Black Box.. Aircraft’s Memory, Keeper of All Secrets

Riyadh, The black box in an aircraft is a memory that records information and data and its performance, what happens in the cockpit, conversations between crew members or with the control tower and any other sounds in the cockpit.

The black box is used by authorities to investigate accidents or disasters that befall planes, in order to find out the causes and factors that led to them.

It’s a metal box, painted in orange, to be easily distinguished when searching for it. In every aircraft, there are two boxes, which are often located in the back of the aircraft, recording what happens to the aircraft throughout its operation period. The function of the first black box is to save up to more than 3000 different data, digital data and physical values that change during the flight such as speed, altitude, geographical location and engine performance. This is in addition to the positions of the different system switches, the status of the autopilot and automatic power supply, the position of the control surfaces and other vital data. The second black box's function is to record sounds inside the cockpit.

Each box is equipped with a transmitter that works when submerged in water and sends out ultrasonic signals to help locate these boxes. Black boxes transmit these signals at a frequency of 37.5 kHz for a period of 30 days from the start of its activation until its battery is discharged. The transmission range is about 6000 meters (20,000 feet). Advanced search devices can pick up audio signals at a range of 3000 meters inside the water.

The flight data box records the last 25 operating hours of the aircraft, while the cockpit voice box records the last 3 hours of operation.

These devices are kept in very durable molds made of strong materials such as titanium, surrounded by an insulating material to withstand shocks of up to 3,400 times the force of Earth's gravity, temperatures exceeding 1100 degrees Celsius, for a full hour, and strong pressure equivalent to water pressure at a depth of 20,000 feet under the sea.

To protect the recording devices, they are usually wrapped with an insulating material in order to protect the recorded information from the salinity of sea water, which causes corrosion to many metals.

The Aviation Investigation Bureau (AIB) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducts civil aviation accident investigations, prepares the necessary studies to enhance the safety of civil aviation and makes recommendations related to aviation safety and follows them up in accordance with international safety standards and practices, contained in the Thirteenth Annex of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Source: Saudi Press Agency