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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."


Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cameras In The Flight Deck?

Should we go there? 


I say unequivocally no!

Before I give my reasons, I have to ask those who work in an office, "would you want to be video taped during your 8-12 hour workday?" Despite what some may think, the flight deck is the pilot's office.

MH370 opened the discussion on this topic. And this is not the first time it has been approached. The bottom line is, a camera would not have prevented what happened. It may have helped to determine location (unless it too were turned off). But there are other more practical ways that the plane can be tracked. 


This camera suggestion goes back to my concern that our industry is more reactive than proactive. A camera might provide additional information to what happened, but will not prevent something from happening. Camera's will not increase safety. But they could do just the opposite.

We had cameras in our simulators for many years as part of the Advanced Qualification Program. AQP. And I saw performance degradation when those cameras came into being. When the pilots knew they were being video taped, they appeared to make more errors. While I cannot be certain that this camera issue was the reason, I can tell you what I saw. And I certainly believe it was performance anxiety with knowing they would be viewed and judged. Knowing that all they did, was on record. 

There are always a few pilots with Checkrideitis. They do perfectly well in the plane, until the day they are in the simulator and under scrutiny. Not everyone, but enough face this. That number increased significantly when the videos came around. My thought is... it's just not worth it.

 

Positioning of the camera would also be a huge challenge. There is no good place to install a camera to see everything. Would we focus them on the instruments? On one pilot? On the other pilot? On the control stick? But which one? Out the window? In the faces of the pilots?

If someone took over the plane and turned off the transponder, they could certainly depower a camera. We need to think of a better way. Maybe use the money from the camera idea and put it toward training.

What do you think?
Cameras or no cameras?

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

51 comments:

  1. Hello Karlene,

    Let me start off by saying that I am not a pilot by any stretch of the imagination. I am an aviation enthusiast and I think I have a good understanding of planes and pilots. Having worked for an airline, I have on a couple of occasions asked the pilot if I could sit in the jump seat when booking flights for myself. As you mentioned, the cockpit is the pilot's and F/O's office and it's 'their' space for that flight.

    That being said you make a good argument, would you want to be video taped 8 to 12 hours a day during your working day. I myself, no, but many workers do. I can think of those who work in retail, hospital emergency room, transit buses, they can all have cameras that record 24 hours a day. They all have to potential of reviewing an employee's performance but also for security reasons.

    Whether their is place for one in the cockpit of an airliner is up for debate. Unless there is a live feed to dispatchers on the ground where a plane can be "taken over" in an emergency, I don't think cameras belong in the pilot's office.

    When I first read the title of this blog I thought you were indicating a complete ban on all cameras. Some of your counterparts have taken some pretty amazing "home" videos from the cockpit and shared it with millions of us who don't get to see this day to day.

    Thanks for your blogs, they're always a good read.

    Steven in CYHZ

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    1. Steven, Thanks for your comment. The problem is, if something were to happen...a camera in the cockpit won't solve or stop the problem. The planes systems are continually monitored. And just as AF447, we know what happened because of CVR and this monitoring process. Trust me... all we could have seen with cameras in that incident would be backs of heads and the same data of plane climbing.
      So... they won't add anything.
      On the ground, if something is happening intervention can occur. In flight... nothing can be done during.
      My vote...spend money to make sure nothing happens.
      Thank you so much for your comment!

      Delete
  2. "Maybe use the money from the camera idea and put it toward
    training."....This statement sums it up,No need for further discussion.I second you Capt.Karlene...Cameras are a NO! NO! for me :)

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    1. Thank you Frank! We only have so many resources.. we need to use them wisely!

      Delete
  3. Add cameras to the cockpit and nobody of any caliber will want to become a pilot. Good way to dumb down the system. Why not put cameras on the cooks at fast food restaurants? How about cameras in every public restroom? People rally against traffic light cameras, but want their pilots monitored in a cockpit that is already a high pressure work place?

    I remember when the transcripts of the Lunar Landing were broadcast. Then some old lady wanted to know why Neil Armstrong received all the credit, because some guy named "Roger" did all the work. Roger that? Laymen watching a cockpit broadcast would be just as apt to misinterpret what they saw 9and heard). ALPA signed off on Cockpit Voice Recorders for safety improvement under the agreement that they would never become public. We've see how well that promise has worked out.

    Good luck in this battle.

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    1. Mark, thank you for the awesome comment. I had forgotten about Roger. He gets more credit! And while we laugh, this is the major point... the second guessing quarterbacks. We don't need that.
      One thing for sure, we will lose more qualified pilots. Thank you for your thoughts.

      Delete
  4. Cameras in the cockpit? No way! Great article though

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  5. Utilizing Satellites, when an abnormal situation arises...Flight crew should be able to enable flight deck cameras that would allow their Engineer's (at a central ground location) to see what's happening live as it happens. The technology exists, the FAA and Airlines need to implement this technology quickly before the next MH370.

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    1. Mike, do you think that watching would have prevented MH370? All we would have saw is someone get in the cockpit, break the lens, turn off the camera... or worse, take out the flight crew.

      "Engineers" on the ground see live what the plane is doing now. Every situation that arises sends a message to them. Only the human factor doesn't go.

      And we want the human factor to do what is necessary, not what they think they will be judged on later. This is a very high stress job... and one more thing to add to it, is not necessary.

      I agree... we need to do something so MH370 doesn't happen again. But we know it's not the plane. We know it wasn't the pilots. So what was it? Someone got in. Let's fix that. Then this will never happen again.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      Delete
    2. They're going to have to add Air Marshals on every flight (which would add cost), OR arm Flight Attendants with defensive weapons such as pepper spray or stun guns. (But then the Unions would fight against that). Very complex problem is going to require a complex solution that's not going to make everyone happy.

      Delete
    3. So true! And if we armed FA's with pepper spray or stun guns the fear would be they would be using it on each other. Seriously though... there are secondary security measures that can help keep people out of the flight deck. My plane has a secondary gate. We only open door when it's closed and locked. Should all planes have them? Maybe make an area where pilots have their own lav, rest facility that minimizes the door opening. There are options to prevent. That's where technology and money should go.
      Thank you so much for the great response!

      Delete
  6. No way. That's wrong. Can't even pick your nose without being watched!
    These days people have GoPro cameras stuck all over their planes inside and out - which is fun - but I fear that soon enough there will be an incident/accident and the FAA will ban these cameras or come up with a new rule about camera use on planes, at least on the exterior.
    Wandering off topic a bit. So would this have helped with the MH370 weirdness? No. The camera and recording would still be out in the Twilight Zone someplace!

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    1. Thanks Tom. My point exactly! Unless we live monitor 87,000 flights daily... you're right! And American used to have a camera for takeoff for the passengers could watch...until something happened and they had an emergency. Not a good thing when you're on the plane watching...and don't know what's happening.
      Thank you so much for the comment!

      Delete
  7. Performance anxiety -a definite issue!
    Also, because of the lack of height in a cockpit -where one can basically reach anywhere the camera might be mounted -the camera lens can very easily be covered up (with something as simple as a post-it note for example..)

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    1. So true! And if it were in there, I suspect that is what would happen. And I know we had a horrible challenge mounting in the simulator..and had more options. Thank you so much for the comment.

      Delete
  8. I'm surprised they didn't come up with this harebrained scheme long before now.

    It seems to me the horse left the barn a long time ago on this, because you're already being recorded. Flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders, FOQA programs, ATC data and voice recordings. Big Brother has been in the cockpit for many decades now.

    Besides, who could possible argue with a politician? Isn't it clear by now that they know infinitely more about flying than professional aviators could ever hope to learn?

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    1. We most definitely are being monitored, and no kidding on arguing with a politician. This camera thing has been on the table before. Will be again. I will always try to fight it. Thanks for your comment.

      Delete
  9. Totally unnecessary.

    The industry needs to focus on systems that are proactive and not reactive.

    A camera connected to another LRU in the E&E bay to record video has to be certified. Since NOTHING is cheap in aviation, the expense for such a system would greatly outweigh it's return. Plus who needs hours of footage of pilots reading the paper, staring out the windows or picking their noses? An accident investigator already has all the information required from the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Flight Data Recorder. I'd rather see the air carriers invest into newer technologies to aid in situational awareness (following suit with the General Aviation industry). Things like Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), Synthetic Vision, WAAS GPS, Satellite Internet Data, ADS/B weather, XM weather, electronic charts with moving maps, etc. all would be great tools to assist pilots in making better decisions, as well as stay in better communication with their companies. Those technologies are already in use in General Aviation (anything from Gulfstreams to Cessnas) and have been certified for use in Part 135 for a while which would make it easier to certify for Part 121.

    A camera isn't a tool to aid a pilot make better decisions or increase situational awareness, it's only purpose is to play 'GOTCHA' when someone makes a mistake.

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    1. Thank you so much for the excellent comment! I could not have said it better. That is the bottom line... let's spend our money on proactive safety measures than play "gotcha" at the end of the day.

      Very well said!

      Delete
  10. This is quite an issue! Whilst in principle, I don’t have a problem being recorded, as I trust myself and my colleagues in the flight deck to behave and act in an acceptable and professional manner at all times whilst we are at work. There is already a lot of data sources on how I operate the aircraft available to accident investigators (CVR/DFDR/EGPWS memory etc.) and to the company (FDM/Quick Access Recorders). Anything that adds to an accident investigation/safety should be a good thing right? In principle.

    Where the biggest problem comes is with any inappropriate use of recorded data, or if it ends up in the wrong hands… I don’t want my last moments to be available to be watched by everyone on youtube in a clip called “the world’s top 10 scariest plane crashes – from the cockpit…” and my loved ones being able to watch my passing into the next world. Also what happens when the media get involved? (They will sink to any depths just to get a story). Or the lawyers…. They will have a field day in court!

    There was an accident a while ago in New Zealand when the CVR got into the wrong hands. The police took it! They used it to prosecute the pilots…. That destroyed all the line crews’ confidence/trust in the “system” and for a long time after that airline was flying a lot of aeroplanes around with the CVR c/b pulled out by the crews.

    Here is the link(s) to the aftermath.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=192796


    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/new-zealand-court-challenges-confidentiality-of-cvr-21040/


    A good point on where to put the camera(s)… the data on the instruments is already on the FDR anyway. In the pilots faces? No thanks. I’ll just cover the lens over.

    Also what happens if it is dark and the cockpit lighting is set to dim? Will there be nothing to see?

    Using cameras in the sim, may be beneficial in some cases for CRM training. (But not for every sim session!) I know of one instance when a pilot was being a total **** in the sim. When he was told about his behaviour he couldn’t believe it or realise it. However when he saw himself on tape, he could see just how much of a **** he had been. He improved his behaviour/CRM a lot after that!

    Maybe in today’s digital age we should record everything in aviation? All the management meetings in CEOs office for instance? Just in case…


    Pete W

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    1. Pete, you know... I had not thought of my family watching my demise. I know that if there were a camera in MH370..that is something family members don't want to see. And we are all with you on covering the lens.

      Thank you for the powerful comment and your final line is great.

      Yes, let's put the camera in the CEO's office or... the director of training...and watch what's happening behind the scenes.

      Delete
  11. Karlene, forgive me for playing Devil's Advocate here. It was before my watch, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the introduction of the CVR. But CVR evidence has proven invaluable in accident investigations and the various competent authorities have been very effective in protecting the recordings from release (transcripts are another matter).

    I could see a case being made for flight deck video IF it was a loop of limited duration (like the CVR), and accessed only for forensic purposes (like the CVR), with subsequent distribution of the images being absolutely verboten! (If you say, "But it always gets out...", I refer you to the point above re: protection of CVR recordings.)

    There have been a number of accidents where flight deck video recordings would have been of immense probative value in determination of probable cause. We should not surrender that tool on a knee-jerk basis.

    So I put the question to you: If flight deck camera evidence is to be handled analogously to CVR evidence, with similar protections, are you still opposed? If so, why?

    Best regards,

    Frank

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    1. Love the devils advocate.

      The reason for the camera is so we won't lose planes like MH370. We can see what's happening. So... if this were on the plane like the CVR... then we would be exactly where we are. The camera turned off and the video lost in an ocean.

      The point is... if we have the CVR and the plane sends data for maintenance, and we have the FDR... what will the video add? To visually see a death?

      The one suicide that parties don't want to call a suicide was Egypt Air. But even with a camera... if something nefarious were to happen by the crew, they would cover the lens. So that wouldn't help.

      And then... where and how to install? How many views? My point is, that this would a multi-million... up to billion dollar investment to mandate this for all planes...and would it increase safety? I say no. Why not spend that money where we need it.

      So I say, no... as it would not add safety or value to the operation.

      Delete
  12. I think a camera is a fantastic training tool, but would do very little good in an accident scenario, when, as you point out, every control input and performance data element is already being recorded, along with the CVR to add color. It *MIGHT* add marginal benefit in some situations (though I can't think of any), but would certainly cost too much money that could be used to better effect elsewhere in the safety continuum.

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    1. Andrew, it's a great training tool... in the simulator. And I am surprised it's not still being used in AQP. It was required at one time. I will have to look into it. But... 87,000 flights, who's watching? What angle is the lens. All the data is being monitored, watching is not needed.
      Thank you so much for your comment!

      Delete
  13. Absolutely no cameras in the flight deck. That will do much harm than good. Am a pilot in the making, halfway there, personally I am shy, especially knowing that someone is watching me. In real life cameras in flight decks will make a Pilot to be more interested to what people at the other end of the camera sees, than concentrating on flying the plane safely, hence the camera will be a recipe for disaster. To make matters worse I know am being watched but don't know who's watching. Well no camera, more training to make our flight decks! More security to avoid something that shouldn't happen!

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    1. Deogratius, Thank you so much for the comment. I agree with you so much. We need our pilots to focus on what they are doing, not who is watching. Excellent feedback. Thank you.

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  14. this is a super precarious subject in my opinion..

    Would it be beneficial in some instances to have cameras? of course! you mention the use of a CVR uncover the needed details about an incident or accident, but I (personally) can vouch for the fact that CVRs are very limited in what they can actually tell us. They leave a lot to interpretation or assumption.. and you know what happens to you and me and when you assume..

    But on the other hand, I agree completely with some of the comments here. Imagine the video of a crash or accident showing the pilots and every action they do. How easy would it be for back seat flyers to now judge too quickly on this or that decision rather than concentrate on the big picture?

    And then comes in the money aspect. There are definitely some much more needed funds elsewhere than in watching the pilots even closer. In the event of a crash, usually the pilots did not bring the airplane there on purpose, so "watching them" would be of no avail like you said. What's done is done. Unless the stream is live to the airline's office.. ? I won't even go there!

    All that being said, I agree with you Karlene. I would not be comfortable being recorded even if that video would *only be used in case of an accident or incident*... because we all know how that goes. Trust me to do my job, and I will trust the investigators to do theirs if, heavens forbid, something were to happen.

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    1. JD, Thanks for the comment. Trust is the big issue here. And we do know how that goes. I think they should give us the tools to do our jobs, and keep the eyes out of the cockpit. I think more pilots than not would feel uncomfortable being recorded.
      Thank you for your comment!

      Delete
  15. We had the same arguments in ATC when the FAA proposed putting cameras in the control towers several years ago. It was under the guise of Human Factors, but would still be reactive. I agree with navyaircrewman, use the money for better technology and, by all means, a secondary gate on every commercial aircraft.

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    1. Thank you Dave! I agree. I'm on the boat of using the money where needed. So many other ways we could use this money!

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  16. I also agree that cameras in the cockpit wouldn't be much of value. The idea of having an air marshall on every flight is improbable and costly, so how about one armed passenger who's background can be checked sit in the jump seat, and hand in the firearm and end of the flight.

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    1. Kevin, I like the way you think. I think the Federal Flight Deck Officer program is a good option. The problems with international carrying guns to other countries... Airlines can do that, but the expense is horrendous. So that's why the program is just domestic. Thank you so much for the comment.

      Delete
  17. As an aircraft technician in training, with an interest in avionics, I think cameras in the cockpit are a really bad idea from a technology standpoint. Finding space for it, working its electronics into the aircraft's overall electrical system, thinking through how it will be isolated if it causes trouble ... these are all concerns that the "cameras in the cockpit" alarmists are likely not aware of.

    In addition to the technical downsides, I think it's a terrible idea because it degrades our trust in the professionalism of our pilots. We give you control of a plane full of people, because you're respected as highly trained professionals. If there's any doubt about a particular pilot's professionalism or stability, THAT INDIVIDUAL should be addressed, not the entire profession. Karlene, I agree, this is reactive and not likely to resolve anything - it will just add a layer of potential distraction and the last thing pilots need is distraction.

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    1. Jennifer, I am so glad you chimed in from the technical perspective. I was trying to figure out how we could make this work... as to where... and the only place would be on the overhead panel...(that could pan down on everything) that is full of equipment that we need for flying and managing our systems. Something will have to go. I vote for the camera.

      And yes... if there is a pilot that needs monitoring, then we need to keep them out of the flightdeck in the first place.

      Thank you so much for the great comment!

      Delete
  18. Agree no need. Typical knee-jerk over reaction of jumping to something that sounds good to the public but serves no real benefit. A waste of energy, time, and focus.

    Improve live tracking using existing systems and technologies. And mandate it for all aircraft on all routes, not just TransAtl or over USA. One thing everyone has learned is we can't just rely on radar that might (or might not) be manned at 2AM when the world is at peace.

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    1. Yes... improvements are what we need. Not to see what happened after the fact. I hope we stop wasting time, energy and focus. We know a human was involved in this one... I think we should be approaching both aspects of which human and taking measures in each case. Much more effective.
      Thank you so much for the comment.

      Delete
  19. As a military pilot, being recorded is nothing new to me. Every time I fly, I am required to turn on a recorder that records my HUD and most of my cockpit displays. It is very easy to tell from the displays exactly what I'm doing with 90% of my switches. If the appropriate display is called up, you can even see where my throttles are positioned and what control inputs I'm making at any given time. My point here is that cameras won't show the important stuff - for example if your throttles are set too low for the given pitch to maintain airspeed and you get slow on final resulting in a stall, etc, etc.

    The biggest benefit we gain from our recording our HUD, displays, and audio is that we debrief our sorties ad nauseam and we need the detail those recordings provide to ensure we debrief appropriately. Without the debrief to justify such recordings, I would feel I was just being spied on.

    (Karlene: sorry it took me so long read this amazing post! I'm finally getting caught up on my blog reading!)

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    1. Rob, No worries on delay. And if we videoed takeoffs and landings on flights with the intent to debrief at the end of the day for improvement... that would be different. I think learning is great. But unfortunately this is not the intent. And it would be a spied on event.
      And like you said, you can't see the important stuff they were talking about. One comment in support was to see the pilots hand on the stick. But how?

      Also... if you or someone decided to take your plane, they would turn off the camera just as they did the transponder. So...that doesn't work either.

      Thank you so much for the great comment! I really appreciate it!

      Delete
  20. Hi Karlene
    Your right about the cost of extra personnel on international flights would be horrendous. Would 2 cameras on the overhead panel behind the pilots be a problem. One facing the door, the other on he instruments. Both could be saved in real time on servers via satellites to the individual companies, say on a 24hr loop. I agree certainly, not in the pilots face. As for space on the panel there are pinholes cameras that take up no more space than a single screw. As there is now all voice comm. recorded anyway to the blackbox, would it really be a problem.
    The other problem I don't understand why there isn't a floatable ELB attached to maybe behind the tail of the plane, which activates when submerged like on a yacht The technology is out there.
    Be interested on your thoughts

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    1. The problem is there is no room on the overhead panel...and the millions to retrofit the planes. Read the comment from from Jennifer, and then from Rob. Both interesting on ability in the flight deck and how much you can really see. And do you know there are 87,000 flights daily? Who is watching these live videos?

      We're going to watch the door? My question is why? What good would that do? So we see someone get in...they're in. Then what? The plane is in the air.

      I know everyone wants the reality TV show...but trust me, there are some things you really don't want to see. And that would be what happens if someone gets in the flight deck.

      I'm sure you meant ELT. And that's to find the plane. Who would thought we could lose one? Lessons learned for sure. Will they change technology because of this? Probably. Hope so.

      When we say should or shouldn't, we really must look at what the purpose is, and will it increase safety. If not...then we need to spend the money that will. Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  21. Not into reality shows, hate them and go out of my way to never to watch them.
    To me there a total waste of time.
    Whereas I agree It wouldn't help to see who's coming in, but it might be a deterrent, like in the city streets to prevent violence which has worked here.
    I understand the privacy issues, but with approx. 200+ ppl on each flight, I argue that safety takes precedence over privacy.The public should never watch these tapes.
    I understand the most pilots are armed and I hope the public never sees what happens if there is a break in.
    I have read Jennifer comments, but I meant pinhole cameras on the overhead panel behind the pilots.
    The cost of retrofitting should be borne by the govt. if there serious.
    Sorry I did mean ELT.
    Still would like to see more security on the flight deck but if as you say extremely expensive this might be the next best thing
    I do commend you on seeking comments from everybody.
    Anyway still interested in other comments

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    1. We need to focus on who we're dealing with. We need a deterrent for pilots to behave right? I think if we have pilots who behave badly and would change behavior because they are being watched... we are hiring wrong. We need pilots who can manage themselves as well as the plane.
      Deterrents work well for some groups. Thanks for your comments! I really appreciate them.

      Delete
  22. Cameras on the flight deck? No way.

    Karlene, what is your conception on live streaming data?

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  23. Replies
    1. I like the way you think!
      Thanks for the great comment.

      Delete
  24. Use the money to improve aircraft tracking systems, not on cameras.

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  25. I am not a pilot yet, but I know cameras do change behavior in people. Having "someone watch" your every action would be uncomfortable. In this case the cockpit would be one tense office.
    Let the pilots do their thing like they are used to.

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    1. K, Thank you so much for the comment. Seriously, our office can be stressful enough... you're right, we need to be able to do our thing! One day you will be there too.

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