Airbus will fit new fixed and deployable combined flight data and voice recorders as standard on long-range aircraft starting in 2019 in a bid to make it easier to find aircraft wreckage in the event of an accident over the sea. 

The Toulouse-based manufacturer has teamed up with commercial and military avionics specialist L3 Aviation Products as well as DRS Leonardo to develop the devices, which will be fitted on the A350 XWB first, beginning in late 2019, before being offered on A380s, A330s and A320LRs, too.  

L3 will design and manufacture the lighter and more compact fixed, crash-protected cockpit voice and data recorder (CVDR), which will be able to record up to 25 hr. of voice and flight data, in line with new European Aviation Safety Agency and International Civil Aviation Organization requirements that require an increase from the current 2 hr. of voice recording. 

L3 and Airbus will integrate the automatic deployable flight recorder (ADFR), designed and manufactured by DRS Technologies Canada, part of Leonardo DRS. 

The ADFR will be fitted at the rear of the aircraft and is designed to deploy automatically via a preloaded spring system in the event of water submersion or significant structural deformation of the aircraft. It can float and is aimed at long-range aircraft that fly for extended periods over water or in remote areas.

The crash-protected ADFR can also store up to 25 hr. of recorded cockpit voice and flight data. It is fitted with an emergency locator transmitter to help rescuers locate and recover it rapidly. 

The plan is the result of discussions about the difficulties of locating aircraft that have crashed into the sea, following the Air France Flight 447 crash in 2009 and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014. 

“We have had a few cases recently where everyone is frustrated because they just don’t know what happened,” Charles Champion, executive vice president of engineering at Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said at the Paris Air Show. “Of course, we could think about real-time transmission of data—it will come eventually—but in the meantime, especially in very remote areas, you need to think of a hard solution in order to be able to answer all the open questions. 

Airbus said two of the new fixed CVDRs will be deployed on shorter-range A320 airliners. 

“This is about Airbus’s wish to go beyond the regulations to improve the chances of recovering data in the event of an accident,” Airbus Product Safety Enhancement Manager Géraldine Vallée told journalists at a briefing in Paris on June 15.

She added that the company has done feasibility studies into retrofitting the deployable recorder and concluded that it was technically possible but would be very expensive because of the large-scale restructuring of the aircraft’s cables that would be needed.