WORDS BY DAVID REYNOLDS, SENIOR TECHNICAL OFFICER NZALPA
Airborne Image Recording Systems (AIRS) or flight deck monitoring cameras are something that many countries and accident investigative bodies have sought to have installed in commercial aircraft for the past decade. Their belief being that this provides an additional source of information that benefits air accident investigations.
The matter has sat with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) throughout the decade and despite vociferous campaigning by those seeking the installation of AIRS, we have managed, together with the majority of pilot associations and our global representative body IFALPA, to deter a requirement for their installment. Together we believe AIRS do not contribute significantly to achieving a successful outcome to an air accident investigation.
In fact, we consider that the use of AIRS could actually hinder the outcome of air accident investigations.
This view is shared by well-respected accident investigative bodies such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UKCAA) and the internationally renowned UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (UK AAIB). UK CAA research (CAP 762- The Effectiveness of Image Recorder Systems in Accident Investigations) shows that AIRS data would not provide any significant value to an investigation, and data could well be misinterpreted and lead investigations along a spurious path. Equally, global commercial airline accident rates are at an all-time low and thus the net gain from AIRS installation would also be low.
There is also the inevitable prospect of this data being leaked into the public domain. I shall say no more.
NZALPA continues to maintain that Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) data alone remain sufficient for accident investigation purposes. The data obtained from these sources are developed at an exponential rate. In addition, the shear wealth of data available from new generations of aircraft such as the B787 and A350 is staggering and more than sufficient in investigative terms.
So where are we now? In the main, thanks to the joint efforts at ICAO of global pilot associations and IFALPA we have successfully had ‘images’ removed from the proposed ICAO Standards title. It will now be named "Flight crew-machine interface recordings". The standard now effectively requires the recording of information displayed on electronic displays and the operation of switches and selectors, as well as the information displayed to the crew from electronic displays, sensors or other electronic means. It does not require the filming of crew or flight deck.
We also have the backing of several ICAO States, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA). We will, however, need to keep up the pressure on ICAO to ensure cameras don’t become a feature of our daily lives.
Good work IFALPA and the NZALPA Technical Sub - Committee.