Aviation safety issues and actions

Fitment of recording devices in light aircraft – Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Issue number: AO-2017-118-SI-03
Issue owner: Civil Aviation Safety Aviation
Transport function: Aviation: General aviation
Background: Investigation Report AO-2017-118
Issue release date: 25 January 2021
Current issue status: Open – Safety action pending

Safety issue description

Australian civil aviation regulations did not mandate the fitment of flight recorders for passenger-carrying aircraft under 5,700 kg. Consequently, the determination of factors that influenced this accident, and other accidents have been hampered by a lack of recorded data pertaining to the flight. This has likely resulted in the non‑identification of safety issues, which continue to present a hazard to current and future passenger-carrying operations.

Response by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority

On 21 October 2020, in response to the draft ATSB report, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority stated that:

The fitment of Flight data recording equipment is not required by any applicable airworthiness standards.

Mandating the fitment of recording devices in light aircraft would require legislative amendment.

As advised by email in relation to Airborne Image Recorders on 6 March 2020 there are regulatory avenues to allow them to fit recording devices to aircraft without CASA mandating such devices. CASA AC 21-47 v3.0 provides standards and methods acceptable to CASA for fitment; including ED‑155:2009.

There are also circumstances where small portable image recorders are lawfully carried and used in aircraft for private recording purposes. However the mandating of carriage of these devices is unattractive due to the lack of standardisation of technology between devices and their application and carriage.

Under section 9A (3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1988, CASA must consider the economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community in developing and promulgating aviation safety standards. Mandating the fitment of recording devices in light aircraft would impose unreasonable costs on industry without any discernible safety benefit.

The ATSB acknowledges that there would some cost imposition to industry if the fitment of onboard recordings devices was mandatory for passenger-carrying aircraft under 5,700 kg. However, cost-effective devices are now more readily available. Further, the ATSB notes that the International Civil Aviation Organization has developed standards for lightweight recorders and airborne image recorders. Despite this, as demonstrated in this, and previous investigations, the absence of such a device has prevented the identification of possible safety issues that could affect current and future operations. Therefore, the ATSB believes that the use of onboard recording devices would be an important safety enhancement to passenger-carrying operations.

The ATSB is issuing the following recommendation.

Safety recommendation to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority

The ATSB makes a formal safety recommendation, either during or at the end of an investigation, based on the level of risk associated with a safety issue and the extent of corrective action already undertaken. Rather than being prescriptive about the form of corrective action to be taken, the recommendation focuses on the safety issue of concern. It is a matter for the responsible organisation to assess the costs and benefits of any particular method of addressing a safety issue.



Safety recommendation

Action number: AO-2017-118-SR-049
Action organisation: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Date: 29 January 2021
Action status: Released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitment of onboard recording devices for passenger-carrying aircraft with a maximum take-off weight less than 5,700 kg.

Last update 29 January 2021