New Zealand air-tour CEO Louisa Patterson (left) has developed an in-cockpit video recorder and started Eye in the Sky to market the device. Photo: Mariano Rosales
New Zealand air-tour CEO Louisa Patterson (left) has developed an in-cockpit video recorder and started Eye in the Sky to market the device. Photo: Mariano Rosales

Eye in the Sky Cockpit Video Born Out of Grief

Louisa Patterson, chief pilot, standards pilot, and CEO of Over the Top, a New Zealand-based air tour operator flying three Eurocopter helicopters, is on a mission. Although some consider her a pioneer of the air tour industry in her country, her main focus now is promoting her new business, Eye in the Sky, a maker of aircraft video, audio, and data recording devices.

Her motivation is personal. Her son was killed on February 19, 2015 in the crash of a Robinson Helicopter R44, on which he was a passenger. The 3,000-hour pilot was a former military pilot and had a reputation for being careful. The helicopter broke apart in the air while flying at 1,400 feet over level ground, and pieces of it were spread over a wide area. The New Zealand accident investigation board was unable to determine a primary cause of the accident.

Patterson knew a video recorder in the cockpit could have given the investigators more clues. So in remembrance of her son, she made it her mission to design a cockpit recording device (video, voice, and data) that would be small, crash-resistant (metal), and tamper-proof and would cost less than half the price of similar devices on the market at that time. She found a manufacturer in the U.S., Rugged Video, in Mequon, Wisconsin.

So now she has a device that fits in the palm of your hand and costs $4,500. She believes that every aircraft should be flying with such a device, for both safety and business reasons. Patterson says she is not in it for the money. She funded the development of the recorder and plans to donate all profits from the sale of the device to a charity in New Zealand.

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