WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) introduced the Helicopter Data and Voice Recorder Requirement Act. This bipartisan legislation would require flight data and cockpit voice recorders in most helicopters, also known as “black boxes.” Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires large commercial planes and some private aircraft to have such recorders. Loopholes in regulations allow some helicopters to operate without black boxes.
Flight data recorders track aircraft altitude and other instrumentation, while cockpit voice recorders capture both radio transmissions and sounds within the cockpit. In the event of a crash, this technology allows federal investigators to conduct safety probes and assess the factors that may have led to the accident.
For nearly a decade, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has urged the FAA to address these gaps in helicopter safety. The helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and eight others, as well as accidents across the country, have underscored the urgency for additional safety measures. From 2005 to 2017, the NTSB estimates there were 159 crashes involving helicopters with no recording equipment. Of the 159 incidents, the NTSB was unable to determine probable cause for 18 of those crashes.
“I am proud to join Congressman Brown in introducing this bipartisan legislation, which will increase safety and accountability in the aviation industry by requiring flight data and cockpit voice recorders on helicopters,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Now is the time for Congress to close this dangerous regulatory loophole, so that investigators have access to vital black box data in the wake of a tragic accident.”
“As a veteran Army helicopter pilot, I understand the great lengths pilots go to ensure the safety of those onboard their aircraft. Unfortunately, there is always a chance of risk-factors and accidents outside of pilots’ control,” said Congressman Brown. “When tragedies occur, it is our responsibility to assess the causes and take meaningful steps to improve safety. Adding black boxes to helicopters raises accountability for pilots and allows investigators to give families closure in their time of need.”
Text of the legislation can be found here.