AF447 inquiry recommends use of cockpit image recorders

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French investigators have raised the controversial prospect of installing video cameras in the cockpit to aid crash investigation, in the wake of the loss of Air France AF447.

The Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses, in an update to the investigation into the Airbus A330 accident over the South Atlantic, said it would recommend that passenger aircraft be fitted with image recorders to "observe the whole of the instrument panel".

Image recording is a highly contentious subject - there remains strong resistance from pilot representatives - and the BEA also pointed out that it would recommend the introduction of "strict rules relating to the use of such recordings".

The technology is available for such a move and the BEA is not the first investigative agency to seek it. The US National Transportation Safety Board lists the capability among its 10 'most wanted' safety developments.

"Even with better techniques, better tools, multiple on-board computers, and data and voice recorders, some questions remain unanswered because we lack the first-hand knowledge that can only be gleaned from image recordings," it said.

"Most of the difficult work has already been accomplished by the industry. Low-cost, compact image recorders capable of storing several hours of information are readily available. We simply need the regulations to require their use, where the expectations for promoting safety are higher and therefore outweigh some privacy concerns."

BEA investigators, in their latest interim report on the Air France crash, have also confirmed a recommendation for mandatory triggering of data transmission or emergency locator activation in the event of an accident, in order to assist with localisation of the crash site.