Friday, March 28, 2014

Missing Malaysian plane should wake us up

When I say 'us' I mean the entire aviation industry - the aircraft manufacturers, aeronautical engineers, all world's airlines, and organisations like NTSB, FAA, etc. throughout the world. It is time to re-design the so-called black boxes - the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder - on which accident investigations almost entirely rely.

My common sense says these so-called black boxes need at least two improvements:

1. They should float in case of a crash in the water. This will help locate them much more easily. If they cannot be made to float by themselves, they should be attached to inflatables that will inflate automatically when they come in contact with water thus making the black boxes rise to the surface of water. These boxes are painted orange I know for better visibility. I don't know if the paint is luminescent. If not, they should be painted with a luminescent paint.

2. The black boxes should emit a white smoke for days in case of a crash on the land. This will make them relatively easy to locate even if the crash happens in a difficult terrain like jungle, mountain, etc.

My common sense says neither of the above improvements to the black boxes is impossible to do. I am sure technology for these either already exists or can be designed by engineers easily if asked. The increased cost is certainly worthwhile given what the world is experiencing today.

My other suggestion for better accident or terrorism investigation in the future is to add a third black box to hold the hard disk storing recorded video from a cockpit surveillance camera. In these days of surveillance cameras everywhere, it is difficult to understand why the cockpits of every plane are not fitted with surveillance cameras! 

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