The notoriously cost-sensitive air travel industry will have to upgrade its standard flight recorder equipment if new rules proposed in Europe are adopted. Published today by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), these require an extension of the minimum signal broadcasting time of Underwater Locating Devices (ULDs) from 30 to 90 days, giving search and rescue teams more time to do their jobs, as well as a longer locating range. Additionally, the current minimum of two hours of cockpit audio recording would be extended to 20 hours, covering the full duration of most flights in and out of the continent. The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) regulation would come into effect from the beginning of 2019, along with a prescription that it does not record to "obsolete" magnetic wire or tape. Large aircraft would be subject to the 90-day ULD requirement from 2018.
Long overdue upgrades to the minimum spec could be brought in by 2019
The core motivation for this change has been explicitly cited as the the tragic flight of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, whose wreckage remains undiscovered somewhere in the Indian Ocean. It's impossible to say whether a flight recorder equipped with a longer locating signal might have made recovery of the plane possible by now, but there's no denying that it would have improved the chances of doing so. While the most direct lessons of the MH370 crash may never be learned, Europe's safety watchdog is taking a proactive step toward applying the most obvious ones. As to the likelihood of these proposals being adopted, the EASA sounds fully confident that the European Commission will implement the required amendments, describing it as a matter of "when", not "if."