FAA offers clarification over CVR issue

The US National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today welcomed a clarification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding an opinion that would have required installation of a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in aircraft with six or more passenger seats, operated by a single pilot, with an autopilot installed, under 14 CFR Part 135.

“We now more fully understand that many operators choose to use the autopilot in lieu of a second in command (SIC) as their primary means of operating under Part 135,” Mark Bury, FAA assistant chief counsel for regulations wrote in an April 10 letter to Doug Carr, NBAA vice president, regulatory and international affairs. “Based on questions my staff has received concerning use of an autopilot and the requirements for a CVR, we are revising our interpretation.”

The clarification indicates the CVR will only be necessary when the autopilot is not operational, or a second in command is used, consistent with industry and Agency understanding of CVR requirements.

“NBAA is pleased the clarification will continue to maintain the highest levels of safety while allowing operational flexibility for members,” said Carr. “We thank the FAA for reviewing the interpretation and listening to our concerns. We feel this guidance will eliminate any remaining industry confusion about the situations where an operator must install a CVR.”

The previous FAA interpretation could have required affected aircraft to operate only under visual flight rules, only under Part 91 or equip with a CVR. Many of the affected aircraft that would need to equip are older, and would require a supplemental type certificate in addition to the additional maintenance and equipment. For example, the estimated cost of equipage for one Beechcraft King Air is in excess of $100,000.

NBAA also noted that the legal interpretations were contrary to industry and FAA field office understandings about when a CVR was needed. Numerous charter operators had already been granted FAA approval to conduct single pilot operations in these types of aircraft with no CVR installed.

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