Airline Recording

Two things for the idea file this evening. For the first, let me quote from The 9/11 Commission Report:

29. Calls to American’s reservations office are routed to the first open line at one of several facilities, among them the center at Cary, N.C. … The call from Ong was received initially by Vanessa Minter and then taken over by Winston Sadler; realizing the urgency of the situation, he pushed an emergency button the simultaneously initiated a tape recording of the call and sent an alarm notifying Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor, to pick up the line. Gonzalez was paged to respond to the alarm and joined the call a short time later. Only the first four minutes of the phone call between Ong and the reservations center (Minter, Sadler, and Gonzalez) was recorded because of the time limit of the recently installed system. [footnote 29, page 453 of printed edition (emphasis added)]

So the first idea is to fire whomever approved this ridiculous system. Is it not bizarre that your entire conversation with sales staff could be monitored (even when you’re on hold) but only 4 minutes of a bona fide emergency would be saved? This on a new system? The technology to do more is certainly available, and with digital phone systems is really quite cheap. I think it would be much smarter to just record all calls transferred to a supervisor as a matter of course. We make stockbrokers do it!

I’ve mentioned before that I think we should consider solutions to record cockpit chatter remotely, and if it’s done appropriately I think it’s still a good idea. A related idea would be to have planes send their GPS coordinates back at a set interval automatically.

Take, for example, any plane outfitted with Boeing’s Connexion wireless internet service. That plane maintains an Internet connection, so why not have it send GPS coordinates every 15 seconds (or other rate, as appropriate for minimizing search radius based upon speed)? True, it would be almost never used, but for those times a plane went missing, wouldn’t it be great to go to the server and pull up the last known location?

In both cases, the amount of data (and cost!) involved is truly negligible, but the insight gained could be life-saving.

Hit Me With It


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