Flight Data Recorders
Photo courtesy National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
The damaged flight data recorder from EgyptAir Flight 990
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that commercial airlines record a minimum of 11 to 29 parameters, depending on the size of the aircraft. Magnetic-tape recorders have the potential to record up to 100 parameters. Solid-state FDRs can record more than 700 parameters. On July 17, 1997, the FAA issued a Code of Federal Regulations that requires the recording of at least 88 parameters on aircraft manufactured after August 19, 2002.
Here are a few of the parameters recorded by most FDRs:
- Pressure altitude
- Vertical acceleration
- Magnetic heading
- Control-column position
- Rudder-pedal position
- Control-wheel position
- Horizontal stabilizer
- Fuel flow
Solid-state recorders can track more parameters than magnetic tape because they allow for a faster data flow. Solid-state FDRs can store up to 25 hours of flight data. Each additional parameter that is recorded by the FDR gives investigators one more clue about the cause of an accident.