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Transportation Privacy

Why the Final Moments Inside a Cockpit Are Heard But Not Seen 447

jones_supa writes: There's no video footage from inside the cockpit of the Germanwings flight that left 150 people dead — nor is such footage recorded from any other commercial airline crash in recent years. Unlike many other vehicles operating with heightened safety concerns, airline cockpits don't come with video surveillance. The reason, in part, is that airline pilots and their unions have argued vigorously against what they see as an invasion of privacy that would not improve aviation safety. The long debate on whether airplane cockpits in the U.S. should be equipped with cameras dates back at least 15 years, when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first pushed regulators to require video monitoring following what the agency called "several accidents involving a lack of information regarding crewmember actions and the flight deck environment." The latest NTSB recommendation for a cockpit image system (PDF) came in January 2015. Should video streams captured inside the plane become a standard part of aviation safety measures?
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Why the Final Moments Inside a Cockpit Are Heard But Not Seen

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  • by opus_magnum ( 1688810 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:24AM (#49364431)
    We already have a pretty good idea of what happened to the Germanwings flight even with 1 damaged black box.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:31AM (#49364443)

      You mean that the pilot rendered the co-pilot unconscious, re-set the height on the autopilot, then theatrically knocked on the door to make it sound like he was locked out?

      Oh right.

      • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:47AM (#49364501)

        Apparently the pilot is a master at voices.

        Even if that half-assed attempt was true, it doesn't improve the safety - they'd still all be dead. It just gives us the ability to ogle and lay blame.

        • Apparently the pilot is a master at voices.

          Really? Wow.

        • Apparently the pilot is a master at voices.

          Even if that half-assed attempt was true, it doesn't improve the safety - they'd still all be dead. It just gives us the ability to ogle and lay blame.

          Welcome to earth, you must be new here.

        • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @10:16AM (#49365145)

          Apparently the pilot is a master at voices.

          Even if that half-assed attempt was true, it doesn't improve the safety - they'd still all be dead. It just gives us the ability to ogle and lay blame.

          Root cause analysis is not just about laying blame, it's about finding out where the processes/procedures broke down and how they can be improved to prevent a similar incident in the future.

          • Root cause analysis is not just about laying blame, it's about finding out where the processes/procedures broke down and how they can be improved to prevent a similar incident in the future.

            Sure, but this is not a case where video would help that in any way. A captain's privy on the right side of the cockpit door would have helped, but not a camera.

          • by Stripe7 ( 571267 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @09:14PM (#49367871)
            If it is a privacy issue, why not have the video footage be stored is a separate memory card that can be flushed from the cockpit of the plane once it lands. Flushing would be locked out until the plane is stationary. The exit checklist for the pilot would include entering a code that would flush the video of the flight cockpit after landing. Let it be two codes, one that locks out the flushing ability, and another that flushes it. In the case of a hijacking he can enter the former and the response to the console would be identical in either case.
            • by RespekMyAthorati ( 798091 ) on Monday March 30, 2015 @12:05AM (#49368341)
              How the hell is anyone entitled to privacy while on duty?
              That is a fundamentally stupid idea.

              Fuck the pilot's union.
              • Seriously, what are they doing in the cockpit that needs privacy? Privacy is for when you're retiring for the night with your spouse, not flying an airline full of people.

                Can't wait to go board a plane where the pilots do god knows what up front that needs privacy. Very reassuring.

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

                In Europe workers do have a certain expectation of privacy at work. For example, your employer can't read your private emails even if you use a company computer to access them at lunch time.

                Exactly where you draw the line isn't entirely clear. I'd have thought that an aircraft's cockpit would be a reasonable place to put a camera. I imagine the main objection from the union is that the airline will be looking over their shoulders the whole time, which could be dealt with by making it a rule that the recordi

                • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Monday March 30, 2015 @10:51AM (#49370881)

                  Exactly where you draw the line isn't entirely clear. I'd have thought that an aircraft's cockpit would be a reasonable place to put a camera. I imagine the main objection from the union is that the airline will be looking over their shoulders the whole time, which could be dealt with by making it a rule that the recording only be in the black box and only accessible in case of an accident.

                  They're still opposed.

                  But they can be persuaded, for a few bucks.

                  You may not realize it, but pilots are in general some of the worst paid people given the responsibility - it's very possible the public transit bus driver earns more than the pilot!

                  In a regional airline, salaries are barely above minimum wage - $20,000/year is not unusual for someone "starting out" - after spending $50k+ on their own training (including the necessary hours to even get the right licenses - airlines don't pay for the ATPL). Even top end captain is rarely much above $60K, and most want to hop onto the heavies before that because you start at the very bottom again with the shit routes, shit times, and shit pay.

                  Oh yeah, you may also have to "commute" which can easily kill an entire day just flying standby from your home to where you're supposed to start your route. It's only the past few years that the FAA and other bodies have started including commuting time as part of the duty day calculation (notably because more than a few accidents have been caused by pilots basically only getting 1 hour of sleep the past 24). It's still unpaid, though, just like you don't get paid driving from your house to the office.

                  Once you have your 20 years, you probably have enough seniority to get 6 figure salaries ($130K or so) and left seat captain time as well as the ability to pick the nicer routes.

                  I can bet you the unions will use video cameras as a bargaining ticket to bring raises all around from "barely able to live" to at least livable.

                  And yes, more than a few people who earned big bucks have considered a career in flying - the basic rule is if you can cut back your standard of living significantly (you're basically going from a high pay to barely nothing), or have a spouse that earns enough to pay the bills for the first 5 years or so, it's potentially doable. But if you're going to miss the money or such, it's not worth it because pilots are really low-paid professionals.

        • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @11:01AM (#49365339)

          we should also put camera's on computer programers to see if they are slacking off or picking their noses.

          Camera camera camera. the benefits of surveilance are not a sufficient reason to overcome the pervasive invasiveness. pychologically were a private species.

          • pychologically were a private species.

            Except of course when we lie helpless on the operating table, or aboard a jumble jet being flown into the Alps.

          • there should be no expectation of privacy for the pilot when he is at work piloting a plane with people in it.

            if they were smart, they'd propose to record flights and wipe the video unless something of consequence is detected in the flight logs or voice coms, etc. hard to argue against that unless you have something to hide.

      • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @01:03PM (#49365775) Homepage Journal

        And if we could all watch that in an endless loop on CNN, it would tell us what useful information? We already know that the co-pilot went nutzy-cuckoo and deliberately crashed the plane. We already know he took the pilot out of the picture to do it.

        So surely the answer is to amp up the psychological stress a few more notches because we all know that high stress makes people more likely to go nutzy-cuckoo and that.... HEY, perhaps we shouldn't do that.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:41AM (#49364475)

      The last thing you would have seen on the Germanwings video, would have been a piece of black tape being pasted over the camera lens.

      • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:47AM (#49364495)

        That would tell you quite a bit about the cause.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by segedunum ( 883035 )
      We know absolutely nothing, despite the pathetic attempts to convince us otherwise.

      The data recorder would have corroborated everything but of course, that's damaged with its data card missing.
      • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:50AM (#49364515)

        The purpose of the black boxes is not to convince people who don't want to believe. The purpose is mainly to increase future safety. That can be done whether you believe or not.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by segedunum ( 883035 )

          The purpose of the black boxes is not to convince people who don't want to believe. The purpose is mainly to increase future safety. That can be done whether you believe or not.

          The purpose is to find out what happened and concentrate on that, as opposed to character assassinating a pilot with no evidence whatsoever. Major revelation to grasp that, I know.

          • by itzly ( 3699663 )

            We are finding out what happened. And it's the pilot that has assassinated his own character, as well as his passengers.

            ....and belief has absolutely nothing to do with it.

            Sure it has. Plenty of evidence has been shown. You choose not to believe it.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by segedunum ( 883035 )

              Sure it has.

              What I 'believe' caused a crash means nothing. The evidence for what happened, is.

              Plenty of evidence has been shown.

              There is no evidence whatsoever. A French prosecutor who isn't an air crash investigator has given us a version of events that he believes happened on a recording we have never heard. What's followed is a character assassination of a pilot and a ransacking of his home rather than what happened leading up to the crash. That's all. You have a funny idea as to what constitutes evidence, but that doesn't seem to be unusual these d

              • by itzly ( 3699663 )

                A French prosecutor who isn't an air crash investigator has given us a version of events that he believes happened on a recording we have never heard

                So you don't believe the prosecutor ?

        • ....and belief has absolutely nothing to do with it.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:42AM (#49364485) Homepage Journal

      it would have shown it faster and in more definite fashion.

      think about it. 10 small(or just light, space isn't an issue so much as weight) boxes that save the stream, have the memory on robust enough media(flash). the boxes would need to weight a kilo each to be quite robust.

      no invasion of privacy either if there is no accident, so whats the big deal? you would think pilots wanted it too, to clear them from pilot error claims.

      but it's not really just about this flight either, just that the black box system is pretty antiquated - and in many other cases a video could have shed more light to the cockpit actions which caused the crash or caused the pilots to not be able to recover from equipment failure.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2015 @11:21AM (#49365413)

        I understand that people who know nothing about flying think video is some miracle or something, but the data recorder shows exactly what the controls are set at. Quick: look at the thrust lever. What percentage of max thrust is it set at? You have to guess with video. The data recorder will tell you exactly.

        Why exactly are data recorders antiquated? I mean the concept, not a specific device. This notion that everything should be recorded all the time is idiotic.

        Pilots hate this idea because it will show they are human. They make jokes, complain about work, talk about their weekends, etc. Have an incident and armchair idiots will be putting over every last everything trying to find something to blame it on. Oh, the captain discussed his favorite beer, he must have a drinking problem! Quick: let's go through his entire background until we find someone who one time saw him drunk at a football game and interview that person all week.

        This is why pilots hate this. That and what is to stop their employer from listening in on their conversions? They might be taking about pay, or working conditions, and we have to stop that. The reason data and voice recorders only record a certain period of time started as a technological limitation but pilots insist on it staying that way for good reason. A complete flight needs no record like that. Video idiots of course will want the whole flight recorded, and pilots know this do it had to be stopped. If I have to watch everything I say and comment on every second I'm on duty at my own job, I'm going to be nervous and borderline hostile. That is not what I want my pilot to be.

        Look, if it actually increased safety, as the data and voice recorders have done, they would be all for it. But it won't. It will only have unintended consequences. How about letting the people who do the job have a big say in this and stop the armchair lunacy.

        • Everything they say is already recorded. Recording audio is arguably much more privacy-invasive than video, so I fail to see how video would be some dramatic chilling effect like you suggest. Yes, all the plane settings are recorded by the black box, but video could give another insight as to *why* the pilots reacted the way they did. If it increases flight safety in the wake of an accident, I think that deserves consideration. I don't want to necessarily alienate the pilots, but I'd like to hear the pr

    • Don't they serve Germanwings now at Hooters? I hear they're delicious.
    • by sethaw ( 598206 )
      It would help other investigations much more than the germanwinds flight. Look at SilkAir Flight 185. That flight was intentionally crashed by the pilot but the investigation conclusions are disputed between the NTSB and the Indonesian government. Before the crash the CVR stopped recording and NTSB believes that because you don't hear a click on the voice recorder that the circuit breaker was intentionally pulled by the pilot. If they had a video recorded then there would be conclusive because you would
    • We already have a pretty good idea of what happened to the Germanwings flight even with 1 damaged black box.

      Indeed. Every day the poor guy has a new condition: he was depressed, had vision problems, was a narcissist, ... So he was also probably deaf, and didn't hear the captain knocking at the door - which he locked by moving the button to the opposite direction, being also dyslexic. This in addition to some orientation problems, making him think he was already at Dusseldorf airport (his internal clock being also broke).

  • Still photos (Score:5, Interesting)

    by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:28AM (#49364435)

    A compromise could be the use of still photographs. Even with one photo per 10 seconds, it would give you a lot of extra information. As far as privacy, I would feel that the audio capture is a bigger invasion of privacy than a bunch of photographs.

    • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:57AM (#49364531) Homepage

      Unless there is a lot of jerking-off or running around in underwear going on, I generally don't see how even video is much of an invasion compared to audio...

    • by Znork ( 31774 )

      Yeah, a better compromise is removing the pilots. If it's possible to build an autonomous car, building a completely automated plane is a simple exercise in comparison. Run it on cargo for a few years, leave an option for remote control, but frankly, between terrorists, suicidal pilots, drunk pilots and pilots doing the completely wrong thing, it's time to look for a more long term solution.

  • SpaceShipTwo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @07:28AM (#49364439)
    An interesting note is that we do have cockpit video of the SpaceShipTwo disaster because no such union was involved, and it did seem to result in useful information. Still not sure which side of the issue I land on. I know I wouldn't want to be videotaped 24/7 at work.
  • So why not record pilots? After all, their cargo is much more valuable.

  • by Pascal Sartoretti ( 454385 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @08:17AM (#49364617)
    A compromise would be to record it on a 15 minutes circular buffer. No privacy issue, except in case of crash.
    • by brambus ( 3457531 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @09:14AM (#49364851)
      Agreed, and this is already how the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) works, but it records for a lot longer (around 24 hours, IIRC). Personally, as a pilot I wouldn't mind a 24-hour circular video buffer that's stored on the airplane and not automatically archived unless there's an incident - in that situation, I'd wanna have as much data available as possible, as that improves the chance of preventing a future occurrence. Preferably not just a wide-angle lens inside of the cockpit, but also perhaps a closeup of the instrument panel so that indications displayed to pilots are clearly visible.
      ATC operators are already being filmed left and right (in addition to voice recorded) when they're at their stations and the footage is archived as well, so why should pilots not be similarly scrutinized is beyond me.
    • That's pretty much what happens with the voice and data recorders anyway, although for longer periods. The voice recorder records two hours (at a minimum), which is going to pick the entire runup to pretty much any crash (MH370 possibly being the exception).

      Recording video for the same 2 hours seems very sensible to me. It's very easy to misinterpret noises or things people say if you don't have the full context.

      I honestly don't understand the objections to video recording when you already have voice record

  • A $300 gopro recording to a $100 128GB MicroSD chip would add $150,000 to the cost of each plane and would be easily defeated with duct tape.
    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      Somebody putting duct tape on the lens, just before the crash, would have confirmed it was not an accident. So, the camera would not have been defeated.

      • All the sensor data and controls should go into the box; that will tell you what was going on far far more than a blurry video. You could store the state of every single control in detail over time for hours in the space it takes to store a few frames of video. Besides that you could use such information to find patterns in how they handle disaster situations which could be used for education and design... and A.I. Pilot suicides like this are extremely rare... but we want to spend a ton of money so we c

    • by Nethead ( 1563 )

      Ah, I see that you have also worked in aerospace!

      The old joke is, "How do you turn a 50 cent screw into a 5 dollar screw? Put it on an airplane!"

  • by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @08:42AM (#49364709)

    Someone like Andreas Lubitz could have just reached up and stuck something over the camera lens. That's if he even cared about being filmed, which is doubtful. From what we're hearing about his desire for notoriety, he'd have probably loved to have those last moments caught on camera and broadcast around the world.

    We're probably going to see a lot of TV news shows and newspapers calling for cameras in cockpits, but it won't be anything to do with safety, it will be because the footage has commercial value to news organisations.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @08:53AM (#49364749)

    while cockpit video cameras may help determine the cause of some crashes, there are plenty of recent examples where it wouldn't help.

    For example if Malaysia airlines had cockpit video, it would not tell us who fired the missile and why. *for the one shot down in the Ukraine) and we don't have any black boxes from the other one (at the bottom of the indian ocean)

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      For example if Malaysia airlines had cockpit video, it would not tell us who fired the missile and why

      But it could still rule out some other possible explanations, making the missile scenario more likely.

  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @09:02AM (#49364791)

    If there's an actual case for safety, I'll all for it.

    But so far the people advocating for it are clearly motivated by voyeurism.

  • Most large airliners today have some kind of in-flight cell phone/internet access. Apparently the flight recorder data is about 6 kbps, if you want to include the cockpit voice recorder you may double that. You'd immediately know when it goes dark and send out a search&rescue party, it can't get lost or destroyed in a crash, you would have data right away not days and weeks later and you could often deduce the problem long before you find the boxes.

  • When scores ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @10:17AM (#49365149) Homepage
    ... even hundreds of people's lives are in your hands, you have no right to an expectation of privacy regarding your actions that directly affect those lives.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Why not? And what would be the number of when it becomes illegal? 500 people? 100 people? 10 people? 2? 1?

      At some point wer are ALL responsible for somebodies lives. So this is a slippery slope to surveilance of everybody and in Europe that is something we do not want (That does not mean it isn't happening)

      This means that people can not be filmed when they are doing their job. This is somebody working in a pub (no camera's pointing at the till), working in an office (No camera's pointed at your desk) or whe

  • In an era where I can purchase trans-atlantic wifi for $15, it seems archaic to me that we still rely on hardened "black boxes" for data retrieval. Why is audio from the flight deck not REQUIRED to be streamed real-time to satellites in orbit for commercial airliners? Yes yes, it won't be 100% reliable blah blah. So what? No one is advocating REMOVING the black box.. there is no reason you can't have both.

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