NTSB issues new recommendations to find missing planes

Comparing AirAsia 8501 to MH370
Comparing AirAsia 8501 to MH370


    Comparing AirAsia 8501 to MH370


Comparing AirAsia 8501 to MH370 02:37

Washington (CNN)In the wake of several recent high profile incidents where planes have gone missing, the National Transportation Safety Board issued new recommendations designed to help find wreckage faster and determine what caused crashes.

"Recent events have highlighted that recovering flight data can be costly and difficult when an accident occurs in a remote area, outside radar coverage," the NTSB wrote in the letter on Thursday to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Malaysian Airlines flight 370 remains the most notable recent missing plane and its disappearance has driven aviation authorities worldwide to consider changes to how aircraft are tracked. The Boeing 777 is thought to have crashed in the South Indian Ocean, far from land and far from radar coverage. Search crews continue looking for it, but so far have found no wreckage or sign of the 239 people on board.
Thursday's recommendations address commercial airline, commuter, and charter flights and stem from a forum held last fall on flight data and locator technology.
    Planes certified to fly long distances over water and which currently have flight data and cockpit voice recorders would now be required to have a way to transmit location coordinates, so they can be pinpointed within six nautical miles after a crash. Currently planes flying over oceans outside of radar coverage may not transmit location information frequently enough to send investigators to a precise crash site.
    NTSB's new proposed requirements call for low-frequency locating devices to be attached to the body of planes flying these long distances over oceans. The locator beacons would emit a signal for at least 90 days - three times longer than the current requirement. Military and search and rescue ships would be able to hone in on these signals and find the wreckage.
    New planes that currently have black boxes and are designed to fly for hours over water would now be required to allow data recovery that is accessible without finding the physical boxes. This could include a recorder that breaks away from the wreckage and floats, or recorders that stream data when a mishap happens in the air.
    The streaming black boxes would be required to start transmitting in the event of a so-called "triggering event," such as a malfunction. They would keep sending information in real time while attempting to feed all previously recorded data as well.
    Either of the two systems "would provide investigators more timely access to information and offer valuable insight into the circumstances near the end of an accident flight," the NTSB writes in its recommendations.
    The board also proposed the FAA identify ways to keep people from disabling flight recorders, and require all new planes to have black boxes that cannot be easily disabled. In some planes pilots can easily pull a circuit breaker, which cuts power to the recorders, and could potentially stop them.
    Additionally, the NTSB renewed its call for video cameras in the cockpit with the footage designed to survive a crash. This would allow investigators to review a visual record of everything that was going on in the cockpit rather than just the audio recordings they have now.
    This call for image recorders echoes a similar recommendation the NTSB first made 15 years ago, but which the FAA did not implement.
    These new recommendations will now go to the FAA for consideration. If any or all of the recommendations are accepted after a 90-day period during which the FAA can comment, it still could be years before they are implemented, due to the airline certification, safety, and engineering considerations.
    "The FAA will carefully review all of the NTSB's recommendations and will send the board a formal response," an FAA statement sent to CNN Thursday night by spokeswoman Laura Brown said. "The FAA continues to work with industry and our international partners on policy and guidance for advanced technologies that may be useful in aircraft accident investigations."
    It also noted the FAA is working on developing voluntary standards for airlines who want to install cockpit image recorders or deployable black boxes and says underwater locator beacons will be extended to 90 days by 2020.