Flight 990 stirs interest in cockpit video cameras

Wednesday, November 17th 1999, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

Augmenting data and voice recorders with video cameras in airliner cockpits is getting renewed interest in the wake of the questions about what happened in the moments leading up to EgyptAir Flight 990's fatal plunge into the Atlantic.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked the Transportation Department, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday to speed up a study on how to upgrade data collection during airplane flights.

"... A video camera could provide valuable information to analyze accidents and create a safer environment for airline passengers," Durbin said in letters to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, FAA chief Jane Garvey and NTSB Chairman James Hall.

With a visual recording of what went on in the cockpit leading up to EgyptAir Flight 990's crash Oct. 31, investigators could better sort out what is now only a sketchy and incomplete theory about what caused of the crash, Durbin said.

Based on indications that someone in the cockpit made a religious utterance just before the jet started a steep dive into the ocean, the Clinton administration is taking a look at turning over the investigation of EgyptAir Flight 990 to the FBI.

The FAA and NTSB announced in May they were sponsoring a committee to examine how new flight data technology, such as video and real-time data transmissions, can improve aviation safety in 2015 and beyond.

In November, the agencies asked a federal advisory committee made up of industry and government experts to prepare
recommendations on what type of data collection might work and the performance standards that should be required.

Such recommendations would be only the first step toward possibly proposing new rules.

Durbin urged the agencies to develop
regulations by the time Congress returns in January.

"We already have the process under way," said FAA spokesman Les Dorr. "But there are a lot of issues to be addressed, including technical issues, the human factor and even politics.

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