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    A Times Editorial

    Cameras in planes add security


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 7, 2002

    JetBlue, an innovative, startup airline out of New York, isn't waiting for the U.S. Transportation Department to make up its mind about requiring cameras in passenger planes. The carrier has begun installing video cameras in its cabins, so that pilots can keep an eye on passenger activity. That will help pilots know when they can open the cockpit door for a bathroom break and whether trouble in the cabin is air rage or an attempted hijacking.

    With only 25 aircraft, JetBlue can respond more quickly than most other airlines. Federal regulators shouldn't tarry on their duty either. Cameras are a relatively inexpensive, common-sense security measure. The Transportation Department should establish a reasonable timetable for all airlines to add cameras to their fleets.

    JetBlue planes will have several cameras to cover the entire cabin, some visible and others hidden. The cockpit will have two viewing screens, and pilots will be able to chose the view they want or switch from camera to camera. "If there was a disturbance back there, we would be able to monitor the situation and land as soon as possible," Capt. Lanny McAndrew, JetBlue's chief pilot, told ABC News.

    The cameras will also transmit their images to the airline's operations center at John F. Kennedy International Airport when the aircraft are on the ground, which will help protect the planes while they are being serviced. An airline could also record what the camera sees for use later by investigators and prosecutors, but that raises some privacy issues, so JetBlue chose not to install video recorders. Also, no cameras will be placed in bathrooms.

    Cameras could be a vital addition to the chain of security that will screen luggage and passengers at the terminal and keep an airplane from being commandeered once it is in the air. Most passengers are unlikely to object to cameras. In fact, each new security measure is likely to bring more Americans back to air travel. And that is why the Transportation Department should act promptly.

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