How Does an Airplane's Black Box Survive Crashes?

Also known as a flight data recorder, a black box records all information related to events occurring on a flight. Black boxes survive airplane crashes because they are made of titanium, which is capable of withstanding extremes in temperature and pressure. There are several different claims regarding the invention of the recorders, with some claims dating back to 1939. Designs that were capable of holding up to severe crash events were introduced in 1958.

More facts about black boxes:

  • Safety regulations in the United States and other countries call for an airplane’s black box to be located in the tail of the plane. The location is said to experience slower speeds after the initial impact, so the chances of the box surviving intact are improved.

  • Black boxes are tested in several ways. A pierce test involves dropping heavy weights on the box to make sure that it won’t crack upon impact. The fire test helps to ensure that the casing can withstand extreme temperatures without compromising the recorder by exposing the box to a heat of 2,012° Fahrenheit (1,100° Celsius) for an hour, then an additional 10 hours at 500° Fahrenheit (260° Celsius).

  • An airplane’s black box is equipped with what is known as a pinger. Pingers are beacons that activate automatically when the plane is submerged in water. They are capable of transmitting signals from a depth of 14,000 feet (4,267.2 m).

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