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Recent Northwest Airlines Overflight Incident Underscores The Need For Cockpit Video Recorders

Aviation safety experts, including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), have been calling for image recorders in airline cockpits for years. In fact, the NTSB includes this recommendation on its “Most Wanted List” of safety improvements. In the wake of the recent Northwest Airlines incident–in which the pilots of a flight bound for Minneapolis inexplicably overflew their destination airport–the utility and safety benefits of such a requirement are clearly apparent. If this device had been installed in the cockpit of the Northwest flight, the mystery of what went on in that cockpit would now be solved. Instead, we are left to wonder how a flight crew missed a turn by nearly 150 miles, and further why the pilots failed to respond to air traffic control communications for an amount of time so long that the aircraft could have been shot down. If those pilots fell asleep at the controls in a cockpit equipped with a video recorder, a picture would have been worth a thousand words.

This topic is fully discussed in Cockpit Image Recorders: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, authored by David E. Rapoport and Paul D. Richter.

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