Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Europe wants tough new black box rules as MH370 mystery persists

European aviation watchdog proposes extending life of device's battery

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 1:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 1:45am

Europe’s aviation safety watchdog yesterday proposed a series of tough new requirements for “black box” flight recorders,  as teams continue searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared on March 8.

The European Aviation Safety Agency called for the battery life of the devices to be increased from 30 days to 90 days, and said cockpit voice recorders should be able to store 20 hours of audio. They currently hold two.Flight MH370 could have flown for up to seven hours after it went missing, meaning that even if the cockpit recorder is found, its standard two-hour recording loop would not cover conversations during the crucial early stages of the flight.

Newly published proposals would also bring into force recommendations made by French crash investigators after the loss of an Air France jet in the Atlantic in 2009, but which remain bogged down in talks among regulators.

These include the addition of a new pinger frequency making it easier to locate the recording devices under water, where lower frequencies travel further.And it recommended new language in one EU regulation to ensure the recorders “are not disabled or switched off during flight”.

Some two months has passed since the Boeing jet, mid-flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, vanished with 239 people – mostly Chinese – in what is considered to be the aviation’s biggest mystery.

The locator beacon for the black box of the missing plane, flight MH370, went quiet after 30 days, exposing a flaw in the technology as the complex search dragged on way beyond its lifespan.

“The tragic flight of Malaysia Airlines MH370 demonstrates that safety can never be taken for granted,” said Patrick Ky,  the agency’s executive director.

“The proposed changes are expected to increase safety by facilitating the recovery of information by safety investigation authorities.”

Enhancements of safety rules demanded by Brussels, if passed by the European Commission, would require all new aircraft for European airlines ordered after 2020 to install upgraded black boxes.

Older aircraft in operation from 2018 are earmarked for smaller changes to increase the  life of the black box.

Airlines based outside Europe, including Cathay Pacific, would not be required to adopt the new regulations.

Additional reporting by Reuters