Sunday, December 01, 2013

Ask the Captain: Questions about plane crashes

John Cox , USA TODAY
3 p.m. EST December 1, 2013  

Question: When a commercial plane crashes, what happens to the pilots immediately? Are they detained? Are their licenses suspended?

-- Jon Kopp, Gilbert, Ariz.

Answer: This varies between countries. During the investigation, the pilots are interviewed by the investigative agency (the NTSB in the US). Then the regulatory agency (the FAA in the U.S.) determines if their license(s) should be suspended, or what evaluation is necessary prior to flying again. Additionally, the operator makes a determination of when or if they will fly again. In some countries, pilots are detained by law enforcement authorities; this criminalization of aviation accidents is a detriment to open investigations.

Question: Why are black box recordings not released after a crash?

 -- submitted by Nick Gawronski, Houston

Having heard several cockpit voice recordings, I would never support their release. The last minutes of life for the crew are very emotional, they deserve their privacy. Limiting the listening of the recording to the investigators is the only appropriate policy. If they were released, these recordings would be played in the public media and that would be a travesty.

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