Because of a typographical error, an article Friday incorrectly described Transportation Secretary James H. Burnley IV's position on two scenarios for reorganizaing the air traffic control system. The article should have said he backs neither scenario. (Published 2/14/88)
Commuter airlines, which carry about 30 million passengers annually, would be required to equip aircraft with "black boxes" to help determine the cause of crashes, under a Federal Aviation Administration proposal.
Unlike larger jets, smaller aircraft have not been required to carry the equipment, which records cockpit conversation between pilots and the plane's airspeed, altitude, compass heading and position. The National Transportation Safety Board has complained for years that the absence of such critical information prevents investigators from understanding some accidents.
The FAA now requires cockpit voice recorders in new turbojet aircraft. The proposed rule, to be published in today's Federal Register, would expand that requirement to include propeller airplanes and planes already in service. The rule, if adopted, would take effect in several months. Operators of aircraft already in service would have two years to retrofit their planes.
John Frederickson, executive vice president of the Regional Airline Association, expressed dismay at the rule's retrofit requirement.
"That's a difficult burden to have done," he said. "A flight data recorder, particularly a sophisticated one like they're talking about, has to be wired all over the airplane. The airplane has to be completely taken apart and rewired. For an airplane not designed to have one in the first place, the cost is prohibitively expensive."
Frederickson estimated that flight data recorders could cost as much as $50,000 to $60,000. He added, however, that perhaps only 90 airplanes fit into this category. He said about 700 planes flying today seat between 10 and 19 people.
The rule would also require:Cockpit voice recorders in all multi-engine aircraft and helicopters that require two pilots and seat more than six people. Digital flight data recorders on some large commuter turbine-powered aircraft that seat 20 or more passengers. More sophisticated flight data recorders on large aircraft, such as Boeing 767s, 757s, 747s. Flight data recorders on new turbine-powered planes that seat 10 to 19 passengers.
Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary James H. Burnley IV suggested yesterday that the air traffic control system be revised. In a speech at the National Press Club, Burnley offered two proposals to separate the air traffic control system from the FAA.
Noting that he was backing either proposal at the time, Burnley suggested that the operation of the air traffic control system could be performed under private contract, or placed in a separate nonprofit, user-owned corporation.
He said removing the operation from the FAA would relieve it from "rigid federal rules" that inhibit the FAA's ability to procure equipment and relocate controllers.