OPPOSITION IS growing to the US proposal to force the retrofitting enhanced flight-data recorders (FDRs) to early-model Boeing 737s and other aircraft.

Airlines and manufacturers insist that the proposed installation deadlines are unrealistic and that, in any case, the move is not economically justifiable.

The plan, instigated by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), came under criticism at a 20 April US Federal Aviation Administration public hearing, and in written statements.

Under the rule, US airlines would have to install FDRs which record more parameters on more than 4,000 aircraft by the end of 1997, and to upgrade 1,000 Boeing 737s by 31 December, 1995.

The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) advocates phased installation of new FDRs, but says that retrofitting of the Boeing 737, involved in two major unexplained crashes, is urgently needed.

The Regional Airline Association (RAA) has hit out at the move, alleging that the economic impact has been underestimated and the schedule unattainable. Raytheon Aircraft says that the NTSB recommendations are "detrimental" to Beech 1900D sales and that "...a more rational approach to FDRs is needed."

Fokker says that the safety record does not justify the move, and Fairchild Aircraft estimates that the bill for the Metro fleet would be $19 million. It estimates the total cost to US commuter operators of all types of 19-seaters at up to $45 million.

McDonnell Douglas has warned that FDR upgrade work involving DC-8, DC-9, DC-10, MD-80, MD-90 and MD-11 aircraft would cost $114 million and offer no safety benefits.

Airbus says that the cost of retrofitting the A300-B2/B4 fleet may be "...unduly high, if compared to the benefit expected from the addition of the few missing parameters". Boeing claims that the Boeing 737 deadline is "...unreasonable and will result in severe hardship for operators".

Source: Flight International