Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Airbus to release Deployable Black Boxes after the Egypt Air Flight 804 tragedy

With the recent tragedy of the doomed EgyptAir Flight 804 that disappeared into the Mediterranean, calls have been renewed at Airbus, which manufactured the Airbus A320 involved in the crash. Airbus said it is time to improve the design of “black box” flight recorders, one that would actually be deployed out of an aircraft in the moment of an accident thus making it easy to locate away from a possible wreck.

Airbus Executive Vice President for Engineering Charles Champion told The Guardian how a deployable recorder would be easier to find, and that his company’s engineering department have been working hard on it.

Current types of black boxes, usually installed in an aircraft’s tail, remain where they are until the plane crashes, whereupon they begin emitting acoustic signals from within the wreckage for investigators to locate, with enough battery power to maintain the signal for 30 days – five weeks for search crews to home in on the device even in waters up to 3,000 meters deep. While new regulations have manufacturers extending the battery life and signal range of new flight recorders have been enacted, these will not actually go into effect until two years from now, in 2018.

Deployable black boxes on the other had will be ejected from the tail compartments during an aircraft crash, and would float in the water to further aid in a swift recovery. EgyptAir Flight 804 plummeted into the sea at 2:29AM local time while in transit from Paris to Cairo last May 19, killing 66 passengers and flight crew. Egyptian officials have confirmed to the International Business Times that the plane had managed to get out a distress call in its final moments, and satellites have reported receiving an electronic signal from the A320’s emergency locator. The flight recorders however, have yet to be pinpointed in the plane’s watery grave.

As early back as the crash of an Air France Airbus A330 in 2009, investigators have pushed for the development and adoption of the automatic-ejecting deployable flight recorder, and these requests were boosted further by the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the United Nations, has added its call to have aircraft black boxes be easily recoverable by 2021.

While Airbus has been taking the necessary steps to implement these vital features, fellow manufacturer Boeing has been skeptical of deployable black boxes, remarking how these, having been originally developed for warplanes, were proven to be less than reliable in their stated function even then. More of these relevant issues are expected to be part of discussion in a convention of global airlines this week to be held in Dublin.

Photo Credit to The Economist