The National Transportation Safety Board is seeking routine access to cockpit voice recorders as a means of ensuring that pilots are following safety rules. "It is essential to understand what is going on in the cockpit if we are to achieve further reductions" in accident rates, NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman told USA TODAY in defending the request, which is strongly opposed by pilot unions. The agency says the recordings could be reviewed anonymously to protect pilots' privacy while seeking to identify safety trends. Currently, cockpit recordings are used only in accident investigations.

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