Swift move, captain

There was a letter in yesterday’s Gazette from a “retired captain” (one assumes a captain involved in air travel of some sort) complaining that the Supreme Court’s decision to release cockpit voice recordings from Swissair Flight 111 was “unproductive”.

Except the Supreme Court did no such thing. First of all, the Supreme Court wasn’t the body that issued the ruling. It was the Federal Court of Appeal that did. The Supreme Court merely decided not to hear the government’s appeal of the case, which led to the Transportation Safety Board releasing the tapes (you can hear them here), which provided some nuance to the already released report on the accident.

The more egregious error is that the cockpit voice recordings were not what were released. Though the cockpit voice recorder was eventually found and studied, it was determined that the recorder failed six minutes before the plane crashed. And in Canada, CVR transcripts and audio are not made public.

What was released were the air-traffic-control tapes, which contain transmissions between ATC and the aircraft. Besides the fact that anyone with a scanner on that night could have easily recorded the transmissions, and that anything transmitted via radio signals in Canada can by definition not be considered private, the transcript of the ATC tapes had already been released quite a while ago. There really wasn’t anything new here, which makes the government’s reluctance to publish the tapes even more curious.

Far from unproductive or irresponsible, the courts’ decisions made perfect sense.

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