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Pilots Blast NTSB on Cockpit Video Cameras

Call cameras "fool's gold" of crash investigation  

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Calling proposals to install video cameras in the cockpits of commercial airliners the "fool’s gold" of accident investigation, representatives of the Air Line Pilots Association have told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that pilots are universally opposed to the idea.

"ALPA is strongly opposed to cockpit imaging recorders because the benefits of video imaging are vastly overrated, and because far more effective and efficient tools exist that will not only obtain the safety data necessary to accurately investigate an accident, but also help to prevent future accidents," said Capt. Paul Rice, ALPA’s vice president of administration in a press release.

"The imagery information gathered from cockpit image recorders is subjective, not objective, and is unlikely to provide the detailed data that proponents promise or that is vital to any accurate air carrier accident investigation. On the other hand, data from sources such as the digital flight data recorder is unambiguous and not subject to analytical shortcomings associated with video. The NTSB has already recommended expanding the amount of information gathered by the digital flight data recorder, and we fully agree. Expanded DFDR data will be far more effective than adding video," Rice said.

"The Commercial Aviation Safety Team, an industry and government group convened to analyze accidents and rank the critical actions that would enhance commercial aviation safety, didn’t include cockpit video anywhere on its list. Nor are we aware of any strong desire by the FAA for cockpit cameras," Rice said.

"History has shown that in the current environment it is impossible to safeguard the privacy of cockpit voice recorders, much less cockpit image recorders. When cockpit voice recorders were originally installed, it was done with clear expectations about pilot privacy. Those expectations have not been met, even with the strong legislative protections enacted in later years. Note the Cali, Colombia accident as a shameful example of how these recordings can find their way into the news media. Given the significant technological concerns that exist, ALPA does not believe that the costs and pilot privacy issues are outweighed by any purported benefits," Rice said.

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