FAA Revamps CVR/FDR Rules

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The FAA on Thursday proposed new rules for aircraft that are required to carry a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) . New CVRs will be required to hold two hours of data instead of the current 15 to 30 minutes. Magnetic tape must be replaced with digital data storage, which is more durable and reliable. The FDR must record data more frequently and store 25 hours' worth of information. The CVR must have an independent backup power source good for at least 10 minutes. "Good data is often the key to deciphering what went wrong in an aircraft incident or accident," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "Increasing the likelihood that recorders yield crucial data improves overall safety by giving us the chance to analyze these events." Implementation could cost the industry up to $420 million. NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners said in a statement she is "gratified" by the changes, which have long been lobbied for by the safety board. However, the FAA needs to go further, in the NTSB's view -- cockpit video recorders should be required, FDRs need to do a better job of data sampling, and smaller, for-hire turbine-powered aircraft should have some kind of safety recorders installed. The Air Line Pilots Association said it welcomes the new rules, but expressed concern over how the data will be used. "Current legislation provides only limited protection against abuse and misuse of the information, and no rules exist to prevent airline management from using data for disciplinary action, rather than for enhancing aviation safety as was the original purpose," Capt. Terry McVenes, ALPA's executive air safety chairman, said in a statement. ALPA has long expressed opposition to cockpit video cameras.

The proposed rules, which affect aircraft with 10 or more seats, take effect for new aircraft starting in 2008, and most aircraft must comply by 2010. The FAA estimates the cost of implementing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at $256 million to $420 million, over 20 years. To read all 88 pages of the full NPRM, click here.