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How an Airplane’s Black Boxes Can Aid a Crash Investigation

an airplane at cruising altitude

Investigations into commercial plane crashes are critical to helping federal agencies, aircraft manufacturers, and airlines understand what changes are necessary to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Two key elements in any plane crash investigation are the plane’s black boxes and the information and data that they store. Below we discuss what black boxes are and how they aid an investigation.

What Are a Plane’s Black Boxes?

Every commercial airplane is equipped with two “black boxes.” These black boxes (which are actually orange in color) record vital information about the plane’s operation and flight that can aid investigators in determining what caused or contributed to a crash. The two black boxes include the:

  • Flight Data Recorder (FDR): Records many variables, including airspeed, altitude, heading, and pitch as well as hundreds of other data points from instruments and computer systems.
  • Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR): Records not only the sounds inside the cockpit, including the pilots’ voices and any alarms that may be going off in the flight deck, but also voice transmissions made using the radios.

In the aftermath of a plane crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will arrive at the scene and, in addition to other investigative procedures, will try to locate and analyze the plane’s FDR and CVR. While plane crash investigations can be conducted without the FDR and CVR, it is often much more difficult to determine the exact cause of the crash and ultimately to prevent a similar crash in the future.

In most cases, the FDR and CVR are recovered in the wake of a crash as black boxes are designed to withstand the significant G-forces and heat that arise from a plane crash. Additionally, the black boxes emit a locator signal for up to 30 days, which provides the NTSB several weeks to locate them. These locator signals emit in many different conditions--even deep underwater.

The NTSB analyses the thousands of data points and the voices and sounds recorded by the FDR and CVR to determine the causes (or contributing causes) of a crash and in doing so formulate recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aircraft manufacturers that may prevent similar crashes in the future.

Plane crashes are not the only types of aviation accidents. Many aviation accidents occur while the plane is on the ground. If you or someone you love has been injured in an aviation accident, our team at Wisner Baum is here to help. Learn how we can protect your rights against large airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

Call Wisner Baum at (855) 948-5098 to schedule a free consultation.


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