The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) is a device that is capable of capturing and storing data pertaining to aircraft performance. While aviation accidents are exceedingly rare, analyzing the data and information from a downed aircraft can ensure that safety is improved and such incidents are avoided in the future. As technology has progressed, many aircraft have also benefited from the addition of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), that of which records pilot communication. In this blog, we will provide an overview of the Flight Data Recorder, allowing you to understand how it functions and how aerospace investigators use the data stored on such devices to improve flight safety.
Also known as black boxes, FDRs are required on many aircraft due to established ICAO requirements. Within ICAO Annex 6 - Operation of Aircraft, it is dictated that aircraft must have either a Type 1 or Type 2 FDR device depending on their weight class. With a Type 1 Flight Data Recorder, information such as aircraft speed, engine power, attitude, configuration, and operation are all stored. With Type II and IIA devices, flight path, attitude, speed, engine power, and even the configuration of lift and drag devices is captured. By following ICAO guidelines and requirements, one may find the specific type of Flight Data Recorder that they may need for their particular aircraft.
As black boxes are intended to store data for analyzing accidents, they are specifically designed to be the most survivable device of the aircraft. By securing the FDR of a downed aircraft and analyzing its data, investigators can discover the root cause of an accident, whether pilot error, system issues, or some external event. With the amount of flight data that is stored on black boxes, they can also be used to predict issues before they occur through condition monitoring.
Since the advent of FDR equipment in the 1950s, a number of devices and recording methods have come about and been used for storing flight data. In the 1960s and 1970s, aircraft began to introduce cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and DFDR technologies, causing magnetic tape to quickly become the standard for recording. With mylar, kapton, and metallic tapes serving as the most widely used types, multiple channels of audio could be recorded alongside 25 hours of data with the DFDR. In order for the DFDR to receive data from sensors, it relied on a flight data acquisition unit (FDAU) so that analog signals could be converted into digital signals for the DFDR and Quick Access Recorder.
In the 1980s, solid state technology quickly overtook magnetic tape and digital recording with its advanced capabilities. With higher survivability and upwards of 4 times the capacity of a magnetic tape DFDR, the solid state FDR serves as the current industry standard. While certain devices may vary in their characteristics, many modern CVR and DFDR devices can withstand fires of up to 1100 degrees Celsius for up to 30 minutes. As black boxes may also fall into the ocean or within fluids, they are designed to withstand immersion in sea water for 30 days and may have an Underwater Locator Beacon (ULB) for easier retrieval. As impact forces and stressors may be exerted on the FDR, many devices can undertake 20,000 feet of pressure, 5,000 pounds of static crush for 5 minutes, and an impact shock of 3,400 Gs. Coupled with rigorous designs that ensure the safety of internal electronic components, FDRs are robust devices that can withstand many extreme conditions.
Since the introduction of FDRs and their related technologies, the aerospace industry has been able to significantly improve the safety of aircraft and flight operations over time. At Limitless Purchasing, we can help you secure competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on all of the aircraft components that you have been in search of. As a premier online distributor of aviation parts, we offer customers access to an unrivaled inventory of over 2 billion new, used, and obsolete items that have been sourced from top global manufacturers. Explore our robust offerings today and experience how Limitless Purchasing can serve as your strategic sourcing partner for your needs.
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