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Home > Air Crash Investigations > Do we still need the black box?
Do we still need the black box?
Aviation - Air Crash Investigations
Monday, 07 October 2013 12:23

Black box: Inside a flight data recorder

Hi Captain Lim,

With global satellite coverage why don't commercial aircraft constantly stream telemetry back to the manufacturer for every flight?

This would mean in the event of an accident there would be no risk that the data recorder would be lost (i.e. in the ocean) and would probably also mean that far more parameters could be sent back (due to the limited storage capacity of the black box).

The motorsport people have been beaming real-time telemetry back from cars for years, working in the technology industry I know that this is not beyond the realms of current possibility and it seems like such an obvious thing to do.

Thanks,

Robert

Hi Robert,

Yes, indeed why not? In fact Bombardier was planned be the first airliner to provide "live black box" in-flight telemetry (broadcasting of remote and useful data to the ground) sometime this year.

After the immense cost and time taken to recover the black box of the crash of Air France Airbus A330 over the Atlantic, the live black box is the solution to the future for air crash investigation. After the Air France Flight 447 crash, Airbus had in fact announced that it would begin studying a system to transmit flight data via air-to-ground links in a commercially viable way.

In principle, the ‘live black box’ in-flight telemetry data system is a feasible feature to be installed in all modern planes but the objection would probably come from the airlines due the cost of implementing it. Data storage is not an issue but data bandwidth is, especially on satellites which would be required to cover the oceanic areas and in the Poles. It is expensive at about I USD per kilobyte and airlines are reluctant to invest in it to dilute their profit unless it is made mandatory.

However I believe this feature will be part of the normal system to be installed in all airplanes in the future.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my Twitter at @CaptKHLim  If you like what you read, more stories are found in my new book LIFE IN THE SKIES and you can purchase a copy here .

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Thanks for the answer, it sounds like they are going in the right direction. Interesting about the satellite data costs, I didn't realise it was so expensive.

Regards,


Robert
Robert , 14 Oct, 2013

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