/\

AD

Top left: The very first version from 1958. Bottom left: Black box Mk2 from 1962. Right: David Warren and Ken Fraser holding a black box unit in 2001.
Top left: The very first version from 1958. Bottom left: Black box Mk2 from 1962. Right: David Warren and Ken Fraser holding a black box unit in 2001.

The story behind the black box

Despite numerous technological advances in the aviation industry, many of the basics have actually changed very little. A good example is the flight data recorder, more popularly known as the black box, which was invented in 1953.

At that stage little was known about why planes crashed. Warren, a researcher at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne Australia, believed if the pilot’s voices could be recorded, along with instrument readings, the information could help determine the cause of accidents – and help prevent them. The device he came up with was called a “Flight Memory Unit.”

The first prototypes were available by 1957, and although they were initially rejected, three years later Australia became the first country to require all airliners to carry a flight recorder. It’s now mandatory the world over.

Today’s black boxes are actually bright orange and are built to withstand fire, piercing and the pressure of being submerged to 20,000 feet below the ocean. They can emit a ­locator-beacon signal for up to 30 days. It is hoped that in the future they will be able to send real-time data to ground stations to eliminate the need to find the physical boxes in the case of an incident.

In 2002, Warren was awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for his contribution to aviation. He died in July 2010 at the age of 85. 

Close map

Category

From the article

Share this tips

Close

Looking for something special?

Filter your search by

Close