The US Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a new rule to increase the recording time of cockpit voice recorders to 25h for all newly manufactured aircraft from its current 2h requirement.
“This rulemaking would provide accident investigators, aircraft operators, and civil aviation authorities with substantially more cockpit voice recorder data to help find the probable causes of incidents and accidents, prevent future incidents and accidents and make the FAA’s regulations more consistent with existing international requirements,” reads the document, published on 30 November.
Currently, the FAA requires cockpit voice recorders store the last two hours of information, after which the device overwrites the oldest data to maintain a rolling 2h recording.
But in the proposed rule, the FAA says that, “The current 2-hour recording duration requirement does not meet the NTSB’s needs for investigations and subsequent safety recommendations.”
The FAA estimates the cost per aircraft for the upgrade to be “from near parity to an upper bound of approximately $4,500”.
Following several close calls and severe runway incursions in late 2022 and early 2023 involving large commercial aircraft, the FAA held a safety summit in March to address issues that could have led to those incidents, and which could be a further safety risk in the future.
As a result of the discussions at the summit, the FAA committed to pursue the 25h recording requirement for new aircraft. The new rule would also align with regulations set by the International Civil Aviation Organization and European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which went into effect in 2021.
The lack of cockpit voice recordings made the investigations of at least one of the incidents more complicated, and the FAA had pledged to make improvements.
On 13 January, an American Airlines Boeing 777, operating as flight 106 to London-Heathrow, crossed an active runway at New York’s John F Kennedy International airport just as a Delta Air Lines aircraft began a takeoff roll on the same runway. A tragedy was narrowly averted when controllers told the Delta pilots to abandon their take-off. The aircraft came to a stop shortly before the taxiway intersection.
While the Delta jet returned to the gate, the American jet shortly thereafter left for London. While recorder data from both aircraft had been secured, the cockpit voice recorder data in both aircraft had been overwritten by the time safety investigators attempted to access it.
The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register on 4 December, and the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal.