The Federal Aviation Administration is working to establish a requirement that aircraft have longer duration cockpit voice recorders.
The announcement comes after the agency held an emergency “safety summit” Wednesday following a series of near-collisions on US runways.
The FAA said it is “initiating rulemaking that will require Cockpit Voice Recorders to capture 25 hours of information.” Currently, the cockpit voice recorder, which is one of two so-called “black boxes” on an aircraft, captures only the most recent two hours of sound in the cockpit.
The rulemaking process can take multiple years, and the agency added it would welcome intervention from Congress on the matter. The FAA has previously said it did not pursue regulations in this area because it had other priorities.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said cockpit audio recordings are not available in all of the runway incursion incidents it is investigating because more than two hours passed before the recordings could be retrieved.
The NTSB recommended the 25-hour standard after a 2017 incident where an airliner attempted to land on a runway occupied by several other aircraft at San Francisco International Airport. It said in its 2018 report that the lack of cockpit recordings hampered its investigation.
The board has also identified more than a dozen other events since 2003 where investigators have been unable to listen to key audio because of the limited memory of the recorders.
A litany of incidents – including violent turbulence that left passengers injured and a 2022 incident where an United Airlines Boeing 777 plunged toward the Pacific Ocean – prompted this week’s summit. And since the start of the year, there have been a troubling number of high-profile “near misses” as planes involved in airport landing or taking off procedures came perilously close to potential disaster.
Following the summit, the FAA said they will also “establish an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to explore how to make greater use of data gathered by the airplane and its systems.”