The flight's saga -- during which controllers worried the jetliner might have been hijacked -- appears to offer examples of two of the biggest safety hazards in commercial aviation: lax cockpit discipline and pilot complacency.
Investigators say the pilots recounted that they became engrossed in a heated discussion about a newly designed work-schedule system -- a controversial topic among pilots since Northwest was merged with Delta Air Lines Inc. Both pilots retrieved their laptops, and the first officer demonstrated to the captain how the new scheduling system worked.
It would be interesting to learn more about this "newly designed, controversial work-schedule system" which elicited "heated discussion" from the pilots -- especially after revelations of low pay and pilot fatigue surfaced in the Buffalo, NY crash.
Working conditions are the sort of thing you'd want to rule out only after arriving at complete confidence they played no significant role in pilot error; they kind of have implications for countless airline passengers and crew!
But when you operate from the assumption that anyone dissatisfied with a career in aviation is "free" to start their own airline, it is hard to accept that working conditions should ever be accounted for at all. So this becomes a story about "laptops."