FAA looks to extend black box recorder limits to 25 hours after spike in near misses

FAA Federal Aviation Administration building in Washington
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a step closer to requiring aircraft black boxes to record 25 hours of data rather than the current limit of two hours. 

The move comes following the FAA’s Aviation Safety Summit in McLean, Virginia on March 15, 2023, which gathered more than 200 safety leaders from across the aviation industry.  

The summit, attended also by the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, was called after a spate of near misses between aircraft at US airports over recent months. 

The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jennifer Homendy, told attendees that two hours’ worth of black box recorder time was not sufficient.   

The chair said that six critical safety incidents this year all had cockpit voice recorders which were overwritten due to the two-hour limit.  

Previously Homendy has said that “valuable CVR data continues to be overwritten and therefore unavailable for safety investigations.” 

In a statement on Thursday, March 17,2023, the FAA said it “is committed to addressing the NTSB recommendations.” and “welcome any tools or resources Congress wants to provide to help us do this expeditiously.” 

Chair Homendy responded positively to the news in a tweet, writing: “Welcome news from FAA! […] FAA will now move forward w/25-hour CVRs. That’s a win for safety!” 

According to Bloomberg, any such move to extend recordings will face opposition from pilot unions that oppose increasing the length of recording time without additional privacy protections. 

“There is no question that aviation is amazingly safe, but vigilance can never take the day off,” said acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. “We must ask ourselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions, even when we are confident that the system is sound.” 

In February 2023, Homandy appeared in front of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  

She pointed out the near-miss events at JFK in January 2023 and SFO in July 2017 as two events where investigators were unable to recover the CVR data. 

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