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NTSB Suggests Wingtip Cameras on Planes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board is suggesting that large aircraft be equipped with external cameras to give pilots a better view of a plane's wingtips as they travel along the taxiway -- and possibly cut down on ground crashes.

On planes such as the Boeing 747 and the giant Airbus A380, the safety board said, pilots can't see the wingtips from the cockpit unless they open the side window and stick out their heads.

Kevin Hiatt, a former commercial pilot and the chief operating officer of the Flight Safety Foundation, agreed that cameras might be a help.

"Physically, visually, you can't see those wingtips," he said. "If they [pilots] get into a tight situation, they might be able to use that reference of that camera in the cockpit to take a look at the wingtip."

In May, the wingtip of a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane hit the tail of an American Eagle flight as it taxied at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. No injuries were reported and the collision remains under investigation.

Outside cameras are standard on the Airbus A380 and A340-600 but are optional on the A330 models and A340-500. The cameras, however, primarily help the pilots see landing gears, not look at the wingtips.

Boeing told ABC News Thursday that it also has one plane with external cameras -- the 777-300 -- but not for wingtips.

While the safety board can make recommendations, it is up to the Federal Aviation Administration to decide whether to move forward on recommendations and require new safety equipment.

The NTSB said that the camera systems should be placed on new airplanes as well as those currently being flown.

Hiatt said that a sensor, like those in some cars, might work better. The sensor would set off a noise, like a beep, when the wingtip got too close to something.

"It would yet be one more thing that might bark at us to say 'Hey, watch out,' but in this particular case versus hitting something, I wouldn't mind that," he said.

Pilots that ABC News spoke with Thursday, however, said they did not like the camera suggestion.

Although they did not want to be quoted, they raised concerns about unintended consequences and distraction in the cockpit. Their biggest worry was that pilots would be tempted to keep an eye on the camera view, rather than scanning the tarmac in front of them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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