Everything you should know about an airplane “black box”

Everything you should about an airplane "black box"

Popularly known as a flight recorder, today TechCapon will take out time to explain to you everything you should know about an aeroplane black box.

Whenever there’s a major plane crash anywhere in the world, a team of investigators go to the crash site and survey the area. The first thing they do is to look for the plane’s black box and then retrieve it. Then they contact the air traffic controller as well as gather information about the plane from the airline involved.

The aeroplane black box is the last hope for the friends and families of the victims to know exactly what caused the crash. It also helps authorities to determine the cause of the crash so as to use that information to prevent a future plane crash due to the same issue. The black box is so important that even in cases where there are no survivors, it can still give full details of what happened during the final minutes leading to the crash.

  1. The black box is actually orange in colour and not black

Most people I have encountered think that because it is called the “black box”, the colour must be black. That conclusion is absolutely wrong! I don’t blame them, most people have not had the opportunity to see what a black box look like. Perhaps, they are not even interested to know. However, it is surprising to know that the colour is actually orange and not black as widely speculated.

2. The black box is actually “2 boxes” and not 1 box.

Yeah, you heard me right. They are actually 2 orange boxes and not 1 box as most people think. These orange boxes are the flight recorders. The idea to invent the black box came up in the 1950s when the first commercial jetliner had 5 accidents in its first 2 years of service. Then the authorities didn’t know what is causing the planes to crash. They came up with the idea that it would be nice to create some sort of recorders that would record things happening in the planes before they crash. Now the technology for recording flight data have improved tremendously, they now record the data on memory chips.

3. The black box is made of 2 components

Black box

Now that you know that the black box is actually 2 and not 1, the question will be “what are the 2 components?” Well, the first component is actually the “cockpit voice recorder”. This records every sound in the cockpit as well as the voice from the pilot’s microphones in the last two hours. In most cases, this cockpit voice recorder is enough to tell investigators what led to the crash.

For example, the case of “German Wings” airline which crashed in 2015 killing everyone on board. The cockpit voice recorder showed that it was actually the pilot who locked out his co-pilot and crashed the plane. It showed the co-pilot banging on the door and yelling “for God’s sake open the door” while passengers were screaming at the background. The second component is the “flight data recorder”. This captures more data than the cockpit voice recorder. This tells investigators everything that happened before the plane lost power.

4. They are installed near the tail of the plane

The plane manufacturers are so smart that they figured out most plane crashes usually occur from the front and not the back. They know that in order to protect the black box, they need to install it in a spot with the least impact during a crash. That spot is the tail region. The memory chips are covered in strong steel and titanium cases that are designed to withstand the worst crash and heat. They are also surrounded by insulators that protect it against high temperatures including fire burning at over 10,000 degrees Celsius. That means no matter how badly damaged the box is or the aircraft is, the memory chips will remain intact!

5. They can transmit their own signals

Black box

Yes, you heard me. The black box is fitted with its own beacons to enable them to transmit signals. This is very useful especially if the aircraft crashed inside a sea or ocean. It will transmit ultra-sound signals every second for 30 days. The signal is so powerful that it can travel through 14,000ft of water.

However, the case of Malaysian airline MH370 is still a mystery that continued to shock the world. For over 2 years, there’s still no clue to where the plane is or what happened to the aeroplane. This is why engineers are working on new technology that will not leave that data only in the black box but rather transmit those data real time to the ground through satellite. The issues this technology will face is the issue of privacy and cost. This is because there’s no need to get the flight data unless there’s a plane disaster. The pilot’s privacy will be violated.

6. #FunFact: The name “Black box” is not even a recognised name in the aviation industry

A lot of you may be wondering, “why is it called a black box when the colour is actually orange?”

Very funny but interesting question. The word “Black Box” is not really used in the aviation industry. Rumour has it that the reason why it is called “Black Box” is that when there’s a plane crash, the fire and heat from the crash will burn off the orange surface thereby turning the colour to black! Nobody really knows where the name black box came from. The proper name for it is “flight recorders” or “Onboard recording devices.”


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