Pilots forced to talk about work in the cockpit

Big Brother may not be watching, but he’ll be listening. A new recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board would involve the use of “black box” recordings to monitor the conversations that occur among pilots in the cockpit. This comes on the heels of several high-profile incidents in which pilots were distracted. According to a report by USA Today, this would be the first time that workplace monitoring would penetrate the cockpit. Of course, pilots’ unions oppose the measure, calling it intrusive (isn’t that the point?).

Until now, the black boxes have only been used after accidents. This new step, if executed properly, could make the recordings useful in preventing them – well, that’s the plan, at least.

Needless to say, the timing couldn’t be better for the NTSB, given the Northwest Airlines flight that overshot its destination by a hundred miles and the Colgan crash near Buffalo last year. In both case, pilot conversations were cited as among the reasons for the problems that occurred.

So far, this is only a recommendation from the NTSB to the FAA (the former has no regulatory authority). The NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt claims, “This is not a case of Big Brother spying on pilots.” Well, it really does seem like one, but it isn’t a hard measure to defend in this climate. It might be easier to see the pilots’ point of view if their objections weren’t centered on pilot privacy. Workplace privacy is a thing of the past for everyone.

Mike Michaelis, chairman of safety at the Aillied Pilots Assocation, the union over at American Airlines, told USA Today, “It’s the wrong way to go safety-wise.” What I don’t understand is how that can be true.