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FAA will try to fix cockpit recordings being erased after close calls

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WASHINGTON >> U.S. regulators will propose requiring that new planes be capable of recording 25 hours of sounds in the cockpit, up from the current two hours, to prevent valuable information from being lost after close calls.

The Federal Aviation Administration said today that it will publish its proposal in the Federal Register on Monday and give the public — and segments of the airline industry — 60 days to comment before issuing a final rule.

The proposal, which the FAA first hinted at this spring, follows incidents in which investigators could not learn what pilots were saying before, during and after near-collisions because the recordings were taped over.

In January, an American Airlines plane crossed an active runway at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport without permission from air traffic controllers, forcing a Delta Air Lines flight to abort a takeoff and brake to a stop. Investigators were unable to hear what the American pilots were doing, however, because they took off for London and the recorder taped over all cockpit sounds after two hours.

“This rule will give us substantially more data to identify the causes of incidents and help prevent them in the future,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said of the 25-hour proposal.

Regulators in Europe already require new planes over a certain weight to have cockpit recorders capable of capturing voices and engine sounds for 25 hours.

The cockpit voice recorder is one of two so-called black boxes that capture data that is used to investigate crashes and close calls.

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