Investigators have determined that the pilots of Northwest flight 188 were both using their personal laptops in the cockpit at the time they stopped communicating with Air Traffic Controllers and overflew Minneapolis airport. While this may seem perfectly harmless on the surface, it is painfully obvious how large an impact this could have had on the safe outcome of the flight.
Delta Airlines company policy forbids pilots from using their personal laptops in the cockpit during flight, and they have indicated that any employees violating company policy will be fired. It goes without saying that both pilots, Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole, have inflicted serious harm to their careers. The pilots are guaranteed to lose their jobs, and the FAA is very likely going to suspend or revoke their pilot certificates.
The actions by Delta and the FAA in this incident are unfortunate, but entirely justified in my opinion. We pilots have an awesome responsibility when it comes to the passengers we carry, and allowing oneself to become distracted in this way, and to this degree, is inexcusable.