With little hard evidence, National Transportation Safety Board investigators spent half a decade and thousands of hours concluding that the plane's rudder moved opposite the pilot's commands - forcing the jet into an uncontrollable dive, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr.
Now, six and a half years after that crash, Boeing 737 rudders are still being fixed.
Jim Hall, the recently retired Chairman of the NTSB, believes the cause and the fix would have been found sooner with a camera in the cockpit - a camera like the one by NASA to record pilot actions.
"We would have moved four to five years ahead of where we are today in terms of redesign of the rudder of the 737, which is the most used aircraft in the world," Hall said.
Hall maintains cameras also would have helped investigators determine if Egypt Air flight 990 was deliberately crashed by the co-pilot. And video would have provided a picture of just how bad the smoke was inside the cockpit just before Swiss Air 111 went down.
But pilots are vehemently opposed to cameras - pointing out that hundreds of the plane's movements and the pilots' voices are already recorded and analyzed by investigators. Pilots argue if investigators rely on videotape, they won't do enough sleuthing.
"If you are an accident investigator, and you have a video, what is the odd that you are gonna jump to conclusions? That you're not actually going to look at the components, that you are not really going to analyze the flight recorder," said Capt. Paul McCarthy.
Safety analysts say a video tape would also be open to interpretation and may do little to solve a crash like Egypt Air.
"What are you gonna determine that this was a suicide from? By the look in the guy's eyes? I mean, in a court how ya gonna do that? How are you gonna do that as a human being?" said David Learmount of Aviation International.
But, Hall says in every accident he's seen, ranging from TWA flight 800 to the Valujet crash in the Everglades, a camera would have helped.
"The pilot community needs to understand that there is an over reaching safety interest for the general public here," said Hall.
The Federal Aviation Administration is just beginning to study the issue. But, with pilots staunchly opposed and warning that cockpit death videos could wind up on television or the Internet, it could be years - if ever - before cameras are installed on the flight deck.
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