Section 4


Audio, Data and Video Recorders



The TSB conducted a four and a half year - $57 million Canadian dollar investigation – and issued 4 Aviation Safety Advisories, 1 Aviation Safety Information Letter and 23 Aviation Safety Recommendations[6]. As noted above, one set of recommendations (A99-01 through –04, March 9th 1999) appears on the NTSB’s ‘Most Wanted List’ in respect of NTSB recommendations A99-16 through 18:


Audio, Data and Video Recorders - Recommendations specify at least two hours of audio recording capability, back-up power sources, and a requirement for video recorders in the cockpit to give investigators more information to solve complex accidents. Status: The Board noted some progress by the FAA on a few recommendations in this issue area but retained the overall classification of "Open-Unacceptable Response".


As previously stated, we raised this issue with the NTSB on October 14th 2003. Chairman Conners supplied us with a copy of their Recommendation Report (RR) in respect of these recommendations – the RR monitors and details in chronological order the progress of a recommendation and significant developments from inception to date (in this instance to February 11th 2004). It demonstrates the NTSB’s robust approach to the recommendations it issues. We have included a copy of the RR in question for your reference[7]. We would draw your attention to the following entries:


3/19/1999 FAA agrees with these safety recommendations and will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) by the end of summer 1999.


5/24/1999 Pending publication of the final rule, A-99-16, 17, and –18 are classified “open – acceptable response”.


8/11/1999 The FAA plans to issue the NPRM to address the CVR/DFDR issues in A-99-16 through –18 by March 2000. Although the proposed issue date has slipped, the FAA still intends to meet the compliance dates recommended by the Board for both rules.


4/16/2001 The FAA has assembled a team to begin drafting the NPRM, and it is anticipated the NPRM will be issued by the end of 2001.


7/25/2001 The Safety Board considers the issues related to the vehicle recorders as critically important to transportation safety and notes that these recommendations are on the list of Most Wanted Transportation Safety improvements. The Board regards it as unacceptable that little progress has been made in the 2 years since the recommendations were issued. Although the FAA appears to be moving to implement the recommended actions, the Board is skeptical that the dates for final action can be met. The Board urges the FAA to act expeditiously on these recommendations and to take necessary actions to expedite the final rule, such as informing industry of impending changes. Pending issuance of the NPRM and expeditious issuance of the final rule, Safety Recommendations A-99-16 through –18 are classified “Open--Unacceptable Response”.


According to the 2003 DOT Report to Congress on Significant Rulemakings the anticipated publication date for a NPRM was February 9th 2003, however, the 2004 Report projects the publication date as January 16th 2005. For completeness, the November 16th 2004 Executive Order Submissions Under Review confirms that the Office of Management and Budget, the Executive Office of the President received AH88, on September 16th 2004. Considering the FAA originally agreed to issue a NPRM by the end of summer 1999, the FAA, based on its current January 16th 2005 projection, will be approximately 5˝ years late in issuing the NPRM. This is appalling considering the NTSB anticipated implementation of the recommendation A-99-17 on or after January 1st 2003.


As if this wasn’t bad enough, certainly in respect of A-99-17 this was not a new issue. Flight Standards Information Bulletin for Air Transportation (FSAT) 97-09[8] dated August 5th 1997 states:


The FAA believes that resolution of this issue lays in new technology CVRs with increased taping capability. The NTSB agrees with this approach, and has made an additional recommendation, A-96-171, which would require that all newly manufactured CVRs intended for use on airplanes have a minimum recording duration of 2 hours.  The FAA has indicated that it will revise the existing Technical Standard Order (TSO) C123a, Cockpit Voice Recorder System, to reference the standard for a 2-hour CVR as a requirement.


You will see from the balance of FSAT 97-09 that it notes issues concerning recorders that touch on the NTSB’s recommendations. The FAA have sought to justify the lack of progress on this issue by reference to NTSB’s recommendations A-99-28 through –29 (as they apply to the Boeing 737), however, considering these recommendations were issued April 16th 1999 this does not justify a delay in excess of 5˝ years.

[6] See Appendix 1

[7] See Appendix 2

[8] See Appendix 3