Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
We all are still reeling from the impact of the tragedy of the Russian airliner, which crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh killing all 224 people on board. It is difficult to console those who lost their loved ones in the accident and even more difficult to truly understand their pain. The varying reports about the possible causes of the crash have only added to the suffering of the bereaved people. According to various reports, it is allegedly the handiwork of a terrorist organization with links to the much-hated Daesh. It has not yet been confirmed but the media is replete with reports of this nature. At this stage, it is difficult to ascertain the veracity of such reports. Whatever might have caused this crash; one thing is for sure that it was not the only crash in the aviation history. And perhaps, it would not prove to be the last. Such accidents are part of the aviation industry. In the wake of such accidents, different rumors about the causes always begin to circulate. Many air crashes of the past are still shrouded in mystery and investigators are still in the dark over the causes of those accidents. Generally, plane accidents always make headlines worldwide but the intensity of media coverage is increased manifold in case of sabotage or terrorist involvement because it has a huge impact not only on the airline or the plane manufacturer but also affects the aviation industry, airports’ security and insurance companies. At the end of the day, however, it is the passengers who will have to pay more and be subjected to more security checks at airports. Until today, most of the information about plane crashes is retrieved from the Black Box or the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). The information thus retrieved is very valuable and helps investigators draw near-accurate conclusion. We all must have read the idiom: A picture is worth a thousand words. It is beyond comprehension as to why plane manufacturers have never thought of installing cameras in the cockpit and the main fuselage. According to some aviation experts, the pilots associations are reluctant to get cameras installed in the cockpit fearing invasion of privacy and some feel uneasy by the thought of their loved ones viewing their last moments. But, nowadays, we see videos taken inside the aircraft, as every mobile phone is fitted with cameras. Coming back to the installation of cameras, there are cameras that can be programmed in such a way that the footage is erased the minute a plane lands safely. Installation of cameras in the aircraft will greatly help investigators to complete their probe and to ascertain the causes of an accident. Investigators can have a look at the pilot or co-pilot’s video and can easily determine if the accident happened all of a sudden such as an explosion in an engine, a bomb or any other technical fault. It is true that the privacy of pilots and crew should be respected but preference should be given to passengers’ safety. We see cameras installed in malls, shop’s changing rooms and elevators without thinking about the privacy of people. Plane cockpits are of more concern to people than a cloth store’s fitting room. During the past decade and especially after the 9/11, terrorist attacks have increased due to which there is a great need to take more safety measures. Relations between countries were strained because of airplanes mishaps such as Egypt Air flight 990, TWA flight 800, Air France 447, Pan Am flight 103. Had there been cameras installed in the cockpits, those cases would have been resolved in no time. Many aviation experts agree that technologies to investigate plane crashes other than the Black Box and the CVR should be used. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Cameras in Cockpits reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.