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When is an aircraft required to have a Cockpit Voice Recorder or a Flight Data Recorder?

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Cockpit Voice Recorders

Required for:

  • large 4-engined turbine-powered planes
  • large 4-engined pressurized planes
  • multiengined turbine-powered planes seating 10+ passengers
  • multiengined turbine-powered rotorcraft seating 20+ passengers
  • multiengined turbine-powered planes and rotorcraft seating 6+ passengers and requiring two pilots

Relevant regulations: 14 CFR 121.359, 14 CFR 125.227, 14 CFR 135.151

121.359(d) No person may operate a multiengine, turbine-powered airplane having a passenger seat configuration of 10-19 seats unless it is equipped with an approved cockpit voice recorder

125.227(a) No certificate holder may operate a large turbine engine powered airplane or a large pressurized airplane with four reciprocating engines unless an approved cockpit voice recorder is installed in that airplane and is operated continuously from the start of the use of the checklist (before starting engines for the purpose of flight) to completion of the final checklist at the termination of the flight.

135.151(a) No person may operate a multiengine, turbine-powered airplane or rotorcraft having a passenger seating configuration of six or more and for which two pilots are required by certification or operating rules unless it is equipped with an approved cockpit voice recorder

135.151(b) No person may operate a multiengine, turbine-powered airplane or rotorcraft having a passenger seating configuration of 20 or more seats unless it is equipped with an approved cockpit voice recorder

Flight Data Recorders

Required for:

  • Multiengine turbine-powered airplanes or rotorcraft seating 10+ passengers
  • Multiengine turbine-powered airplanes or rotorcraft seating 6+ passengers and requiring two pilots
  • Large airplanes meant for use either over 25,000 feet
  • Large turbine-powered airplanes
  • Turbine-powered transport category planes

Relevant regulations: 14 CFR 91.609, 14 CFR 121.343, 14 CFR 121.344, 14 CFR 135.152

91.609(c)(1) No person may operate a U.S. civil registered, multiengine, turbine-powered airplane or rotorcraft having a passenger seating configuration, excluding any pilot seats of 10 or more that has been manufactured after October 11, 1991, unless it is equipped with one or more approved flight recorders that utilize a digital method of recording and storing data and a method of readily retrieving that data from the storage medium, that are capable of recording the data specified in appendix E to this part, for an airplane, or appendix F to this part, for a rotorcraft, of this part within the range, accuracy, and recording interval specified, and that are capable of retaining no less than 8 hours of aircraft operation.

91.609(e) Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, after October 11, 1991, no person may operate a U.S. civil registered multiengine, turbine-powered airplane or rotorcraft having a passenger seating configuration of six passengers or more and for which two pilots are required by type certification or operating rule unless it is equipped with an approved cockpit voice recorder that: (1) Is installed in compliance with § 23.1457(a)(1) and (2), (b), (c), (d)(1)(i), (2) and (3), (e), (f), and (g); § 25.1457(a)(1) and (2), (b), (c), (d)(1)(i), (2) and (3), (e), (f), and (g); § 27.1457(a)(1) and (2), (b), (c), (d)(1)(i), (2) and (3), (e), (f), and (g); or § 29.1457(a)(1) and (2), (b), (c), (d)(1)(i), (2) and (3), (e), (f), and (g) of this chapter, as applicable; and (2) Is operated continuously from the use of the checklist before the flight to completion of the final checklist at the end of the flight.

121.343(b) No person may operate a large airplane type certificated up to and including September 30, 1969, for operations above 25,000 feet altitude, or a turbine-engine powered airplane certificated before the same date, unless it is equipped before May 26, 1989 with one or more approved flight recorders that utilize a digital method of recording and storing data and a method of readily retrieving that data from the storage medium.

121.344(a) Except as provided in paragraph (l) of this section, no person may operate under this part a turbine-engine-powered transport category airplane unless it is equipped with one or more approved flight recorders that use a digital method of recording and storing data and a method of readily retrieving that data from the storage medium.

Exceptions: For aircraft manufactured before August 18, 1997, the following aircraft types need not comply with this section: Bell 212, Bell 214ST, Bell 412, Bell 412SP, Boeing Chinook (BV-234), Boeing/Kawasaki Vertol 107 (BV/KV-107-II), deHavilland DHC-6, Eurocopter Puma 330J, Sikorsky 58, Sikorsky 61N, Sikorsky 76A. [src: 14 CFR 135.152(k)]

Additionally, the NBAA has links to summaries, but I do not have an account with them and was unable to retrieve the data.

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  • $\begingroup$ I changed them to bullets so it was a little clearer $\endgroup$ – SSumner Feb 12 '14 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know if this is based on ICAO recommendations by any chance? $\endgroup$ – falstro Feb 12 '14 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't look up ICAO guidelines because he tagged it faa-regulations but I can later if desired $\endgroup$ – SSumner Feb 12 '14 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ 91.609(e) requires a CFR under Part 91 (under some conditions). The issue that I have with the way that it is written now is that each bullet only applies under some circumstances. For instance, if you are flying a 4 engine pressurized airplane under Part 135, the CVR isn't required unless it also falls into one of the 135 regs that you quoted (since 121 and 135 never apply at the same time). The way that the summary is written makes it sound like all 4 engine pressurized airplanes must have a CVR at all times though. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 13 '14 at 5:13

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