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Federal Judge Rules Flight 3407 CVR Can Be Used As Evidence

Judge Said Written Transcript Does Not Accurately Reflect Actual Conditions

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for aviation, a federal judge has ruled that the actual recording from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) made when Continental Connection Flight 3407 went down can be introduced as evidence in the wrongful death suits filed in connection with the accident.

A transcript of the CVR recording was released last year, but judge William M Skretny said the written transcript was not complete and contains inaccuracies. The Buffalo News reports that Skretny listened to the recordings in private before making his ruling.

"Production of the recording [as evidence] is necessary because the written transcript does not and cannot reflect tone of voice, pitch, volume or inflection, nor does it necessarily accurately reflect ambient and other noises pertinent to the aircraft's operation," Skretny wrote in his opinion. "The Second Circuit [Appeals] Court has recognized the evidentiary importance of the audio recording from a cockpit voice recorder, which is often the only piece of neutral evidence in an air crash case," the ruling continued.

Attorneys for the families of some of those fatally injured in the accident said that the written transcript does not convey the "pre-impact terror" aboard the aircraft.

39 lawsuits have been filed in connection with the accident. The paper reports that five have been settled out of court.

Aero-News Analysis: There are few in aviation that will argue with the opinion that this sets an overtly dangerous precedent. Pilots have fought the disclosure of such recordings for years by virtue of the fact that the real factual evidence is contained in the transcripts that ARE released and that the actual recordings will do nothing but harm those involved (emotionally) and enrich grand-standing attorneys. This decision needs to be fought at all costs... as the release of this information has no evidentiary value whatsoever... and is nothing but a ghoulish attempt to profit off tragedy. -- Jim Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief

FMI: www.ca2.uscourts.gov

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