European Aviation Safety Agency has been the first to respond to the MH370 disaster by issuing tougher black box recommendations

Flight MH370: Europe first to propose black box changes

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been the first to respond to the Flight MH370 search fiasco by issuing new guidelines that would help locate flight data recorders of crashed aircraft in the future.

In a proposal released today, EASA calls for the life time of the underwater flight data recorder locators to be extended from the current 30 to 90 days. Debates highlighting the need for changes of the black box parameters occurred already after the loss of the Air France Flight 447 in 2009 and have been emphasised following the so far mysterious disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

In the case of the French AF447, the black box signals were not intercepted at all, leading to a lengthy two-year operation to locate the recorders. With the Malaysian Aircraft, the search teams were luckier and managed to record signals consistent with those of the flight data recorders at the very last minute before the locator batteries expired.

The successful signal interception helped to narrow down the area of the probable crash of MH370, considerably increasing the likelihood the wreckage would ever be found and the black boxes retrieved.

The new type of underwater locating devices, according to EASA’s proposal, should not only have a longer life time, but also enable locating the wreckage at greater distances with a six nautical miles accuracy. Reuters said, EASA will require adding a new locator frequency to make it easier to locate the black boxes underwater.

The cockpit voice recorders, currently overwriting their content every two hours, should have their capacity increased to be able to record up to twenty hours of conversation between the pilots.

Even though in most cases the final minutes of a flight hold a key to understanding the causes of an aviation disaster, in the case of Flight MH370, the critical moments are believed to have happened hours before the plane went down into the ocean.

EASA proposes the new devices should be carried on all trans-oceanic aeroplanes.

“The tragic flight of Malaysia Airlines MH370 demonstrates that safety can never be taken for granted,” said Patrick Ky, EASA Executive Director. “The proposed changes are expected to increase safety by facilitating the recovery of information by safety investigation authorities”.

EASA’s recommendation are not binding and will have to be adopted by the European Commission. Afterwards, the regulations will apply to all aeroplanes and helicopters registered in EASA member states.

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