The Black Box
Dave Jesse on October 3, 2012

Flight Data RecordersWe’ve all heard of the Black Box on board aircrafts, and that is our bread and butter. This is where all the flight data is recorded. So how did the Black Box come about

A little-known Australian has had an enormous impact on the safety of aviation. Working at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Melbourne, Dr David Warren, invented crash protected voice and data recorders in 1956. His concept was put into production by a UK company and to make the outer casing strong, the early units were initially spherical. To help it be easily found by searchers following a crash, it was painted bright red. This meant that early recorders were known as “red eggs”.

Flight data was originally stored on steel wire, but it is only possible to record onto wire once so the wire needs to be replaced frequently. Soon these recorders were superseded by units with a loop of magnetic tape. The tape could be erased and re-recorded, allowing the recorder to stay in the aircraft for a year before it needed to be cleaned and the tape replaced.

black box location - courtesy of L3In the last decade flash memory has replaced tape, and the capacity of the recorders has increased. These new recorder designs do not need routine overhaul, and apart from maintenance checks to ensure the system is working correctly they can remain undisturbed in the tail of the aircraft for years.


So here’s a thought. If the place on the aircraft with the best chance of surviving a crash is in the tail, why are first class seats at the front of the aircraft?