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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in a safety recommendation report issued on June 2, called on helicopter manufacturers to equip turbine-powered helicopters with crash-resistant systems to record data, audio, and images.
The NTSB asked the manufacturers – Airbus Helicopters, Bell, Leonardo, MD Helicopters, Robinson and Sikorsky – to act since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not implemented a series of NTSB recommendations made in 2013 and 2015. Those recommendations were issued after NTSB investigators found the lack of recorded data hindered their understanding of several crashes that could have serious flight safety implications.
Helicopters meeting specific criteria established by the FAA are required to have crash-resistant systems to record flight data and cockpit audio. None are currently required to have image recording capability. Despite the lack of action from the FAA, some helicopter operators have equipped their aircraft with recording systems, including image recording capability, even though they are not required to do so.
“The more information we have, the better we can understand not only the circumstances of a crash, but what can be done to prevent future accidents,” said Dana Schulze, director of the NTSB Office of Aviation Safety. “We are asking that currently available recording technology be put to use in a way that will improve aviation safety.”
The NTSB cited seven helicopter investigations between 2011 and 2017 in which the lack of access to recorded data impeded their ability to identify and address potential safety issues.