Two Northwest Airlines pilots may have been asleep at the wheel when their Minneapolis-bound plane overshot its destination by 150 miles before they realized what had happened, turned the plane around, and returned to their destination. One national TV commentator speculated that since many passenger jets today have the technology to essentially fly themselves, this may have been a case of pilots becoming complacent and not fully doing their job of closely monitoring the plane’s performance. In a previous blog post, I labeled this kind of behavior the “complacency syndrome.”

Airplane pilots are not the only employees who risk complacency. Staying with air-travel examples, I have noticed TSA employees being more interested in socializing with their co-workers than paying attention to the repetitive and mind-numbing task of checking people and their luggage day after day. And flight attendants, who have to announce safety instructions at the beginning of every flight, doing this sounding like they couldn’t care less about safety. And luggage handlers who, over time, become careless and lackadaisical in their treatment of passengers’ precious goods, which leads to lost and damaged property. It’s unpleasant and annoying to passengers when flight attendants and luggage handlers suffer from the complacency syndrome; it’s life-threatening when TSA officers and airline pilots have this disease.