[ALPA Logo]

News Release

April 11, 2000

Press Release #00.20

ALPA Testifies Against Cameras In Cockpit and Psychological Testing

WASHINGTON --- The president of the nation’s oldest and largest airline pilots’ union today told Congress that pilots strongly disagree with the notion that video surveillance and psychological testing of flight deck crews will make any contribution toward increased air safety.

"ALPA has a proud 69-year history of safety advocacy," said Captain Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), "but these issues are both a waste of precious resources and a senseless intrusion on pilots’ privacy. To the uninitiated," he said prior to the hearings, "cockpit video, as well as psychological testing of pilots, has the false allure of the all-inclusive solution to the nature and cause of every aircraft accident and incident. The reality is that video surveillance and psychological testing of pilots will not prevent accidents."

On the topic of cockpit cameras, Woerth’s testimony underlined the fact that video is not the answer to increasing air safety.

"Air safety will be far better served by continuing to focus on improved flight recorders and proactive safety programs such as Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP)," Woerth said.

Protecting pilots’ privacy and the release of data for inappropriate purposes is ALPA’s highest concern with regard to cameras in the cockpit. Experience with cockpit voice recorders (CVRs) in the past 40 years has proven that regardless of NTSB procedures, pilots are not protected from the misuse of data collected for the sole purpose of enhancing air safety.

"The CVR has been used for sensational purposes by the media. It has been used by litigants in civil and criminal cases. It has even been used by employers for surveillance and disciplinary purposes," said Woerth. "This is unacceptable."

At the recent International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) meeting in Tokyo, pilots worldwide united behind a resolute statement against the unfettered invasion of cameras into their cockpits that said:


"Unless and until all member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) subscribe to, enact and implement strong protective measures to positively guarantee protection of privileged information, and strict measures are imposed for abuses of national laws and regulations governing the use of cockpit recorder derived information, new and enhanced cockpit information collection devices will not be accepted by the international air line pilot profession."

On the subject of psychological testing, ALPA contends that pilots are already subject to rigorous and thorough screening and evaluation by airlines prior to employment, including psychological testing and performance evaluation, and during employment through FAA and company-mandated medical examinations.

"Routine psychological testing of airline pilots is unnecessary. There are already ample means during daily operations, recurrent training, crew resource management programs and company evaluations to identify improper pilot behavior," Woerth said.

A third subject of ALPA testimony centered on English language proficiency of pilots. ALPA has long been a strong proponent of standardizing voice communications between pilots and controllers.

The text of Captain Woerth’s full testimony will be posted on http://cf.alpa.org.

ALPA is the world’s oldest and largest pilots union, representing 55,000 crewmembers at 51 carriers in Canada and the U.S.


# # #

ALPA CONTACT: Anya Piazza or John Mazor (703) 481-4440


Cockpit Cameras
By James E Hall

Airline accidents today, like the recent American Airlines A300 crash in Queens, N.Y., can puzzle safety experts. They struggle for months, even years, often unable to explain fully a flight's problems or how the pilots reacted. Video cameras in the cockpit could help answer such critical questions.

Putting video cameras on airplanes might seem a settled matter. Sept.11proved

the need for a visual record inside the airplane, and some airlines are testing security cameras for passenger cabins. Flight attendants have endorsed the idea of cabin cameras. But putting cameras in the cockpit is controversial. Pilots' unions consider them an invasion of workplace privacy. They fear cockpit videos of a crash will be splashed across television screens. These are legitimate concerns that can be addressed with legal protections. They are not reasons to leave safety investigators hampered. Flight attendants and passengers are willing to accept less privacy to make air travel more secure. Pilots should accept less privacy in the cockpit to make flying safer.
Airline accidents are getting harder to solve. Decades of good safety work have eliminated the most obvious threats. Today, an airliner crash typically results from a chain of subtle errors and flaws, each minor on its own but deadly in combination. Airliners are also far more complicated than they were 20 years ago. They use intricate computer systems to fly and video displays to tell pilots what is going on. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder; the "black boxes , cannot capture all of the computer and video-display information. Black boxes are invaluable in revealing what the plane and its pilots were doing before a crash. But they do not capture hand, foot and body movements as pilots move controls and switches. They don't record all of the problems pilots face during an emergency, like fire or smoke. This kind of information, captured on video recorders, can be essential in a crash investigation.
For example, take the 1994 crash of a Boeing 737 near Pittsburgh. Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board, which I led at the time, focused on problems with side-to-side control, based on their probe of a similar crash in 1991. The key question was: Did the pilots cause the crash or did the airplane's control system fail? Neither black box could answer that question. The flight recorder told what had happened to the airplane, but not why. The voice recorder captured grunts and exclamations as the pilots wrestled with a problem, but nothing about the nature of that problem. It took four years for the safety board to conclude that a control- system flaw was responsible for both crashes.
Other investigations have been hampered by a dearth of information from the cockpit, including the 1998 Swissair crash off Nova Scotia, the 1999 EgyptAir crash off Nantucket and the 2000 Alaska Airlines crash off Southern California. The current American Airlines investigation again raises the question of who or what was controlling the aircraft's side-to-side movement, just as in the Pittsburgh case.
The safety board has called for requiring video recorders in airliners no later than 2005. The Federal Aviation Administration should enact that requirement now. Video recorders can become one of our most valuable investigative tools. Without them, we are short-changing the flying public.
The author served as chairman and acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board of USA from June 1994 to January 2001.

from this link


to Safety Issues Menu