National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Although we have just received the FAA's proposed rule on upgrading airliner flight data recorders, I remain discouraged that the FAA has ignored our urgent recommendation to retrofit Boeing 737s immediately.
While some of the proposed retrofit requirements appear to be a step in the right direction, the protracted timeline is an example of how long the FAA sometimes takes to implement safety rules, even when they fall short of what the NTSB has requested. As currently written, the first retrofits will not begin for at least two years and the work on most airplanes will not be completed until after the year 2000.
I realize that the FAA has faced formidable opposition from the airline industry to upgrade FDRs and I commend Administrator Hinson for his efforts, but I am disappointed the agency does not have a greater sense of urgency regarding the importance of these recorders in investigating aviation incidents and accidents.
The quality and timeliness of information following an airline accident is essential for investigators to determine what went wrong and whether safety problems exist that should be immediately remedied. The two unsolved Boeing 737 accidents provide grim testimony to the importance of better data recording capabilities, especially in light of the recent Eastwind Airlines incident.
The welfare of the traveling public demands that, at the very least, the FAA reconsider our urgent recommendation to immediately require enhanced FDRs on Boeing 737 aircraft.
The Board's formal response to the FAA's proposed rule will be forthcoming.
Media Contact: NTSB Office of Public Affairs
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.