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For flight recorders, orange is always the new black

August 25, 2015 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The latest hit on Netflix may well tell us that Orange is the New Black but those working in the aviation safety world have known that for half a century. So says the Australian Transport Saety Bureau (ATSB). It points out that an aircraft’s flight recorders, popularly known as ‘black boxes’, are painted orange so they can be easily found following an accident.

Black boxes are an important tool for investigators in identifying the factors behind an accident. Recorders usually comprise two individual boxes: the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR).

Black box flight recorder

Black box flight recorder

The ATSB’s central office in Canberra houses specialist technical facilities for the download and analysis of recorded audio and flight data information. Australia is one of a few countries in the Asia-Pacific region with these facilities and the ATSB regularly provides assistance and expertise to international investigations.

If an accident occurs at night in a remote area or at sea, the flight recorders may be the main, if not only, means of establishing the sequence of events just before the accident. At the very least, CVR and FDR data can help the work of the on-site  investigation team as it examines the wreckage, and can save many months in the overall investigation.

Flight recorders are particularly useful for cases in which evidence is transitory, for instance occurrences involving environmental factors like windshear and severe turbulence.

Data from flight recorders can reveal the sudden effects of windshear on an aircraft’s flight path without which, it may be difficult or impossible to determine with certainty the factors associated with an accident.

The evidence available from flight recordings has shown that investigators can underestimate or misunderstand the effect of environmental factors like windshear.

Edited by William Sykes

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