Cockpit video recorders, especially in commercial airliners and aircraft flown for hire, are a vital next step in accident prevention and analyses.
Pilots have been against them because they fear that they will be used to evaluate their performance in the cockpit as well as for disciplinary action, rather than for accident investigation.
The reality is that cockpit voice recorders alone are frequently insufficient, even when aided by flight data recorders, to evaluate the human factors in aircraft accidents. Cockpit video recorders are an essential technology that has come of age.
There should be no reluctance to use the videos for training purposes and for disciplinary action as well, if dangerous behavior is observed, since flight safety is the goal.
Today's technology allows for data stream recovery in flight and is already used for trend monitoring of aircraft systems. Soon, it will be possible to have all of the necessary information for accident and crew performance analyses to be downloaded in real time as the aircraft makes its way to the destination. This will allow computers to do mechanical troubleshooting while airborne so mechanical related delay, diversion or worse can be avoided by taking preemptive action at the next stop, or even in flight.
Preventing accidents by utilizing all available tools is critical to the maintenance of the outstanding safety record of U.S. airlines and the safety improvement that can be achieved by foreign air carriers. Enhancing crew performance by evaluating it while in service can be a windfall of opportunity and help make good, safe pilots even better.
Once introduced, no pilot will think about the existence of cameras in the cockpit. They will soon become as innocuous as flight data and cockpit voice recorders became shortly after their introduction, an event that pilots also objected to for the very same reasons as are being articulated now.
Aviation safety is no accident and no step that will improve safety should be spared.
Arthur Alan Wolk