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NTSB Laboratory Completes Initial Review of Cockpit Voice Recorder, Recovers Flight Data Recorder
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 NTSB Laboratory Completes Initial Review of Cockpit Voice Recorder, Recovers Flight Data Recorder

​Engineers at the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Research and Engineering Vehicle Recorder Division completed the initial review of the Atlas Air Flight 3591 cockpit voice recorder Saturday evening and recovered the airplane’s flight data recorder Sunday.

Three people (the two pilots for the flight and a non-revenue jump-seat pilot) died when Atlas Air Flight 3591, a Boeing 767-300 cargo jet, crashed in the muddy marshland of Trinity Bay Feb. 23, 2019, about 40 miles from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was carrying cargo for Inc., and the US Postal Service from Miami to Houston.

The condition of the accident site made locating the recorders challenging.

 CVR in lab 3 -1_400x300px.jpg

In this photo, taken Saturday in the NTSB laboratory in Washington, an NTSB engineer from the Office of Research and Engineering’s Vehicle Recorder Division inspects memory boards from the cockpit voice recorder of Atlas Air Flight 3591 for signs of damage and water intrusion. Atlas Air Flight 3591 crashed Feb. 23, 2019, about 40 miles from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and the NTSB recovered the airplane’s CVR March 1, 2019. NTSB photo.

Directors from the Office of Research and Engineering and the Office of Aviation Safety conducted an audition of the CVR as part of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation of the accident. The audition revealed the following information, which is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation continues:

  • The length of the recording is approximately two hours and was obtained from a download of a solid-state type cockpit voice recorder.
  • The recording included the final portion of the flight; however, the quality of the audio is poor.

  • There are times during the recording when the content of crew discussion is difficult to determine, at other times the content can be determined using advanced audio filtering.

  •  The crew was in communication with air traffic control and were being provided radar vectors for the runway 26L approach into George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

  • Crew communications consistent with a loss control of the aircraft began approximately 18 seconds prior to the end of the recording.

The flight data recorder arrived at the NTSB’s Recorder Lab Sunday at 11:45 p.m. The memory module was disassembled, cleaned and dried, and download of the data was achieved Monday afternoon. Initial review of the data revealed:

  • The accident flight was captured, and the FDR contained a total of about 54 hours of data from 17 flights.
  • There were approximately 350 parameters recorded by the FDR detailing the motion of the aircraft and operation of its engines, flight controls and other systems.

NTSB recorder investigators are currently verifying and validating the FDR data, and the NTSB plans to provide a summary in an investigative update in a few days.

Technical experts in the CVR group will convene in the coming week to review the entire recording and produce a transcript of the accident recording. It will be a time-consuming process to complete the transcript.

The CVR group is one of the seven investigative groups established by the Investigator-in-Charge for the accident investigation.

Imagery of the NTSB’s investigation of the accident is available via the NTSB Flickr account at and B-roll is available via the NTSB YouTube Channel at

Follow @NTSB_Newsroom on Twitter for updates on this, and other, NTSB investigations.


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Contact: NTSB Media Relations
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100