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FAA Wants Better Flight Recorders

May 4, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Aviation Administration is calling for faster installation of better flight recorders _ the so-called black boxes _ on Boeing 737 commercial jets.

The FAA proposal announced Monday comes in the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board finding that a jam in rudder-control valve caused the 1994 crash of USAir Flight 427 near Pittsburgh, killing all 132 people on board.

The newer black boxes can track more flight functions, especially related to the rudder.

``Over the years, flight recorders have provided a blueprint for deficiencies in the system that needed to be fixed,″ FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said at the NTSB’s international symposium on flight data recorders that began Monday in Arlington, Va.

She said the FAA also will propose increasing the 30-minute recording now required on cockpit voice recorders to two hours and installing a 10-minute backup power supply by 2005.

In 1997, federal regulators issued a rule ordering all U.S. transport airplanes _ not just 737s _ to be equipped with flight data recorders that could track a minimum of 17 functions. The FAA said the changes had to be made by August 2001.

Garvey said the agency now will propose additional requirements for newer 737s. The FAA wants to require these 737s to have flight data recorders that can keep information on four to 11 other flight functions _ beyond those covered by the 1997 ruling. And they would have to be installed by August 2000 _ a year sooner than those covered in the earlier ruling.

Robert Frenzel, head of safety and operations for the Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. airlines, said the association is somewhat frustrated by the changing mandates from the FAA.

``Our members have already been upgrading the parameters on the flight data recorders based on the previous order,″ he said.

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