Flight/Voice Recorder Rule Enacted

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The FAA has issued a final rule that will require aircraft and helicopters built after Mar. 7, 2010, with 10 or more seats to be equipped with enhanced voice and flight data recorders. Under the rule, voice recorders will have an audio loop at least two hours long instead of the current 15 to 30 minutes and there will have to be an independent power source to keep the recorder running for 9 to 11 minutes after all aircraft power is lost or interrupted. Magnetic tape is also banned and all recorders must use digital storage. Flight data recorders will have to sample more data (including pilot inputs and control-surface movements) more often and retain 25 hours of data.

Ironically, it’s the relative safety of air travel that’s being used to justify the equipment upgrade. “Because this is the safest period in aviation history, we now have to be able to analyze each accident in greater detail,” said FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell. “These enhancements will give us more information about the causes of accidents and find ways to avoid them in the future.” While the rule affects all new aircraft made after March 7, 2010, fixed-wing aircraft of this size operated commercially (Parts 121, 125 and 135) will have to be retrofitted with some new equipment by March 7, 2012.