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Current Affairs

Importance of black box

Date: 10 August 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

In a significant development towards identifying the reasons behind the Air India Express crash at Kozhikode, investigators have found the “black boxes” of the ill-fated Boeing aircraft.

 

Background

These boxes will help investigators weave together the crucial events that led to the crash, which killed at least 18 people on board, including both pilots.

 

Details

  • The black boxes, which are actually two orange metallic boxes containing the recorders, date back to the early 1950s, when, following plane crashes, investigators were unable to arrive a conclusive cause for the accidents and deemed it necessary to install the said recorders on aircraft.

  • In the initial days of the black box, the information was recorded on to a metal strip, which was then upgraded to magnetic drives succeeded by solid state memory chips.

  • Most aircraft are required to be equipped with two black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) — that record the information about a flight and help reconstruct the events leading to an aircraft accident.

  • While the CVR records radio transmissions and other sounds in the cockpit such as conversations between the pilots and engine noises, the flight data recorder records more than 80 different types of information such as altitude, airspeed, flight heading, vertical acceleration, pitch, roll, autopilot status etc.

  • The recording devices are stored inside a unit that is generally made out of strong substances such as steel or titanium and are also insulated from factors such as extreme heat, cold or wetness.

  • To protect these black boxes, they are equipped towards the tail end of the aircraft – where usually the impact of a crash is the least.

  • There have been cases where planes have crashed into water bodies. To make black boxes discoverable in situations where they are underwater, they are equipped with a beacon that sends out ultrasound signals for 30 days.

  • This will help the investigation team understand if pilots were aware that they were in a situation that was headed to such an eventuality and if so, whether they had reported any problems regarding controlling the aircraft.