Saturday, December 6, 2008

What exactly are those 'black boxes' that reveal the facts after an aircraft accident...

What exactly are those 'black boxes' that reveal the facts after an aircraft accident?

These black boxes are an important key to the facts relating to a any aircraft accident. In most cases there are two boxes:

The first one contains the voice cockpit recordings - usually the final 30 minutes of the flight.

The second contains a wealth of flight data, which helps to paint a picture of what was occuring on board the aircraft by giving details on engine, electronics and flight management systems.

It has been explained that in a modern jet, such as the Airbus A320, involved in the fatal Air New Zealand accident off southern France in the Mediterranean Sea recently, the information from both boxes should give investigators a clear picture of what had occurred.

All the systems in an airliner are recorded to go into the box electronically, Transport Accident Investigation Commission chief investigator, Tim Burfoot allegedly stated after the recent Air New Zealand crash.

The name 'black box' dates back to the 1950's when they were first introduced into airliners and operated like a typewriter; they were actually changed to 'orange boxes' to make them easier to find after a crash.

Inside the boxes, wrapped in layers of protected packaging, are the vital memory cards containing voice and flight data. These boxes are built to withstand the most severe conditions, including extreme altitude, heat moisture. The boxes themselves can be destroyed, but the modules inside containing the memory cards can in theory survive the crash.

In New Zealand, for instance, according to Mr Burfoot, most air-accident investigators do not have the luxury of having such data because they are reserved for commercial jets, not the smaller aircraft that are more in use in this country.


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