A pilot has many factors to monitor when operating aircraft, as taking flight can be dangerous if not handled with precision. This being said, some aircraft have more complex features than others, requiring additional measures for safety, such as the tail camera that is featured on many larger modern aircraft. Popular components of some of Airbus’s more recent widebody designs, aircraft tail cameras offer an additional angle from which pilots can monitor their aircraft before, during, and after flight. Although tail cameras are not integral to all aircraft, they are useful additions to certain plane designs for a few reasons. As such, we will cover the purpose of aircraft tail cameras below.
Despite their small size, aircraft cameras offer a wide, and otherwise inaccessible, view of the back area of the plane, specifically the wingtips. The main purpose of this angle is to aid pilots on the ground when maneuvering aircraft around a runway because it allows for greater awareness of the aircraft’s wings’ proximity to the plane’s surroundings. In larger, wider aircraft models, this is especially important as the crew may otherwise not be able to see the wingtips.
One example of a danger that could be avoided with the use of tail cameras is the Kegworth Air Disaster. This was a crash that occured in 1989 when an aircraft engine caught on fire. The crew, not having access to a view of the engines mounted under the wings, shut off the wrong engine, causing the plane to quickly lose elevation. With the use of aircraft tail cameras, such fatal mistakes may be avoided in the future, providing the crew with live access to the wings and engines.
Today, the planes that feature aircraft tail cameras include the A350 XWB series and the double-decker A380 'superjumbo,' alongside other Airbus widebody designs. Similarly, Boeing equips its 747-8 and 777-300ER widebody designs with these cameras for the same reasons. At the same time, smaller designs are still manufactured without rear-end cameras, as pilots can see the wingtips of these aircraft from the cockpit unhindered. Even still, it is not always cost effective to install tail cameras in some older, large-body designs, so they may still be operated but with extra caution on the runway and during parking.
For applications where aircraft tail cameras are employed, some aircraft may hook the cameras up to the in-flight entertainment systems so passengers may view the live feed as a form of entertainment. This also comes with an additional cost, so not every airline with tail cameras will choose to offer guest access. This being said, when aircraft tail cameras are installed, both the crew and the passengers may reap many benefits, so it may be worth considering such technology for your plane.
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