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Wednesday, 1 November 1967


Mr Devine (EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:

1.   Did Sir John Spicer, Chairman of the Board of Accident Inquiry on the accident involving aircraft VH-RMI, refer to voice recorders from Australian commercial aircraft being returned to the United States of America during 1966 for modification due to unsatisfactory operations?

2.   In what way did the voice recorders prove unsatisfactory?

3.   What modifications were carried out in the United States?

4.   Are all regular public transport aircraft now fitted with the modified voice recorder?

5.   If not, how many aircraft are fitted?

6.   How long will it be before all regular public transport aircraft are fitted with the modified voice recorder?


Mr Swartz - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

1.   The Chairman of the Board of Inquiry on the accident involving Viscount VH-RMI did refer to unsatisfactory performance of voice recorders in Australian aircraft and to the fact that these recorders were undergoing modification in the United States of America at the time of the VH-RMI accident.

2.   There should be an expectation that this type of equipment will operate, without failure, for a considerable period of time. Such equipment is not regarded as being totally satisfactory unless the mean time between failures is at or in excess of 1,000 flight hours. The mean time between failures of the equipment installed in Australian aircraft was below 200 hours prior to the 1966 modification programme. Voice recordings are made on a continuous loop magnetic tape and the main source of failures was tape jamming.

3.   The principle modifications involved a change in the type of tape to be used, a different method of splicing to form the continuous loop, incorporation of a lead tape to prevent jamming at the tape capstan and modification to the cover plate of the tape container to prevent interference with the edges of the tape. As a result of these and subsequent modifications the reliability of the equipment has been considerably improved but there is still room for further improvement and the programme of research and modification is continuing. 4 and 5. The requirement for carriage of flight crew compartment voice recorders extends to all turbine powered aircraft in excess of 12,500 pounds maximum permissible take-off weight and to those new types of piston engined aircraft, over 12,500 pounds, which are first certified subsequent to 1st January 1965. All aircraft in Australia, to which the requirement applies, are now fitted with voice recorders. The continuing modification programme is being effected as equipments are rotated through maintenance sections for normal periodic maintenance.

6.   The only regular public transport aircraft over 12.500 pounds maximum permissible takeoff weight which are used on regular public transport passenger services and which are not currently fitted with voice recorders are DC3's. The requirement was not extended to these aircraft because of their limited current use on passenger services and because they are being progressively phased out of operations. It is not practicable or justifiable to require carriage of the equipment in the smaller types of aircraft.







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