For Immediate Release

Release No. AOC 02-08
March 10, 2008
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr.
Phone: (202) 267-3883


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated significant upgrades to aircraft cockpit voice and flight data recorders — improvements that will enable investigators to retrieve more data from accidents and incidents requiring investigation.

“Because this is the safest period in aviation history, we now have to be able to analyze each accident in greater detail,” said Robert A. Sturgell, the FAA’s acting administrator. “These enhancements will give us more information about the causes of accidents and find ways to avoid them in the future.”

Under the final rule, which affects manufacturers and operators of airplanes and helicopters with 10 or more seats, all voice recorders must capture the last two hours of cockpit audio instead of the current 15 to 30 minutes. The new rule also requires an independent backup power source for the voice recorders to allow continued recording for nine to 11 minutes if all aircraft power sources are lost or interrupted. Voice recorders also must use solid state technology instead of magnetic tape, which is vulnerable to damage and loss of reliability.

Airplanes (but not helicopters) operating under Parts 121, 125 or 135 of FAA regulations will have to retrofit some equipment by April 7, 2012. The rule also mandates these enhancements on all newly built aircraft and helicopters after April 7, 2010.

The new rule mandates that the recorders measure aircraft data more frequently than is now required, including the aircraft’s primary flight control movements and the pilots’ movement of the controls. The data recorders also must retain the last 25 hours of recorded information. These provisions affect new aircraft manufactured after April 7, 2010.

The final rule formalizes current FAA policy that voice and data recorders must be housed in separate units (excluding helicopters) and that no single electrical failure can disable the units. The rule also allows operators who install two combined voice and data recorders to mount one of those combined recorders in the forward part of the aircraft. Details of the final rule can be found at: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/.

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