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No data captured on Alaska Airlines 737 cockpit voice recorder

ntsb investogator examines the fuselage plug area of alaska airlines flight 1282 boeing 737 9 max
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Investigator-in-Charge John Lovell examines the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX NTSB/Handout via REUTERS

The cockpit voice recorder from the Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet that suffered a plug door blowout during an Alaska Airlines flight and carried out an emergency landing on Friday was overwritten by the time it was recovered, the National Transportation Safety Board chair said on Sunday.

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were sent to NTSB labs on Sunday to be read, but no data was available on the cockpit voice recorder because it was not retrieved by the two-hour mark, when recording restarts and previous data is erased.

“It’s a very chaotic event. The circuit breaker for the CVR (cockpit voice recorder) was not pulled. The maintenance team went out to get it, but it was right at about the two-hour mark,” Homendy said.

The NTSB has pushed to extend the cockpit voice-recording requirement to 25 hours. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a proposed rule in November that would increase the requirement, but it would only apply to newly manufactured aircraft, Homendy said.

“If that communication is not recorded, that is unfortunately a loss for us and a loss for the FAA and a loss for safety because that information is key not just for our investigation but for improving aviation safety,” she said, adding that Congress should take action in the FAA reauthorization bill to ensure the proposed rule is adopted.

The issue has taken on new urgency after a series of near miss incidents raised alarms about U.S. air safety.

The NTSB has done 10 investigations since 2018 where the CVR was overwritten, including four runway incursions, Homendy said.

The United States is behind much of the world in the requirement for commercial planes. Europe has required new airplanes to collect 25 hours of cockpit voice recordings since 2021.

In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted a new standard calling for the installation of recorders capable of recording the last 25 hours on all new aircraft starting in 2021.

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