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Employers Consider Monitoring Flight Deck Conversations in Real-Time

Pilots in Airplane Flight Deck

The ability for pilot employers to eavesdrop on flight deck conversations may be just around the corner. The idea is that artificial intelligence would listen to pilot conversations, record the data, and then report ‘high stress’ to ground personal in real-time as the events are unfolding – when pilots may be too busy to communicate with the employer.

NIIT Technologies, an India based IT services company with 10,000 employees around the world is developing the artificial intelligence tools for real-time flight deck monitoring.

NIIT Technologie’s global head of travel and transportation Madan Mohan said the developing technology could be used by employers for a host of reasons including:

  • Predicting whether a flight crew will be late on the way to the airport
  • Improving safety through flight operation quality assurance (FOQA) real-time monitoring
  • And to determine if pilots are a proper ‘fit’ for their position

Mohan said “Using our data technology, we can acquire the voice of the pilot while they are flying and use AI to differentiate between what is normal and expected conversation or determine if there is increased stress in the pilot’s voice.”

NIIT Technologies said that some airlines are already testing concepts behind the new monitoring programs.

Pilot Unions Typically Oppose Increased Flight Deck Monitoring

Pilot unions have a history of opposing monitoring of pilots while they are flying.

Testifying before congress, representatives from the Air Lines Pilots Association said (in response to cameras) “ALPA has a proud 69-year history of safety advocacy, but these issues are both a waste of precious resources and a senseless intrusion on pilots’ privacy. To the uninitiated,” he said prior to the hearings, “cockpit video, as well as psychological testing of pilots, has the false allure of the all-inclusive solution to the nature and cause of every aircraft accident and incident. The reality is that video surveillance and psychological testing of pilots will not prevent accidents.”

ALPA testimony continue “Air safety will be far better served by continuing to focus on improved flight recorders and proactive safety programs such as Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP).”

The union’s opposition to increased monitoring has traditionally been in the interest of protecting pilots’ privacy and to prevent the release of data for inappropriate purposes.

“The CVR has been used for sensational purposes by the media. It has been used by litigants in civil and criminal cases. It has even been used by employers for surveillance and disciplinary purposes,” said ALPA.

Greg started his professional pilot journey in 2002 after graduating from Embry Riddle. Since that time he has accumulated over 8,000 hours working as a pilot. Greg’s professional experience includes flight instructing, animal tracking, backcountry flying, forest firefighting, passenger charter, part 135 cargo, flying for a regional airline, a national low cost airline, a legacy airline, and also working as a manager in charge of Part 135 and Part 121 training programs.

Greg Thomson