Cockpit Voice Recorders
In almost every commercial aircraft, there are several microphones built into the cockpit to track the conversations of the flight crew. These microphones are also designed to track any ambient noise in the cockpit, such as switches being thrown or any knocks or thuds. There may be up to four microphones in the plane's cockpit, each connected to the cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
Any sounds in the cockpit are picked up by these microphones and sent to the CVR, where the recordings are digitized and stored. There is also another device in the cockpit, called the associated control unit, that provides pre-amplification for audio going to the CVR. Here are the positions of the four microphones:
Headset of a third crew member (if there is a third crew member)
Near the center of the cockpit, where it can pick up audio alerts and other sounds
Most magnetic-tape CVRs store the last 30 minutes of sound. They use a continuous loop of tape that completes a cycle every 30 minutes. As new material is recorded, the oldest material is replaced. CVRs that used solid-state storage can record two hours of audio. Similar to the magnetic-tape recorders, solid-state recorders also record over old material.