Cockpit voice recorders have long been uncontroversial; so, now, is flight data monitoring. But video recording remains controversial among pilots.
Should the industry go there?It looks as if the industry is heading down the road toward mandating flightdeck video recording as an accident investigation tool. Although this has looked likely for some time, a boost for the idea has come from an undertaking by the European Aviation Safety Agency to consider rulemaking on the subject as a result of a recommendation in the final report on the August 2005 Helios Airways crash at Grammatikos, Greece.
EASA has made it clear that it will not rush into this policy nor implement it unilaterally. It points out that the International Civil Aviation Organisation is looking at amending its Annex Six standards and recommended practices to that effect for implementation in 2009.
EASA has also committed to look favourably at a recommendation that cockpit voice recorders should have the capacity to record the entire trip. With solid state technology fully capable of doing this and the principle of CVR usage being non-controversial, the Helios accident provides a perfect example of why this proposal should be implemented.
If the implementation of flightdeck video recording is beginning to look inevitable, it would be wise for pilots¹ organisations to start negotiating about how the video evidence may be secured, who could have access to it, what legal status it would have as evidence, and for how long it may be held, rather than simply trying to stop it.
Pilots have argued that cockpit video surveillance would be the most serious intrusion they will yet have suffered into the privacy of their workplace, and the additional useful additional information investigators could gain in most cases would be trifling.
It is also arguable, however, that in the case of the July TAM Airbus A320 landing overrun at Sao Paulo Congonhas airport and the Embraer Legacy that collided with a Gol Boeing 737-800 en-route in Brazil last September, video could clarify what happened to the power levers in the former, and to the transponder in the latter. In countries like Brazil where it is standard procedure to bring criminal charges against the frontline parties involved in an accident, this could help the pilots.
AirSpace - more than just hot air