Premium on Safety - Issue 51, 2024 - 8

BEST PRACTICES
FLIGHT DATA RECORDERS ARE COMMONLY
(ERRONEOUSLY) CALLED " BLACK BOXES " AND
ARE INDELIBLY ASSOCIATED WITH AIRPLANE
CRASHES IN THE PUBLIC'S MIND. The fact
that accident investigators are desperately
searching for these devices after every major
aircraft accident indicates their incredible
value in recreating the chain of events that led
to these tragic results. And though accident
investigation is still the primary function of
data capture, this article will also explore data
monitoring for safety assurance and even as
a new tool for more efficient flight training.
" Black box " data capture is now utilized for
many more diverse-and happier-applications.
The incredible value of crashresistant
data recorders in
an accident investigation is
dramatically illustrated by
solving some historic crash
mysteries through the captured
information.
The incredible value of crash-resistant data
recorders in an accident investigation is
dramatically illustrated by solving some historic
crashes through the captured information.
Without data, all investigators have is
scattered aluminum and sparse clues. The
737 Max crash in Africa left no parts bigger
than a golf ball. Data recorders capture not
only flight telemetry but also the spoken
words of the pilots, usually desperately
working a problem. Some tragedies defied
explanation by even the most seasoned
investigators for years. In each case, the
preserved data solved these mysteries;
the consequence was implementing
improvements in hardware and training that
dramatically increased flight safety.
On September 8, 1994, USAir Flight
427, a Boeing 737-300 on approach to
Pittsburgh, suddenly rolled inverted and
crashed mysteriously, killing all 132 people
on board. The airplane was " atomized, " and
little forensic detail was available. Originally
blamed on piloting error, it took NTSB
investigators five years to discover a rare
built-in failure mode within the rudder
actuating system. Only through exhaustive
testing of the preserved data and the
surviving part, was this flaw detected. This
manufacturing defect jeopardized the entire
fleet of Boeing 737s flying passengers daily,
and was subsequently fixed. As a result,
this airframe is one of the most common (and
safest) aircraft flying today.
Image courtesy of David Tullis.
A crash-resistant Flight Data Recorder.
Image courtesy of the NTSB.
USAir Flight 427 Accident Aircraft Crash Site.
8
https://airwaysmag.com/history-flight-data-recorder/ https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/AAR9901.pdf https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/AAR9901.pdf https://www.faa.gov/sites/faa.gov/files/2022-11/usa427%20ntsb%20findings.pdf https://www.faa.gov/sites/faa.gov/files/2022-11/usa427%20ntsb%20findings.pdf https://www.ntsb.gov/news/Pages/cvr_fdr.aspx https://www.ntsb.gov/news/Pages/cvr_fdr.aspx https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/A99_20_29.pdf

Premium on Safety - Issue 51, 2024

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