The Crash of Flight 9525, and how the Aviation Industry weighs Profit over Safety.
2006. That was the last time anyone had a substantive discussion about cameras in the cockpit, CIRs, In the wake of this latest air disaster the time to rediscover that critical conversation is now. And while the likelihood that CIRs might have prevented the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, lessons and data learned from previous crashes continue to make flying the safest form of travel on the planet. The logic and arguments against CIRs simply do not stand scrutiny or make any sense.
At the time of this report investigators were leaning more and more to the stark and unsettling conclusion that the co-pilot, 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the aircraft in the French Alps during what would have been a very routine 2 hour flight between Barcelona and Dusseldorf. The aircraft, an Airbus A320, with 150 passengers and crew is operated by a subsidiary of Lufthansa, Germany’s national carrier. Indications are that Lubitz did not suffer any medical condition. The pilot could be heard knocking on the door, and then attempting to smash open the door in the seconds before the aircraft slammed into a mountainside, killing all aboard instantly.
The issue of CIRs, Cockpit Image recorders has never received serious or adequate debate by government regulating bodies, airlines or the public for that matter. The media also has failed in taking up the issue, even despite their general hysteria over security and terrorism. Rand Paul’s sales driven effort to arm pilots last year garnered far greater media attention. That virtual blackout leaves commercial airlines, their employees and most especially the flying public vulnerable to disaster like Flight 9525, and eliminates a critical tool for investigators.
Despite recommendations from the NTSB, FAA, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the nonprofit, nongovernmental body, the European Organization for Civil Aviation (EUROCAE), progress has been desperately slow in coming. Much of the focus was on real-time streaming of data from the aircraft, something that was deemed unfeasible and prohibitively expensive. The larger question of building upon data collection for crash and incident investigations was all but dropped. The necessity to augment with images/video current monitoring and collection systems like the Cockpit Voice Recorders, CVRs, and Flight Data Recorders, FDRs, the so-called Black Boxes, would seem to be elementary. Resistance to CIRs has been fierce.
A June 2009 FAA report, Federal Aviation Administration FDM Systems and NORSEE, estimated the cost of CIRs installed or retrofitted on commercial aircraft to be between $10 and 20 thousand Dollars USD per aircraft. That is indeed a sizeable price tag, but then so are catastrophic disasters and ignorance. Each carries a monumental price tag. However, a revolution in recordable media has occurred in the last 6-7 years since the FAA report was issued. There has been a substantial increase in storage capacity, quality, as well as reductions in weight, durability and size. More than that, speaking directly to financial considerations, there have been amazing reductions in the cost of that media, in some instances a doubling or quadrupling of storage capacity for a fraction of the cost. Given all of that, arguments and opposition to CIRs at the airline level become painfully thin and weak.
The airline Pilots Association, ALPA, the industry’s largest pilot’s union, with over 64,000 members continues to be the loudest opponent to CIRs. Their concerns center almost solely around privacy issues. Communications and actions by pilots in the cockpit are already recorded and preserved on the CVR and FDR. Numerous court rulings contradict the notion of blanket privacy in the workplace; the flight deck of a commercial aircraft should be no different.
CIRs, like currently required CVRs and FDRs collect raw data for investigators after an incident has occurred. Innovation and understanding gleaned from previous incidents and the anticipation of future incidents feeds the body of data critical to designing safer aircraft and in preventing future accidents. It simply makes no rational sense to ignore a critical body of data. Such a system would have proved a powerful tool in determining in a timelier manner then destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over the Ukraine in July 2014. The lack of CIRs is rather like blindfolding law enforcement or playing only the audio portion of a bank robbery. It simply does not make any sense.
It is time to rekindle that conversation. CIRs would not have prevented to tragedy of Flight 9525, but it might help prevent future such disasters. What is required are not hollow recommendations by bodies without legislative or oversight authority. What is required is legislation that would require CIRs on all commercial aircraft as a first step. Next would be a global requirement by all commercial carriers.
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “Shoot Down: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting. Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.