Mixed Reaction To 25-Hour CVR Rule


Comments for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA’s) proposed rule to increase cockpit voice recorder (CVR) times closed Friday with mixed reaction from industry representatives in the 99 comments received. 

The Dec. 4 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) would extend the CVR recording time to 25 hours for all newly manufactured aircraft. According to the FAA, the increase would provide investigators, operators and aviation authorities with more comprehensive data to determine the causes of incidents and accidents, while making the FAA’s regulations more consistent with existing international requirements. Under the current two-hour requirement, CVR data covering aviation incidents is often overwritten before investigators can get access to it.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been advocating for the change since 2018, but given the spate of close calls involving commercial aircraft in the last year, the issue has once again come to the forefront. The NTSB said the rule doesn’t go far enough as it “does not propose a similar requirement to retrofit existing airplanes required to carry a CVR and a flight data recorder (FDR).”

Several organizations including FedEx, the Cargo Airline Association, Regional Airline Association, Alaska Airlines and Helicopter Association International have all expressed their support for the rule. 

Meanwhile, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents 77,000 pilots from 43 airlines, stressed the need for additional CVR protections to be in place before moving forward. ALPA proposed measures such as indefinite maintenance of CVR recordings by the NTSB, permanent deletion of the recording medium returned to the aircraft operator, and restrictions on the use of recordings or transcripts for administrative or disciplinary proceedings.

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), which represents 35,000 airline pilots from American Airlines, UPS, NetJets, Atlas Air and Republic Airlines among others, has strongly opposed the rule. CAPA says its primary concerns are related to the misuse of CVR recordings by entities outside of the FAA and NTSB such as law enforcement investigations.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. The union arguments against the change really feel like more general arguments against CVR itself. The protections they reasonably ask for are (for the most part) already in place.

    The length/duration of the recording doesn’t change the scale of the arguments or concerns. It’s not like you need more or different protections for a recording of ten hours or twenty (or 25) than you need for 30 minutes or two hours.

    If there’s a recording, then it needs to be protected. I don’t view the offered concerns as applicable to a proposal for changing the duration. (Not saying the concerns are invalid, just misplaced here.)

    • Problem is the current protections in place have show to be inadequate as per the lawsuits involved with the RJ accident in Lexington KY. That was the accident that the crew tried to takeoff by mistake the wrong, too short, runway.

    • I think to say that the unions’ arguments are “against CVR itself” takes what they’re saying a bit farther than they are. Their arguments aren’t against CVR, they’re for protecting “free speech” in professional flight decks in the name of safety.

      The key to effective Crew Resource Management (which itself is the key to safe operation of an aircraft) is open and strong communication. Anything that might possibly stifle this poses a potential erosion to safety.

      Crews are aware they’re being recorded. But if they also know that those recordings will become public record, or used for punitive measures, this will stifle communication to some degree. And, the length of time matters. An incident that occurs at the end of a 20-hour duty period and that lasts 15 minutes is preceded by 19H and 45M of idle chatter that shouldn’t be open to public consumption or for airlines/officials to use in disciplinary proceedings.

      This strikes at the heart of SMS (safety management systems) where the most important aspect is to encourage the free and open reporting of incidents by flight crews in order to increase the total amount of information about safety-related incidents. This only works because it is non-punitive. This is what the unions are trying to preserve. Afterall, the ability to freely gather information about things that go wrong is the key to lowering the rates of accidents and incidents. Therefore, if the goal of the industry is to increase safety rather than being able to be punitive or to give the public access to CVR, then the protection the unions are asking for is justified.