FAA adopts rule to improve duration and durability of black boxes

  • 30-Jun-2008 07:15 EDT

The FAA has approved a regulation that requires cockpit voice recorders (CVRs) to retain the last two hours of conversation. As part of the regulation, the FAA is imposing additional requirements related to CVRs and digital flight data recorders (DFDRs).

The requirements do not affect all aircraft manufacturers, air carriers, and operators, and have different timetables and applicability for new vs. existing aircraft.

The requirements reflect most of the recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In developing its recommendations, the NTSB cited eight major accidents over the past 12 years in which investigative capabilities were limited by the duration of the CVR recordings and/or by the loss of power to one or more recording units.

Other principal features of the regulation include an increase in the data recording rate for certain DFDR parameters; improved reliability of the power supplies to both recording units; a requirement that certain datalink communications received on an aircraft be recorded if datalink communication equipment is installed; and a requirement that an independent power source be installed to power CVRs for 10 min after the main power source fails.

The final rule was adopted in March 2008. It includes most of the requirements outlined in a proposed rule issued by the FAA in 2005. Included in the proposed rule but not incorporated into the final one is a requirement for aircraft to carry two recording systems. The FAA mentioned in the proposed rule that it would consider at some point in the future requiring, in addition to the regular recording system, a so-called deployable one—one that could be jettisoned from the airplane before a crash. The FAA is seeking comment on both of those ideas.

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