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Qatar Airways is testing technology to simultaneously record flight data on the ground to enable crash investigations even when a black box cannot be recovered or has been interfered with
Al Baker said recent incidents, including the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which still has not been found since March, and the AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea late December had heightened safety concerns in the aviation industry.
The NTSB recommended in 1999 that operators be required to install two sets of CVDR systems, with the second CVDR set being "deployable or ejectable". The "deployable" recorder combines the cockpit voice/flight data recorders and an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) in a single unit. The "deployable" unit would depart the aircraft before impact, activated by sensors. The unit is designed to "eject" and "fly" away from the crash site, to survive the terminal velocity of fall, to float on water indefinitely, and would be equipped with satellite technology for immediate location of crash impact site.
The "deployable" CVDR technology has been used by the US Navy since 1993. The recommendations would involve a massive retrofit program. However, government funding would negate cost objections from manufacturers and airlines. Operators would get both sets of recorders for free: they would not have to pay for the one set they are currently required by law to carry. The cost of the second "deployable/ejectable CVDR" (or "Black Box") was estimated at $30 million for installation in 500 new aircraft (about $60,000 per new commercial plane).
In the United States, the proposed SAFE Act calls for implementing the NTSB 1999 recommendations. However so far the SAFE ACT legislation failed to pass Congress in 2003 (H.R. 2632), in 2005 (H.R. 3336) and in 2007 (H.R. 4336).
Technology that could have solved the mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is currently used by only one airline in the world: First Air, which flies in the Canadian Arctic.
The system, made by Calgary tech company FLYHT Aerospace Solutions, has been around for about five years.
"First Air was the first to say, 'We want the whole deal because our crews and our passengers fly in a very difficult part of the world,'" says Matt Bradley, president of FLYHT Aerospace Solutions.
The system has two parts.
■The Automated Flight Information Reporting System, or AFIRS, is a blue box about the size of a briefcase that's located in the electrical system of an aircraft. The box monitors flight paths, fuel and engine levels.
■The FLYHTStream, which streams data from an aircraft to the ground in real time. The data streaming is automatically triggered when the AFIRS detects a predefined abnormal event, and can also be turned on by the flight crew or by ground personnel.