Following the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. pressed the secretary of transportation to move forward on the idea of ejectable black boxes in commercial planes, an idea that the FAA has been working on for more than 10 years.
A P3 Orion, one of the planes searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, has an automatic deployable flight recorder (ADFR), which would eject from the plane in a crash. Instead of going down with the plane it would float on top of the water, providing search teams with the location of the crash site.
Made by DRS Technologies, the Deployable Flight Incident Recorder (DFIRS), a type of black box, has been used by the military since the 60’s, and is in the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 fighter jets. In the event of an accident, DFIRS is deployed automatically by an impact sensor or through release of the ejection seat and “flies” away from the aircraft. Ground support equipment provided with the DFIRS can readily be connected to the flight recorder to immediately download and analyze the internal data on the same day as the crash.
Fabrice Bregier, head of European jet maker Airbus, says Airbus is working to develop deployable black boxes or other systems that could help investigators find the recorders following an accident or disappearance. Bregier said increasing the frequency of automated messaging between aircraft and the ground would also help, and is possible with existing technology.
The flight data recorder (black box) and the voice recorder on the missing Malaysian Airlines plane sent out a ping that could be heard for a mile or two away by sonar, but the batteries lasted only 30 days.