What air investigators can learn from black boxes

2014-03-30 21:02
Petty Officer Combat Systems Supervisor Heath Davis on the bridge of HMAS Success keeping a lookout as the ship leaves the port of Fremantle in Western Australia to join the search for missing Malaysia Airlines fight MH370. (Australian Defence, Abis

Petty Officer Combat Systems Supervisor Heath Davis on the bridge of HMAS Success keeping a lookout as the ship leaves the port of Fremantle in Western Australia to join the search for missing Malaysia Airlines fight MH370. (Australian Defence, Abis

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Washington - One the world's foremost black box laboratories opened its doors to journalists on Friday to provide some insight on how technicians can recover information from flight data and voice recorders, like those from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

It remains very uncertain if the recorders can be found in the depths of the vast Indian Ocean. But if the search succeeds, the information inside could help solve the mystery of why the jet flew so far off-course.

US National Transportation Safety Board experts say even if the recorders have been submerged in deep water for an extended period, data can usually be recovered.

Here's some key points about how the information is retrieved, and what it can tell us:

- The black box, which is actually orange to aid visibility, consists a rectangular housing for electronics and a crash-hardened memory module that holds the data that investigators are looking for. Attached to the module is a pinger that sends out a signal to help locate the black box.

- While the battery that powers the pinger will run down after about one month, there's no definitive shelf-life for the data itself. The black boxes of an Air France flight that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 were found two years later from a depth of more than 3 000m and technicians were able to recover most of the information.

- If the box has been submerged in the sea, technicians will keep it submerged in fresh water to wash away the corrosive salt. As water may seep into the recorder, it must be carefully dried for hours or even days using a vacuum oven to prevent memory chips from cracking. The electronics and memory are checked, and any necessary repairs made. Chips are scrutinised under a microscope; even if one is cracked, often the data on it will have jumped onto another chip.

- Data is downloaded onto computer. The flight data recorder carries 25 hours of information, including prior flights within that time-span, which can sometimes provide hints about the cause of a mechanical failure on a later flight. The voice recorder has two hours of audio, of the captain, first officer and a microphone in the cockpit area.

- The data from the flight recorder, which comes as vast streams of binary code, is converted into a useable, time-linked form about hundreds of parameters, like altitude, air speed, pitch and engine thrust, to plot what happened on the airplane. An initial assessment of the data is provided to investigators within 24 hours, but analysis will continue for weeks more.

- An initial briefing on the voice recording is given to investigators by phone. A panel of six to eight experts then makes a meticulous transcript of the recording, which can take up a week. For privacy and legal reasons, the recording never leaves the laboratory, but parts of the transcript text may be made public if the investigation is advanced enough to put it into context.

- Technicians use a sound library to help them interpret ambient sounds from the recording: perhaps a doors opening, seats moving, an explosion or gunshot. The sound of the engine or gears can also help in analysis of the mechanics of the plane.

- AP
Read more on:    malaysia  |  malaysia airlines flight mh370
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Stikland 12:25 PM
Road name: Strand Road Eastbound

TRUCK CRASH between La Belle Road and the R300 Highway

Cape Town 12:12 PM
Road name: N1 Inbound

ACCIDENT near the N7 Highway bridge

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Social media is pulling you in and you have the desire to find out everything you know about your friends and you have the urge to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.