The captain of an Ansett New Zealand Bombardier Dash 8, which crashed in June 1995, killing five people, is facing a manslaughter charge based partly on the use of cockpit voice recordings.

The aircraft hit a ridge in poor weather on a non-precision approach to Palmerston North, New Zealand, while the captain was flying and the co-pilot was trying to rectify an undercarriage fault.

The International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) has "objected in the strongest possible terms", because the police will be relying for evidence partly on the cockpit voice recorder tapes which, by international convention and according to New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority regulations, are supposed to be used only for accident investigation.

The IFALPA says: "We do not question the right of the authorities to press charges against airline pilots where there is reasonable suspicion that the pilot has been guilty of gross or criminal negligence [but] pilots, whose workplace is invaded by gadgets which continuously monitor their every word and action, need to communicate inflight operational requirements without the distraction of wondering how their remarks -may later be interpreted from a cockpit voice recorder record."

Source: Flight International