To curb inappropriate use of flight voice recorder data that could influence investigations into incidents, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has revised the civil aviation requirements for notification of incidents and their investigations applicable to airlines and other operators. “The operator shall ensure that the CVR (cockpit voice recorder) and airborne image recordings are well protected from any inappropriate use and not disclosed to the public,” the DGCA said in the updated regulation. It added: “Chief of Flight Safety of the operator shall incorporate the procedure for the above protection of data in their flight safety manual.”
Most aircraft are required to be equipped with two black boxes – the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder – that record the information about a flight and help reconstruct the events leading to an aircraft accident. While the CVR records radio transmissions and other sounds in the cockpit such as conversations between the pilots and engine noises, the flight data recorder records information such as altitude, airspeed, flight heading, etc.
In the US, the CVR recordings are treated with extreme sensitivity. According to the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), due to the highly sensitive nature of verbal communications inside the cockpit, the US Congress has required that the Safety Board not release any part of a CVR audio recording. “Because of this sensitivity, a high degree of security is provided for the CVR audio and its transcript. The content and timing of release of the written transcript are strictly regulated: under federal law, transcripts of pertinent portions of cockpit voice recordings are released at a Safety Board public hearing on the accident or, if no hearing is held, when a majority of the factual reports are made public,” the NTSB has noted.
In the revised civil aviation requirement on incident reporting, the DGCA has also made it mandatory for removal of the cockpit voice recorder in case of pilot incapacitation. Other reasons due to which a CVR must be removed include declaration of an emergency situation, fire, explosion, rejected take-off, collision between aircraft, among others.