Airframers request additional time for CVR, FDR rule

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Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier are requesting an exemption from the US FAA for a 7 April 2010 deadline to equip new part 121 aircraft with enhanced flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorders (CVRs).

Along with increased sampling rates for certain data parameters in the FDR, the new rule calls for an independent power source and increased recording time for the CVR, up to 120 min from 30 min.

In addition, datalink messages must now be recorded and both the CVR and FDR must be made more rugged from a crash survivability standpoint.

Boeing has asked for a one-year delay in implementing the datalink recording requirement, increased sampling rates for certain parameters and CVR independent power source requirements for its Boeing 737, 747, 767 and 777 lines.

By allowing more time, Boeing in its request says customers will be able to continue using pilot-controller datalink capabilities in the interim "thus providing Boeing with the additional development time needed to integrate the datalink recording capability into these highly complex aircraft for production".

The company says development schedules for the new and modified CVRs and FDRs "either do not support the compliance date or have an unacceptable amount of risk".

Likewise, Bombardier is asking for similar relief out through 2012 for its commercial line, and Airbus through the end of 2011.

CVR and FDR provider Universal Avionics, which has a market share of about 25% in the sector, is ramping up production of its CVR and FDR line to 500 units per year in order to accommodate the expected surge.

Robert Clare, Universal's director of OEM sales and marketing says the company is aligned with several airframers to supply the CVRs and FDRs, which cost between $15,000 and $25,000 per unit, depending on the installation, though no formal announcements have yet been made.

Despite Boeing's comment to the contrary, Clare says Universal's combined CVR and FDR system already records 120min of datalink information, and that there is nothing inherently complex with the process.

Perhaps more of an impact to airframers, he suggests, is developing the pre-stored datalink messages that must be loaded in the aircraft's communications management unit.