Mandatory crash-proof flight deck video recorders appear to be one step closer to adoption following acceptance by the European Aviation Safety Agency of most of the safety recommendations in the report into the August 2005 Helios Airways Boeing 737-300 accident.
In the accident the crew became unconscious from hypoxia during the climb out of Larnaca, Cyprus, bound for Athens, Greece, because they had left the pressurisation control in manual when it should have been in automatic mode. The aircraft flew on autopilot for nearly three hours and crashed near Athens when it ran out of fuel, killing all 115 passengers and six crew.
EASA has accepted a recommendation by the Hellenic Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Safety Board (AAIASB) to both EASA and the International Civil Aviation Organisation that the feasibility of installing flight deck video recorders should be studied.
The agency comments: "The ICAO flight recorder panel is currently working on the matter with a view to have proposed amendments to Annex 6 for applicability in 2009. EASA is carefully monitoring that work and will consider starting an amendment procedure of the European regulatory framework."
EASA also accepted three other AAIASB recommendations for rulemaking consideration: that flight deck and cabin crew should be provided with mandatory practical hypoxia training taking advantage of modern hypoxia training tools that aircraft manufacturers should develop cockpit voice recorders (CVR) which record the whole duration of the flight and that all company radio communications with their crews during operations shall be recorded.
In the case of the Helios accident, before they lost consciousness the crew were discussing with their base the fact that a warning horn was sounding. It was the cabin altitude warning horn, but the sound was the same as the take-off configuration warning horn and the crew interpreted it as a false configuration alert.
The conversation was not recorded at base, and it was not on the CVR because too much time had passed when the aircraft ultimately crashed.