Use of CVRs for Prosecuting Pilots

Date:         18 Jun 97 02:36:55 
From:         Gary and Marina <gparata@xtra.co.nz>
Organization: Customer of Telecom Internet Services
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WARNING!

Once upon a time when air transport as we know it was in its infancy a
move was made to install cockpit voice recorders in some categories of
air transport aircraft. This move was supported by everyone, including
IFALPA, as a sensible means of exploring *cause* with a view to
*prevention.* Now, it appears, the tide has turned. A high profile 1995
airline accident in New Zealand involving a DHC-8 has thrown this idea
completely to the wolves. Briefly, this aircraft was involved in a CFIT
accident while on a VOR/DME approach in cloud. The crew were dealing
with a hung up landing gear at the time of impact. Three passengers and
the sole flight attendant lost their lives, but the flight crew
survived. The New Zealand Police (!) made it quite clear in the early
stages of the investigation that they were interested in what the flight
crew were doing and saying. This was opposed by NZ ALPA who stated that
by international convention CVR recordings could only be used for
accident *investigation.* An injunction on publication of the transcript
was sought by NZ ALPA (because of the intransigence of the NZ Police)
and granted by the High Court of New Zealand. But on appeal to the New
Zealand Court of Appeal this decision was reversed. This has just
happened so I have not had a chance to read the actual decision of the
Court. They obviously don't think much of international conventions.
Now, theoretically the Police may (and will, believe me, if recent
events here are anything to go by) attempt to bring about a prosecution
based on the crew's apparent "negligence" with a view to charging them
with *manslaughter* (not sure what the US equivalent of that is).

There needs to be proper legislation introduced in each country to
prevent CVR recordings being used for this purpose. Clearly, relying on
international convention is no longer adequate (God knows it should be).

So what can we do about this? Petition your MP, congressman, whatever
they're called. This practice must be stopped NOW, before flight crew
take the matter into their own hands and pull the CVR circuit breaker
before flight (and who can blame them) denying the world of an essential
safety tool.

Working together we can do this. Help us.

Gary Parata