Pilots in the cockpit
Pilots in the cockpit

Cockpit cam needed to keep planes safe: Houston

Cockpit cams should be fitted to all commercial airline aircraft to video record or live stream what pilots are up to as an added security measure to flying, former Airservices and Australian Defence Force chief Sir Angus Houston has said.

Sir Angus, who in 2014 was tasked with co-ordinating the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which vanished with 239 people on-board, said many improvements to aircraft monitoring had been made but technology now allowed for more.

He said as Airservices Australia chairman, during the MH370 crisis until 2018, new flight following technology was introduced where every 14 minutes if an aircraft doesn't transmit a position, particularly over wide bodies of ocean, the system asks why and somebody can look for where.

But while he hoped another MH370 mystery could never happen, pilots needed to "swallow their pride" and also accept film monitoring of what goes on behind cockpit closed doors.

His comments came as authorities confirm discussions for a new search for the aircraft in the Southern Indian Ocean were ongoing and Sir Angus conceded with better technology now, there were areas just outside the previous search zones worth a look.

"In terms of it happening again, I hope it never happens again and I remember suggesting the other sorts of things to look at are video recording or taping everything that happens on a flight deck during flight, I don't think there is any reason not to do that," Sir Angus, also now on Virgin Australia's board, told News Corp Australia.

"Pilots need to swallow their pride and being monitored all the time while airborne, that technology is with us now and could easily be put into every aircraft that carries passengers. It could be done in real time, technology exists now to do it in real time but it would be very expensive so that's probably what's stopping it and also I think pilots have a view that 'I'm qualified trust me' and most of the time you can, 99.9 per cent of the time you can trust them so that's fine. But if something goes wrong and you get bizarre circumstances if we had it in real time we would know exactly what was going on and what was happening."

Airservices said it was not an issue for them to comment.


Airborne image recorders were looked at by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) in 2006 and again in 2013.

"While IFALPA strongly supports initiatives to improve safety, the Federation believes that the use of air data would not provide significant added value to an accident investigation," a spokeswoman for the Australian Federation of Air Pilots said.

Sir Angus, who this year was appointed as a senior counsellor for global advisory network The Cohen Group established by former US Defense chief William Cohen, said he hoped new datum was available to find MH370 and he would support an investigation then.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was the pilot of Flight MH370. File picture
Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was the pilot of Flight MH370. File picture



"Hopefully some new evidence will come up that will provide better datum for a search because I think one of the great difficulties with the whole thing was that the aircraft in the first instance disappeared in the northern end of the Malacca Straits and for a while there was doubt about where it had gone to and it was only through the signals exchanges - handshakes - between the aircraft computer and ground stations through satellites that we were able to get very sparse data but some data to give us the arcs," he said.


CCTV footage shows Captain Shah going through security before boarding flight MH370. File picture
CCTV footage shows Captain Shah going through security before boarding flight MH370. File picture

"I really feel for the families, I always have and I know that they would want another search for sure and I think when the time comes there must be something else that gives us a clue or evidence that will enable a search and if that happens I will be strongly behind it.

"But I don't think we can go searching without further evidence because otherwise we are almost where we were with MH370 at the start, with no datum, aircraft disappeared in the north end of the Malaccan strait and here we are 3000km to the south, well I wonder where we start, it is very difficult."

He added it may have been possible they searched in the right area.

"The depth we are talking about, there is the possibility it was there but we missed it. I don't think that is the most likely thing, I think the more likely is MH370 might be just outside the search box that was defined."