ? snoring? ? now seems lost.

Still, the bigger question is the safety issue. And for anyone who flies, the questions ? the nagging, frightening, imponderable questions ? are top-of-mind tonight. Just how fatigued are the pilots up there?

We'll have any new developments in the case, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, a murder mystery at a church in Chatham in New Jersey, where a priest was found dead with what cops are describing only as "multiple wounds."

And we're also taking a closer look at a fascinating but somewhat troubling recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania that shows women's happiness has declined over the past three decades ? at least compared to men's happiness.

To me the definition of happiness is hard to generalize to the entire population, other than asking people to assess their own state-of-mind at any given moment. But there may be something here, as our Joe Torres discovered in his special report tonight at 11. The question is why are women not as happy as men?

And under the category of justice served, finally, two men from Dallas, imprisoned for 12 years for a murder they didn't commit, are free tonight thanks to the efforts of a 34-year-old student at the University of Texas. Her name is Natalie Ellis and she's now a criminology major working with the UT's Project Innocence. But she is a high-school dropout with no prior legal experience. And it was her tenacity that proved the innocence of the two convicted men. Two other men are now in custody for the murder.

Anything can happen!

And one more note ? about the passing of Soupy Sales. For those of a certain age, he was a cutting-edge comedian, who took after-school daytime television to a whole new level with a cast of characters that were the antithesis of the normal vanilla cartoon fare. He was controversial and funny and introduced the pie-in-the-face slapstick shtick to the baby boom generation. He was 83 and lived in the Bronx. For those who remember Soupy, and White Fang and Black Tooth and Pookie, a bit of our childhood has passed on.

Does anyone know how to properly spell White Fang's "Bleh oh bleh oh bleh?"

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER

P.S.: One more note about us. Eyewitness News is now on iPhone! We have a new way you can get Eyewitness News anytime, anywhere. Our new iPhone app is waiting for you in the Apple store. Just fire up your iPhone and search the App Store for 7online.com or WABC. It's free, of course, and it has the very latest Eyewitness News stories, video, our AccuWeather forecast and much more. You can get movie times, sports scores, flight info and the list goes on and on...


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