This piece in the WIRED was published just seven days prior to the downing of Malaysia Airlines (MH) Flight 17 and focuses on MH 370 that mysteriously disappeared back in March. However, in spite of both airline tragedies, the author (Alex Davies) discusses a revived proposal that’s been kicked around for 14 years: Putting cameras in cockpits.
The most popular theory regarding MH370 is something killed or debilitated the crew and the plane flew for hours on auto pilot before running out of fuel and falling into the sea. If that’s the case, the cockpit voice recorder will be largely useless, as it contains just two hours of data. Investigators would glean little or no meaningful info from the recorder.
A camera in the cockpit would augment data from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, providing additional insights for investigators. The idea was first proposed in 2000 by the National Transportation Safety Board, which said video cameras “would provide critical information to investigators about the actions inside the cockpit immediately before and during an accident.” Did smoke fill the cockpit? Did a violent passenger break in? Did the pilot pass out? Video could answer such questions.
Pilots don’t see the disappearance of Flight 370 as a reason to embrace cameras. They cite two reasons for their opposition: Video surveillance will almost certainly be misinterpreted or get into the wrong hands, and it can adversely affect how they do their jobs. “What a camera can capture can be so easily misunderstood and misconstrued,” says Doug Moss, a former test pilot and accident investigator.
Read the rest at wired.com
Putting cameras in cockpits is a very interesting concept and not terribly unrealistic. Indeed, we already see such devices on public transit including trains/subways, city buses, and school buses. The airlines could implement this on their own without government playing their hand and making this a rule/law. My guess is that either party (the airlines of the government) will likely face eventual ligation from the various airlines unions if implemented. The WIRED article concludes with an compelling quote from a military accident investigator:
Matthew Robinson, a retired Marine Corps pilot and official accident investigator for the Navy, says more research needs to be done before cameras can be installed in cockpits, to figure out the specifics of the systems. He echoes concerns about privacy questions and the cost of these systems. But as an investigator, “more information, more data, more evidence is always welcome in figuring out what brought down an aircraft,” he says. “I’ll never turn down evidence.”