The crash of the small airplane that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven others is an example of why cockpit voice and data recorders should be required in more aircraft, said U.S. Rep. James Oberstar.
"If it's not required, people aren't going to spend the money," the Minnesota Democrat said Wednesday from Washington, D.C. "The importance of having that equipment on board is that you gather such a valuable set of data from it that the result can save lives in the future."
Oberstar, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lamented that the Beechcraft King Air A100 lacked both a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder, which documents the in-flight position of controls and instrument readings.
"Those aircraft that carry for-hire passengers should at least have the voice recorder," Oberstar said.
Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the 66,000-member Air Line Pilots Association, agreed.
"Putting this off on a cost basis is not helping us understand these accidents," Woerth said. "These are huge tools in accident analysis. In fact, they are the (most important) tools."
A combination flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder could cost a plane's owner $15,000 to $26,600, according to industry catalogs.
Oberstar said he's asked his committee staff to gather records on accidents involving smaller commercial aircraft so he can prepare to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to make such a rule.
If the agency doesn't respond, he said he would consider sponsoring a bill to make the recorders mandatory.
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