Thursday, June 18, 2009

Air France crash sparks black box debate

Air France crash sparks black box debate

PARIS (Reuters) - While search teams scour the Atlantic ocean for the black boxes of Air France flight AF447 before their signals die out, aviation experts are considering satellite data streaming to collect vital flight data in future.

An airliner's black box -- which is made up of a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder -- is designed to withstand a crash and emit a signal for about 30 days afterwards. If it is not found by then, the data is unlikely to be recovered.

Many military aircraft already use data streaming, sending flight information real-time via satellite to ground stations.

But the massive bandwidth and sophisticated infrastructure needed to manage and process data from tens of thousands of commercial flights per day could make it prohibitively expensive.

"There have been studies on this for years. There are arguments both for and against, and also there are costs," Paul-Louis Arslanian, France's chief air disaster investigator said, after reporting that the search was progressing, but hampered by difficult search conditions.

"Data streaming is currently technologically possible, but technologically impractical," Dan Elwell, Vice President Civil Aviation of the U.S.-based Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) industry group, told Reuters at the Paris Air Show.

"There are opportunities there to improve the data stream and how we get it on and off the aircraft," said Bob Smith, Vice President for Advanced Technology at Honeywell, which made the black box that was on the Air France aircraft. Read Article...
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