Black Box: What is Black Box (Flight Recorder) & How it works

Block box

What is a black box (Flight Recorder) and how does it work?

Almost everyone has heard of an airplane's "black box." Because most of the time when we learn about the black box, it's as a result of an air crash, the term has significant connotations. Take a look at how they operate.

(Black Box)

The name "black box" is widely used, however it is more commonly referred to as an electronic flight data recorder in the industry. This can refer to either the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) or the FDR (Flight Data Recorder)
, or both. Everything is contained in a number of modern black boxes. In any case, every aircraft must have at least two onboard for redundancy's sake. These boxes are essentially massively protected hard drives that record everything about a flight on an ongoing basis, and they perform exactly what they say on the tin.

As an aero plane flies from place to place, the FDR continuously records a large amount of data (about 700 distinct characteristics) regarding all aspects of the aircraft. The CVR records discussions on the flight deck as well as other sounds like as radio communications and automated alarms, but it deletes any audio older than two hours of flight. The basic concept is that if there are any issues with the plane – particularly if there has been a catastrophic accident and it is unable to speak with the pilots about what happened — the data from the black box can be used to recreate exactly what happened.

China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 Black Box Flight No. MU5735, FDR
China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 Black Box
Flight No. MU5735

Colour of Black Box

One of the most common points raised in any discussion of the black box is that nearly none of them are genuinely black. Because you want to be able to find them in the event of an accident, they're painted a bright color: international orange. Despite this, the moniker "black box" has stuck — perhaps because "orange box" doesn't have the same ring to it.

Why it is called Black Box?

The name "black box" originated with the development of radio, radar, and electronic navigational aids in British and Allied combat aircraft during World War II. These often-secret electronic gadgets were actually housed in black boxes or housings that were non-reflective. In 1937, the "black box" was invented. This device could record the entire flight, from take-off to landing. It was called the "black box" because it was a small, black box that was stored in the airplane's cockpit.

Fitted with ULB

Of course, easy retrieval is a key, and it isn't always evident where an aircraft has crashed, especially if it occurs over vast lengths of ocean. As a result, all black boxes contain underwater location beacons that send out a signal when they come into contact with water, at least until the battery dies, which normally happens after a month. One issue is that the signal's radius isn't particularly large, and there have been proposals to install stronger beacons to make it simpler to locate a remote crash.

Very Strong & Robust Design

Although it is hoped that the information contained in any individual black box would never need to be retrieved and evaluated, every recorder must be able to resist the worst-case scenario: a catastrophic disaster. That implies they must be verified as virtually indestructible, at least up to a certain point. They must withstand loads of 2.25 tonnes for at least five minutes, temperatures of 1,100 degrees Celsius for an hour, and not only be waterproof but also withstand the heavy pressure found at depths of thousands of metres underwater when they are launched at a speed of 750 kilometers per hour at a concrete wall.

black box, Lion Air Flight 610  Boeing 737 MAX Black Box
Lion Air Flight 610  Boeing 737 MAX Black Box

Consider the fact that the black boxes from Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, were not discovered until over two years later. At a depth of over 4,000 meters, the debris including the boxes was submerged. Despite this, the data and recordings were successfully recovered, and they were invaluable in assisting investigators in determining what went wrong. These items are unmistakably built to last.

Installation Location

The solid state memory boards that store the data are generally encased in many layers of material, including a steel or titanium outer shell, a thermal block, and specific insulation, to provide this level of robustness. They're usually kept in the aircraft's tail, where it's expected they'll have a better chance of survival.

Helpful in finding causes of accident & troubleshooting

These instruments are well known for their use in determining the cause of significant accidents, but they can also be helpful in troubleshooting or understanding less serious difficulties. The large number of data points can assist engineers figure out what went wrong with a system and isolate and correct the problem, or it can reveal what chain of miscommunications or mistakes lead to an unsafe situation. In any instance, data is pulled and analysed by professionally trained analysts for any and all clues.

Only a few authorities throughout the world have the resources and expertise to study black box data from complex crashes. The BEA of France, for example, was tasked with studying the boxes from Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, the high-profile 737Max tragedy that resulted in the plane's global grounding. Skilled investigators can nearly always use what they find to create a highly detailed picture of what happened, which can then be used to help make future flights safer.

Satellite based Data collection implemented

Since high-profile tragedies like the AF447 and MH370 (the Malaysia Airlines 777 that vanished without a trace), some have advocated for moving away from keeping telemetry data on boxes that must be retrieved and toward broadcasting it live. This would provide investigators with rapid access to important data, allowing them to provide much-needed answers to the public much more quickly.

However, while certain satellite-based options for live-streaming flight data are available, broadcasting the complete range of flight data in real time is not generally considered a priority. Why? Because it would be a costly repair for a problem that doesn't exist. Even while thousands of black boxes collect millions of data points on flights throughout the world on a daily basis, most of it is never used since severe accidents are so uncommon. Accidents in which the data is impossible to recover or the plane is lost are much rarer. A black box is similar to insurance: it's nice to have, and even better if you never need it.

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