FAA Proposes Extension of Cockpit Voice Recording Duration to 25 Hours

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Thursday a proposal to extend the duration of cockpit voice recordings from the current two hours to 25 hours for all new aircraft. This change, which has been advocated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) since 2018, would bring the United States in line with many other countries’ requirements for commercial aircraft. 


The voice recorder, which records cockpit sounds including pilot conversations and engine noises, is a vital tool for understanding the causes of airplane crashes. Since 2021, Europe has mandated that new airplanes record 25 hours of cockpit voice data. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker believes that the proposed change will provide significantly more data to help identify the reasons behind incidents. 

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In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) introduced a new standard requiring the installation of recorders capable of capturing the last 25 hours of flight on all new aircraft from 2021 onwards. This issue has gained importance due to a series of near-miss incidents that have raised concerns about U.S. air safety. Since January, the NTSB has initiated seven investigations into such incidents, some of which could have had disastrous outcomes. 

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In one case, the cockpit voice recordings from both planes involved in a runway incident were overwritten and could not be retrieved because the devices only recorded two hours of data. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy welcomed the FAA’s announcement on Thursday, stating that more data will not only help determine causes but also enable operators to address any safety deficiencies. The NTSB has also urged the FAA to require existing airplanes to be retrofitted with new cockpit voice recorders. However, the FAA disagreed, citing the significant cost of $741 million compared to the $196 million incremental upgrade costs under its proposal. The FAA will accept comments until early February and plans to implement the requirement one year after the final regulation is adopted. The FAA noted that when cockpit voice recorders were first introduced in 1966, they could only record 30 minutes of data.

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