The End of the 'Black Box' Flight Recorder

By Alexis C. Madrigal

The black box recorder carried on planes to record flight data was a wonderful invention. They allowed crash investigators to have access to far more (and more reliable) information than had previously been available.

But it's about time the flight data stored in the infamous "black box" got sent online rather than kept on in-plane hardware. A new system from the satellite communications company Iridium would do just that, Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz points out. If the system turns out to be a robust solution, the grim spectacle of tin-kickers' search for a flight data recorder after a crash may finally end.

Iridium has worked with Canadian data link specialist AeroMechanical Services to demonstrate the continuous download of FDR information using AMS' Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS).

The AFIRS's FlyhtStream operating mode could be used together with Iridium's 2KB/sec. air-ground data link service to deliver system information to airline managers and dispatchers, aircraft and engine manufacturers, air traffic control and search-and-rescue authorities. The capability has been demonstrated in trials over the Atlantic, according to Dan Mercer, Iridium's general manager for EMEA and Russia. "AFIRS and an Iridium terminal were fitted to a pair of Airbus A320s and a Boeing 757 belonging to one airline, and to a 767 belonging to another," he says. "The test team judged that the streamed data would have been sufficient for a successful investigation in the event of an accident."

Read the full story at Aviation Week.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-the-black-box-flight-recorder/60250/