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NTSB Throws Weight Behind Mandatory CVR Upgrades

FAA-Required 2-Hour Limit Inconveniences Investigations, Board Says

The NTSB is pushing to require all cockpit voice recorders to migrate from a 2-hour to a 25-hour capacity, bolstering the ability of crash investigators to retain valuable incident data.

The Board wants the FAA to create a regulatory requirement for 25-hour recorders, citing a number of recent high-profile incidents that were hampered by a technologically outdated 2-hour recording loop. Since 2018, they've identified "at least 14 NTSB investigations have been hampered because cockpit voice recorder, or CVR, data were overwritten, including seven serious runway incursions that occurred in early 2023."

“In the recent Alaska Airlines door plug blowout accident, our investigators don’t have the CVR audio to fully understand all of the challenges the flight crew faced in response to the emergency,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “Any investigation in which the CVR audio is overwritten and unavailable to us, means that we may miss opportunities to address safety issues identified on recordings. And that’s unacceptable.”

The NTSB notes that standards abroad already require new-manufacture aircraft to sport a 25-hour CVR, a rule that has been aligned at home. As it stands, that only applies to brand new aircraft, with no provisions for forced retrofitment of improved recording capability. The FAA had once said it would be too expensive for the domestic fleet, but the NTSB said only half as many aircraft would be affected as once thought.

“CVRs are among the most valuable tools for accident investigation because they provide contemporaneous information on flight crew intentions and coordination as well other factors, such as procedural compliance, workload, fatigue, and situational awareness,” said Tim LeBaron, director of the NTSB’s Office of Aviation Safety. “This information is critical to our ability to conduct more thorough investigations and target safety recommendations more effectively.”

FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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