62. Recording, Transmitting, and Emergency Equipment

All aircraft over 2,000 pounds or aircraft of any weight designed to carry three or more people should be required to be fitted with flight data and voice recorders. In addition, planes designed to carry more than 10 passengers should be required to have a minimum of two cameras, one mounted in the rear of the cockpit facing forward to include the pilot and copilot as well as a good portion of the instrument panel and a view out the front cockpit windows, and another camera (or as many as necessary) in the main passenger cabin monitoring both passenger behavior and environmental conditions there. Additional cameras may be placed around the outsides of aircraft to monitor their external physical health. Furthermore, aircraft designed to carry 10 or more passengers should be required to gather various significant aircraft operational data that would potentially be useful in reconstructing virtually any possible incident involving the aircraft. Additionally, at least one portable camera should be on board each aircraft so that the crew can record or document other things that may not be able to be recorded by the fixed cameras aboard elsewhere.

All of this information from the cameras, including portable cameras, and all the aircraft data being gathered should be permanently recorded, or at least recorded through 24-hour loop recordings. Ideally, and if the technology is reliable enough, all of this data should be constantly transmitted live from each aircraft to ground recording stations. However, conventional ‘black box’ recorders may still be required to remain and operate concurrently aboard aircraft as backup recorders in case something goes wrong with the transmission or recording of the live data feeds. It should be impossible to stop the transmission of this data to ground stations while the aircraft is in flight. Only technicians on the ground accessing the aircraft from an external hatch should be allowed to stop such transmissions.

Pilots, flight attendants, and any members of the official crew would be able to press a ‘panic button’ which would automatically begin sending out a distress signal. On board computers could also trigger a ‘panic button’ if they detect a critical anomaly that may lead to injury or loss of life. Such distress signals should include within them some kind of message describing the nature of the emergency. Once turned on, these distress signals should only be able to be turned off from the outside of the aircraft (i.e., once the aircraft has landed), thus preventing airborne terrorists from silencing them). These devices should also be able to transmit its current geographical coordinates.

Aircraft should also have emergency broadcasting equipment. All multi-person aircraft or aircraft weighing more than 2,000 pounds should be required to carry a crash-resistant emergency distress signal broadcasting device that can be used as an emergency electronic locator beacon, as well.

Aircraft designed to carry 10 or more passengers should also be required to carry small, mobile versions of these devices. Such portable beacons could also serve double functions as two-way radio communication devices between rescue crews and survivors. This way a group of survivors who leave the crash site to go looking for help can be found. To increase their chances of survival after a crash, these devices should be located at the rear of the plane. Emergency locator beacons would need to be able to be turned on by search crews if they, for some reason, have not been turned on by the plane’s crew. Such devices should have the ability to last a minimum of three days without being recharged, and they should be rechargeable through the use of solar and/or hand-operated generators.

Live feeds of information directly from aircraft to ground stations would enable a far greater improvement in the ability of ground personnel to troubleshoot various potential problems in conjunction with the airplane crew. Live feeds would also significantly improve the responsive abilities of emergency crews to prepare to deal with the aircraft and passengers after landing. An additional potential benefit of increasing the amount and timeliness of relevant information to decision makers and emergency crews on the ground would be the reduction in the number of injuries resulting from emergency disembarkment procedures. If the nature of the emergency is better understood, the more extreme precautions could likely be deemed unnecessary well before the moments they are required to be implemented.

Aircraft flight recorders ought to have a built-in warning system that would alert maintenance crews if the recorders are not operating properly and in need of maintenance. It should also be impossible to turn off any ‘black boxes’ or transponders on an aircraft from the cockpit. It should only be possible, if anything, to turn them on from the cockpit.

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