Motherfuckers! They said they had no idea a suicidal pilot could crash a plane, when there were two incidents of just such a thing in 1997 and 1999! And they also knew that there were "growing incidence of assaults on flight attendants and of passengers storming forward to attack pilots in the cockpit...!" Filthy vermin! Swine! (I'm angry, can you tell?)
In what is sure to be a controversy over confidentiality, video recorders are being recommended for installation in the cockpits of all U.S. airliners. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), frustrated in recent domestic and foreign accident investigations by the lack of information that can only be obtained visually, has recommended that cockpit video recorders be installed in all U.S. airliners by Jan. 2005.
The recommendation is not a surprise, given the extensive discussion of video technology at the NTSB's transportation recorder conference last year (see ASW, May 10, 1999).
The implementation date allows time for retrofit of the existing fleet. Newly manufactured aircraft should be outfitted with video recorders starting in 2003, the Safety Board urged. It is an aggressive schedule. It is a controversial issue. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the nation's largest aircrew union, wasted no time in declaring its fervent opposition. "Cockpit video is an egregious invasion of privacy for minimal, if any, safety data," declared ALPA President Duane Woerth. "Today's state of technology is such that we can garner far more, much higher quality information from properly instrumented aircraft..."
At the Society of Aeronautical Engineering (SAE) safety symposium last week, ALPA pilots expressed their unhappiness with the notion of video cameras in the cockpit. Since the flight recorders went dead (possibly from pulled circuit breakers) in the 1997 crash of a SilkAir 737, where the suicidal captain is believed to have plunged the airplane into its death dive, the pilots believe video recorders would have been useless in the accident postmortem. However, the Safety Board wants the circuit breakers for in-flight recorders (data, audio and visual) placed in such a way that they are inaccessible to the flight crew.
The Board believes the video field of view should show "where all the crewmembers are at any given time while in the cockpit." This statement appears to be a reference the Oct. 1999 crash of an EgyptAir 767, in which an apparently suicidal relief pilot seized the controls when the captain stepped out of the cockpit. The Board carefully said that recordings of pilots' faces are not necessary. Chairman Jim Hall presented to Congress a video clip of the desired field of view, which can be seen at this website: http://www.ntsb.gov/speeches/jhc000411.htm .
The Board stopped short of recommending video recordings of the passenger cabin, which might help document for prosecution purposes the growing incidence of assaults on flight attendants and of passengers storming forward to attack pilots in the cockpit (see ASW, March 27). Nor did the Board recommend that aircraft be equipped with a connecting plug outside the aircraft, by which security personnel could tap into the cameras to see inside when hijacked airplanes are on the ground.
The pilots are concerned that cockpit crash videos would be leaked, providing a morbid source of "snuff films" on the Internet. At the SAE conference last week, Bob Baker, Vice Chairman of American Airlines [AMR], suggested, "We have cameras in the simulators for training purposes, and when they leave we give the tape to the crew. Perhaps after the NTSB looks at the tape, it's immediately destroyed."
What the Safety Board Wants:
* Two hours of full-color cockpit video in all cockpits by 2005, capable of recording in sunlight and darkness. (Color is needed to capture the color displays in glass cockpits).
* An independent 10-min. power supply.
* A frame rate sufficient to capture motion and critical crew actions, such as control inputs, display selections or system activations.
* Circuit breakers inaccessible to crew in flight.
The Air Line Pilots Association concern:
* The experience with unauthorized leaks of cockpit voice recorders (CVR) is not heartening. Leaked tapes have been used "for sensationalistic purposes by the media." According to ALPA President Duane Woerth, "Assuming cockpit video with CVR-like protective measures, it would just be a matter of time before the world shares first-hand the cockpit environment in the seconds before a disaster."
Sources: NTSB, ALPACOPYRIGHT 2000 Access Intelligence, LLCCOPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning
"Safety Board Calls for Cameras in the Cockpit". Air Safety Week. FindArticles.com. 01 Aug, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0UBT/is_16_14/ai_61565144/