Meeting Recommended, Likely, and Newly Introduced Recorder Regulations for Light Aircraft and RotorcraftDownload PDF
Large airliners are required to have onboard flight data recorders to store data in a robust unit that can survive the typical effects of a crash. This helps accident investigators determine what caused the incident and helps prevent such events from happening in the future. Not all aircraft are currently required to carry such a recorder, but this could soon change as several organizations are now recommending more aircraft types have a suitable solution. This white paper looks at the motivations behind introducing requirements for some form of flight recorders, what options are available, and discusses what may be the best choice.
One important factor to consider when choosing a recorder is its level of crash protection
Most people are familiar with so-called ‘black boxes’ that are immediately sought following an aircraft crash. These crash-protected flight recorders have helped improve aviation safety since their introduction in the 1950s, providing vital information to ensure that, in the event of an accident, investigators can learn more about the chain of events leading up to it. From this, they may be able to make recommendations to help lower the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future. What a lot of people may not know is that not all aircraft are required to carry a crash protected recorder.
For the air transport market, flight recorders are typically separate products functioning as flight data recorders (FDR) and cockpit voice recorders (CVR). These functions can also be combined into a single crash-protected flight recorder, sometimes called a ‘combi’ or CVFDR for lighter aircraft or rotorcraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stipulates the requirements for FDRs in title 14 of its code of federal regulations, known as the federal aviation regulations (FAR), defining operating and flight rules under which aircraft operate. These include parts 91, 121, 125, 129, 133, and 135, which segment aircraft into different groups depending on their application (as shown on the x-axis in Figure 1).
One can see in Figure 1, under Part 135, that aircraft with six or fewer seats require no recorder of any kind, while those with 10 or fewer require only a CVR. However, accident investigators spend a lot of time on incidents related to lightweight aircraft. As a lot of people have light aircraft, a large number of which are not fitted with recorders, investigators find it more difficult to piece together bits of information to uncover the cause of the incident. Part of the problem is recorders are another cost owners of light aircraft may not want to absorb, and not just the recorder, but all the associated IT infrastructure and operational and maintenance overhead. For individuals or small operators, it can be difficult to justify the extra cost.