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The FAA reauthorization bill includes several important safety calls, fully funding the NTSB

President Joe Biden signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 into law on Thursday. This legislation provides funding to the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years and addresses various aspects of air travel related to protect consumersInvest in air traffic control personnel and more.

Notably, this law also expands funding for another agency: the National Transportation Safety Board. It is an independent federal agency that investigates major accidents involving all forms of transportation and makes recommendations based on its findings.

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The act allocates $738 million to the NTSB through fiscal year 2028, along with $105 billion in funding for the FAA.

However, in addition to funding, the reauthorization act implements many of the reforms and practices that the NTSB has been promoting, in some cases for years. Although the NTSB has the authority to investigate incidents, the recommendations it makes are not binding.

Most prominently, the act requires airlines to equip all new and existing aircraft with cockpit voice recorders that can store 25 hours of audio before overwriting existing recordings. Airlines are currently required to carry CVRs that record only two hours of audio.

In theory, the two-hour requirement is intended to ensure that the events that ultimately lead to a crash are recorded and preserved for investigators.

However, in reality, when an accident occurs but the pilot is able to land safely, the time required to land and completely shut down the aircraft – thereby disabling the recorder – means that recordings Related records often disappear by the time investigators get started. to check the plane. The agency said audio recordings from 14 incidents the NTSB had investigated since 2018 were missing because they had been overwritten.

The NTSB first recommended that the FAA extend the minimum recording period in 2017; This came after a close call in which Air Canada Flight 759 was seconds away from accidentally landing on the taxiway at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) rather than on the runway. Four other aircraft were on the taxiway at the time and may have been in the path of the Air Canada flight. By the time the incident was reported and an investigation launched, the CVR had been overridden.

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The law also issued several other NTSB recommendations. Such a regulation would require aircraft flying over oceans to have equipment that can remotely broadcast CVR and flight data recorder data in the event of an accident and broadcast the location of wreckage. . That request follows recommendations the NTSB issued after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014.

Additionally, the law requires the FAA to review and implement various recommendations of the NTSB related to safety surrounding turbulence and other recommendations related to the oversight of aviation activities.

“I am extremely grateful to Congress for including the NTSB in the FAA reauthorization bill, authorizing increased funding for our agency over the next five years – much-needed resources that will allow us to continue is the world’s preeminent safety agency for many years to come.” come,” NTSB chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said in a statement after the bill passed.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building on May 15, 2024. KENT NISHIMURA/GETTY PHOTOS

Homendy added: “In addition, we appreciate Congress’s safety leadership in requiring the FAA to implement many of our most important recommendations, which once implemented will further strengthen’ our nation’s gold standard in aviation safety.”

The NTSB has become increasingly prominent over the past few years as safety in air travel has received increased attention. Safety concerns arose after one several runway incursions and other near misses in late 2022 and 2023 and then again Door socket falls off newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX 9 on an Alaska Airlines flight on January 5 of this year. This caused the cabin to decompress and left a hole in the side of the plane. No one was seriously injured in any of the incidents.

Homendy has led the investigation into the Boeing incident, including a review of safety procedures and processes at Boeing; The aircraft manufacturer has been embroiled in scandals over quality control lapses and other problematic manufacturing processes. Along with holding nightly press conferences in the days following the incident, Homendy testified before Congress in March.

The impact of the new law was immediately clear in light of the investigations that have taken place over the past few years.

According to the NTSB, the CVR was overridden during seven runway incursions in 2023, as well as on an Alaska Airlines flight this year, confusing investigators.

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