×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

FAA Mandates Major Aircraft "Black Box" Upgrade

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the just-make-the-whole-plane-out-of-that-stuff dept.

Transportation 277

coondoggie writes "Earlier this week the FAA mandated upgrades and updates to aircraft voice and data recorders within the US. The goal of the updates: to assist future investigations with 'more and better data' from accidents and incidents. The 'mandate means manufacturers such as Honeywell and L-3 Communications as well as operators of airplanes and helicopters with 10 or more seats, must employ voice recorders, also known as black boxes, that capture the last two hours of cockpit audio instead of the current 15 to 30 minutes. The new rules also require an independent backup power source for the voice recorders to allow continued recording for nine to 11 minutes if all aircraft power sources are lost or interrupted. Voice recorders also must use solid state technology instead of magnetic tape, which is vulnerable to damage and loss of reliability.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

277 comments

It sounds so easy but (0)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724426)

When everyone can get $40 mp3 players with 8 hour playback time on next to no power, you would thing this is going to be the cheapest thing ever. Even general purpose data recorders should be cheap when GB worth are so commonly available. Then you run into qualifications and secrets. Watch these boxes run into the thousands of dollars per aircraft and weep for the paying public.

Re:It sounds so easy but (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724448)

You know nothing about hardware. Stick to software. There you can work in a fantasy land all day long.

Re:It sounds so easy but (4, Informative)

engagebot (941678) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724472)

I happen to work at the L3 Communications facility that builds the flight recorders in Sarasota, Fl. Trust me, there's a lot more to a flight recorder than just an ipod in a big orange case. As is, a black box weights 25lbs or more easily. Do you know what kind of force it has to be able to withstand and come out unscathed? Second of all, its not just a storage medium. It contains tons of instruments that actually measure certain parameters about the flight too.

You almost make it sound fair. (-1, Redundant)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724582)

So, basically this is what I imagined. I trust you can open that box and replace the tape recorder and the rest of the device will function well. That should be cheap and easy, unless all of the innards are closely guarded company secrets. If that's the case, and the instrumentation recording also has to be replaced, your company has the ability to rape the flying public that I worried about.

Re:You almost make it sound fair. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724704)

I fear that Slashdot doesn't have the correct type of moderation for this comment. -1 Troll somewhat gets the idea of this post, but it misses the essence. -1 Stupid might be better as well as -1 Tinfoil Hat.

Re:It sounds so easy but (4, Funny)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724588)

As is, a black box weights 25lbs or more easily...
It contains tons of instruments...
That IS quite impressive. Using black box material, I wonder if there is a way to make the plane weigh only a few thousand pounds while carrying hundreds of tons of cargo.

Re:It sounds so easy but (2)

damista (1020989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724702)

The Article is talking about the cockpit voice recorder, not the flight data recorder. That's two different things. The flight data recorder naturally has to have enough instruments built in but what "tons of instruments that actually measure certain parameters about the flight" do you need in the cockpit voice recorder?

Re:It sounds so easy but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724776)

I thought the recording medium in conventional, reliable black boxes was cheap oxide-coated wire, a spool of which can easily take as many G-forces as a plane crash can throw at it and still be able to play back, unlike solid state chips with their delicate internal connecting wires and micron-wide circuit paths. No?

Re:It sounds so easy but (2, Interesting)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724848)

like all good regulations though, they do many things very backwards. I've worked for a contractor too and many practices, while safe, are outright backwards given the leaps in technology. An iPhone and Wii controller are probably more advanced, and more reliable... not entirely fit for the job of a black box, but the direction it should be going... half the size and twice the function. The 50 year-old engineers that design this stuff are just plain out-of-touch with what technology can do now... flat out unable to understand it's application in many cases I've seen. Something like an iPod Touch has 16 Gigabytes of data... that's plenty of storage for what they need. As most instruments are digital (or should be) it should be easy to interface to the outside instruments rather than have so many enclosed as the quality of external instruments is much better now. So much has changed, an inline data trap with the fly-by-wire would be more in line, tried and true similar to any plain network logger... but aircraft people just don't think like that.

Re:It sounds so easy but (5, Insightful)

hjf (703092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725028)

The worst airplane crash of an Argentine airplane was the Austral 2553 (Uruguay, 1997). The pitot tube (the little thingy that gives you the speed of the aircraft) failed (it froze, and the alarms failed due to lack of maintenance), and the pilots just keep pushing the gas. The plane hit the ground, perpendicular, at 1200kph. The black box survived: The speed indicator jumped from 300kph to 800kph in 3 seconds (sudden defrost of the pitot tube).

Anyone who says any kind of consumer electronics device is going to work after hitting the ground at 1200kph, obviously has no idea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austral_L%C3%ADneas_A%C3%A9reas_Flight_2553 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Black_box.aeroplane.JPG [wikipedia.org]

Re:It sounds so easy but (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724482)

When everyone can get $40 mp3 players with 8 hour playback time on next to no power, you would thing this is going to be the cheapest thing ever. Even general purpose data recorders should be cheap when GB worth are so commonly available. Then you run into qualifications and secrets. Watch these boxes run into the thousands of dollars per aircraft and weep for the paying public.

Weep? There isn't some international conspiracy to make black boxes cost more. They are expensive because they need to survive impacts in which hundreds of Gs are put on them. It is one thing to make an mp3 player retain a lot of data and quite another to be able to make that mp3 player retain its data after hitting the ground at 800 km/hr.

Re:It sounds so easy but (3, Insightful)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724486)

I recently worked on a data recorder for trains. (no voice, but train data + GPS co-ords, etc) are all stored on a CF card which is encased in a large aluminium block surounded by a good insulator, then encased in a heavy steel box, all inside a very strong case ...)

It certainly survived all the standard test (like puncture, high temperatures for extended time periods, etc).

So, yes, this is very easy to do in this day and age. (Done again, it would undoubtedly be better to use SD cards, as these are even smaller than CF, require fewer connection to the interface and would make the insulation/protection even easier!

Re:It sounds so easy but (4, Interesting)

rabiddeity (941737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724598)

The difference between a $40 mp3 player and a flight recorder is that the flight recorder must be engineered to never fail, ever. If you plug the mp3 player into an outlet to recharge and a power surge hits, it will get fried. You expect that. You can buy another one. But the flight recorder has to withstand the aircraft getting struck by lightning repeatedly, and still continue to function.

In addition, every component must survive the severe stresses involved in a plane crash. The severe acceleration can cause large components to get ripped off their solder points. The device will likely be cooked to several hundred degrees as the plane burns around it, so all the components need to survive that (electrolytic capacitors will explode well before that). Heck, if the plane spontaneously breaks apart on a trans-Pacific flight, the box gets cooled to the outside air temperature of around -50 C before slamming into the ocean at high speed. Let's see your music player take that and survive. And I hope whatever software running the thing wrote the data out cleanly before everything went to hell, because if any of those stresses caused a hardware glitch that overwrites or erases the log, you get to tell the FAA that you really don't know why that plane crashed. Oops.

Re:It sounds so easy but (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724748)

And the difference between a mp3 player and a black box is an mp3 player will fit in my pocket. You can get away with redundancy that you never could have in the past. Even tape drives have shrunk.

You could have 2 mil spec 16 GB SD cards, 2 80 GB hard drives AND 2 tape decks in probably the same space as the old tape decks. As far as the environment, that's almost all casing. Same with lightning strikes, if they have it figured out now, why change away from it (other than advancements in technology). It's not like these guys are saying "hey lets stick an iPod in a plane and call it good."

Re:It sounds so easy but (4, Insightful)

rabiddeity (941737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725244)

Smaller components are more susceptible to interference and voltage transients because they operate at lower voltages. You'll have to redesign the power supply to output a lower voltage, but realistically this also means that the original circuits for power conditioning won't work as well as they did on the old hardware. On a lightning strike, the circuit might let a 10V transient through which wouldn't harm the old analog tapes at all, but 10V spikes might be enough to glitch or erase modern SSD chips that operate at 3.3V or lower. Redundancy won't help you if your identical devices all get fried on a single voltage transient. The proper solution is to design a new circuit using high quality components and test rigorously, and that isn't cheap. The new parts needed to improve power conditioning also require more space, meaning that you gained some space from smaller media but lost some to power conditioning.

If you want to use multiple smaller tapes, consider the following. While improvements in technology have allowed us to make smaller tapes, they have also reduced the physical tolerances in the recorder. A head mashing against a tape isn't as disastrous as a hard drive head crash, but it still can't be good for the media. The tensile strength of the smaller tape would also have to be evaluated to make sure it doesn't self-destruct on sudden acceleration. Again, if one tape snaps under certain conditions a redundant one probably will snap too. Maybe the older tapes are more durable. Maybe they aren't. Without testing it's impossible to tell. Testing costs money.

I hope I don't have to explain why spinning platter hard drives are not a good idea on a flight recorder.

Give the original engineers a bit of credit. Those analog tapes might be stone-age and oversized, but they're time-tested and they work. The reluctance to replace them comes from years of experience saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it" -- especially when lives hang in the balance. If we can design something that withstands impact better, then that's great, but we need to be very cautious not to introduce new flaws.

Re:It sounds so easy but (2, Funny)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724762)

"because if any of those stresses caused a hardware glitch that overwrites or erases the log, you get to tell the FAA that you really don't know why that plane crashed. Oops."

No problem. We'll just tell them that CowboyNeil shot it down.

Re:It sounds so easy but (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725128)

But the flight recorder has to withstand the aircraft getting struck by lightning repeatedly, and still continue to function.
Discovery Channel had a show that included a segment about how planes survive lightning strikes.

Long story short: Lightning travels along either the aluminum skin or special strips stuck to any non-metallic surfaces and continues on its way without damaging anything.

These are the type of strips [lightningdiversion.com] the Discovery show was talking about. AFAIK, in a properly maintained plane, lightning almost never goes anywhere near the electronics.

But they *do* fail (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725152)

Black boxes often do fail.

It's a lot easier to reenforce a small robust item than a large fragile one. Smaller is inherently stronger because they have less stresses due to acceleration etc. F= m a

A small solidstate recorder with some accelerometers etc could likely be made a lot cheaper, smaller and tougher than the monsters of today.

Re:It sounds so easy but (1)

lhaeh (463179) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725204)

One of the cool things that adds to the reliability in the extreme environment you mentioned is the tape it's self. It's not a tape at all actually, but a steel wire. They cracked one open on this cool old show called "The Secret Life of Machines."

Re:It sounds so easy but (4, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724718)

A few thousand bucks for a piece of equipment on an aircraft that costs tens of millions of dollars is a pretty trivial amount. It probably costs more to change the color of the fabric on the seats.

Re:It sounds so easy but (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725146)

Correction. It probably costs a CRAPLOAD more to change the color of the seats. If anything I'm betting that the changeover to solid state storage is going to be making these cheaper by at least an order of magnitude.

Re:It sounds so easy but (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725222)

The Air Force actually spent extra to have cloth seats installed(leather was standard) in many of the jets used to transport generals so it would look like they actually spent less.

Re:It sounds so easy but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724758)

If the world was run by the kind of idiots who post this mindless drivel on Slashdot then airplanes would be falling out of the sky every day, buildings and bridges would collapse every hour and cars would explode at every stop light. Just because you can buy a widget that literally works only in a shirtsleeve environment does not mean that the same standards apply to mission critical equipment.

The FAA has standard DO-178B http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DO-178B [wikipedia.org] for software development. From the Wikipedia article:

This objective-based nature of DO-178B allows a great deal of flexibility in regard to following different styles of software life cycle. However, once an activity within a process has been defined, it is generally expected that the project respect that documented activity within its process. Furthermore, processes (and their concrete activities) must have well defined entry and exit criteria, according to DO-178B, and a project must show that it is respecting those criteria as it performs the activities in the process.

The flexible nature of DO-178B's processes and entry/exit criteria make it difficult to implement the first time, because these aspects are abstract and there is no "base set" of activities from which to work. The intention of DO-178B was not to be prescriptive. Therefore, there are many possible and acceptable ways for a real project to define these aspects. This can be difficult the first time a company attempts to develop a civil avionics system under this standard, and has created a niche market for DO-178B training and consulting.

Do you have any idea how much time and effort this requires? Remember, unlike an MP-3 player you will not be spreading the cost over hundred thousands to millions of units, but over thousands of units if you are very lucky. And remember, if you screw up people can die. And by the way, you can be sued into oblivion.

There is a MIL-Spec for mold resistance for electronics. I don't have a reference for it right now. When you sell stuff to he U.S. Navy they tell you what color to paint it. Yeah, a lot of the specs are overkill, but no one does this for fun. It all goes back to making sure that this stuff works in the field, and that it can be fixed/replaced when necessary by people who had nothing to do with it's creation.

... weep for the paying public my ass. I hope you are poisoned by a shoddy import from China, or die in a flaming car wreck because of a counter-fit mechanical part. Literally you are too stupid to live. The fact that you are still breathing means that the rest of us are in danger. Do the world a favor and slit you wrists before you kill someone who has a clue. How did this crap get modded up anyway? Oh yeah, there's more then one idiot on Slashdot...

You'd think (2, Interesting)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724436)

That video surveillance would be part of the mandate.

Re:You'd think (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724656)

what for? They know what the pilot is doing to the controls from the flight data recorder (which is seperate from the cockpit voice recorder to increase the chances of recovering at least one of them). They know what the pilots were saying to each other from the cockpit voice recorder. Afaict that is all they really need to know to work out what the pilots did in the runup to the crash.

Re:You'd think (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725076)

I'd like to know what happened in the cockpit of United 93 on 911, the audio recordings didn't make it clear.

Re:You'd think (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725106)

They know what the pilot is doing to the controls from the flight data recorder
That of course requires that the instruments actually work as they should. More then one plane has gone down due to instruments displaying incorrect values or pilots reading them wrong. A few cameras that actually show what is going on could help clear up a lot in some cases were the audio recording leaves the investigators with a lot of guess work. See for example Helios Airways Flight 522 [wikipedia.org]. There also have been accidents where the pilot switched of the working engine, not the damaged one, a little external camera showing the engine would have helped a lot in that case to notice the error before it was to late, even without recording it to a black-box.

I really don't see a good reason to not have cameras, after all when you want to find out what went wrong it is best to have as much information as possible, limiting the recording to audio in times where storage really shouldn't be much of a problem seems rather counterproductive.

Re:You'd think (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725260)

Here are two reasons not to have cameras:
1. They are expensive and often can't be easily installed without major modifications.
2. What good is a camera in the cockpit going to do? It won't be able to see outside(even if it could, you'd still see what the pilots saw, which obviously didn't help them) and it probably won't be able to read the guages. You end up with a video of the pilots doing what the other recorders already said they were doing.

Re:You'd think (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725182)

That video surveillance would be part of the mandate.
you would also think they would have the data sent over a satellite signal and stored at a remote location as to make sure even if the box is damaged the data would be stored where it is reachable

Re:You'd think (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22725274)

Not if you knew how many of these things recorded the pilot's last B.J.

Loss of Reliability (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724444)

What's the difference between "loss of reliability" and "failure"?

Re:Loss of Reliability (2, Insightful)

Nullav (1053766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724838)

I'm assuming they're referring to how tape degrades over time with 'loss of reliability'. However, I am a bit confused as to how solid-state storage is much better in this situation, since torn tape can still be played while it would be somewhat difficult to recover from a trashed flash chip. (Though I'm sure this could be solved quite easily by recording to several SSDs at once.)

If they want (5, Funny)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724454)

more data from crashes it seems to me that the obvious solution would be to just ease up on aircraft maintenance requirements. Leave it to the government to always pick the hard way.

Re:If they want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22725376)

more data from crashes?

ulimit -c unlimited

Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (4, Insightful)

Khyber (864651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724458)

You drop any solid state device hard enough and it'll fail due to stress fractures in the silicon.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724518)

Agree. Break the magnetic tape, you can still put it together with a bit of adhesive tape. Break a flash memory, you have worthless pieces of silicon.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (4, Insightful)

AresTheImpaler (570208) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724546)

I might be wrong, but the point is.. a SSD doesnt have any moving parts that will be "move" in an unwanted fashion once the airplane or just the blackbox is hit. This is specially true for all the vibrations that would go thru blackbox material. The black box itself is supposedly there to protect the disk and other instruments from a direct hit, but vibrations will still go thru.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (4, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724628)

The point is that those vibrations you mention would destroy the solid state storage, thus rendering the data absolutely useless and null. True that tape drive motors would be severely affected unless the whole unit had a gyro stabilizer (which I think some models do) but solid state would shatter upon impact. You rarely find working electronic devices after a plane crash, except for military ones.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (1)

AresTheImpaler (570208) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724754)

no, those vibrations would not destroy teh solid state storage. a direct hit that would shatter, bend or deform it physically would. At the other hand, moving parts become unreliable with vibrations.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725302)

When something vibrates, the whole object becomes moving parts. That's what vibration is, material in an object moving in a regular fashion. Therefore, strong enough vibration in a device that relies on everything always being in the correct place will destroy it.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724658)

Package it properly and it can survive almost anything. The military has been using proximity fuses in artillery shells since World War II.

Requires massive acceleration (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724700)

Please do some research [wikipedia.org] first. "Currently, EUROCAE specifies that a recorder must be able to withstand an acceleration of 3400 g (33 km/s) for 6.5 milliseconds." To test the armor and memory, manufacturers test them by firing them out of a calibrated cannon (compressed air, not gunpowder) into a hard surface.

They also survive crush tests, penetration tests (IIRC, 1/4" steel dowel on a 500lb weight dropped 10' on all six faces), short term high intensity heat (propane flame "goosed" with oxygen to make it hot enough), long term moderate (600^C?) heat soak, and pressurized seawater immersion (I forgot the equivalent depth, way further than I would care to dive).

On the Wikipedia pictures, the circular/semi-circular painted part is the armor (with the rectangular versions, the armor is inside the shell). The silvery cylinder on the near end is an underwater locating beacon "pinger".

A magnetic media recorder would not survive what the solid state recorders survive. The old metal foil scribe recorders would probably survive but don't record many signals nor very accurately.

Re:Solid State is vulnerable to damage as well (1)

the pickle (261584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724902)

That's true, but silicon is at least an order of magnitude stronger than magnetic tape, which is fairly notoriously fragile. It's a minor miracle that the recorders survive serious crashes in a usable condition as often as they do.

Any crash that would fracture silicon chips would leave pretty much nothing at all of the airplane or magnetic tape-based FDR/CVR units, so I see this as a general win.

p

Why even use a hard drive? (1)

Monev (559960) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724496)

Couldn't they just stream plane data to some off site center? Seems like a better use for in flight internet technology.

Re:Why even use a hard drive? (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724698)

I don't think they ever used hard drives. Afaict they went straight from tape to flash.

The big problem I see with streaming the data off is keeping it working under adverse conditions. Afaict in a large proportion of crashes some kind of adverse weather conditions or unusually low flight or power failures or other things that are likely to screw up communications are involved.

Upgrades needed. (4, Insightful)

engagebot (941678) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724500)

I must first qualify this post by saying that I work at the L3 Aviation Recorders facility that builds all the black boxes. What people dont realize is that we dont just build the flight recorders, but every flight recorder has to come back to this facility to be taken apart and read too. You don't even know how many *old, old* flight recorders come in all the time from retired aircraft or downed aircraft, whatever. Some of the flight recorders out there in the wild are way way behind the new stuff that we're putting in aircraft being built now.

Question: why just record? (2, Interesting)

martyb (196687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724958)

Here's a question that's been gnawing at me for a while... why is the "black box" just a recorder? I'd think of this question every time I heard that there's been an accident and the black box had not been found. OR, that they found the box but it was too badly damaged to make out all the data. Is this still a problem?

If a black box (BB) senses an anomalous event, why couldn't it transmit a [compressed] copy of the recorded data? Or, even better, besides recording it all, transmit all the data all the time. Maybe not to the airline, but to you at L3 Aviation Recorders, perhaps? With the recent talk about providing in-flight internet access, I could see this happening sooner or later.

Without internet access, just have a reserved frequency to transmit on. If transmit time becomes an issue, use multiple frequencies and transmit on each one of them in parallel.

I can't imagine I'm the first to think of this, so what am I missing here? Could it be it is only now that we could conceivably do this?

Re:Question: why just record? (3, Informative)

ruinevil (852677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725130)

Quote [slashdot.org]
One thing I remember from an ACM meeting was that radio transmissions take a lot of power compared to getting data and storing to memory. This was from team who used to check the soil moisture and temperature around campus using stakes filled with a battery for some purpose or other. So the blackbox would need a lot more power to survive those 9 to 11 minutes, while transmitting voices to where ever. You can't get all the radio waves from every American plane to Florida anyways. You'd need some powerful transmitters.

Re:Upgrades needed. (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725240)

I used to work at Sundstrand Data Control way back in the day (yes, dating myself). I can still remember repacking the foil recorders - nothing like a few thousand feet of razor-tape! But man was it reliable, and pretty much impervious to heat, cold, or vibration. Only penetration would affect it.

We should try to find a way to built the plane out (4, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724524)

We should try to find a way to built the plane out of the stuff that the black box is made from.

Re:We should try to find a way to built the plane (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724564)

How did you get modded insightful instead of funny?

Re:We should try to find a way to built the plane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724648)

This concerns me. I thought that this was news for nerds, nerds familiar with physics.

Re:We should try to find a way to built the plane (2, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724574)

Don't be stupid. We build planes from thin pressed light-weight metals, while the black box uses heavy steel casing several inches thick. You think a 4 billion ton plane can get itself off the ground? No engine would accelerate it, much less fast enough.

Re:We should try to find a way to built the plane (1)

stevedmc (1065590) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724868)

What do you think gets the space shuttle off the ground? It can be put up in the air, but with a stronger engine.

Re:We should try to find a way to built the plane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724882)

one engine would. the GCNR.

Re:We should try to find a way to built the plane (2, Funny)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724924)

We should try to find a way to built the plane out of the stuff that the black box is made from.

Better yet, try to find a way to make humans out of stuff that can withstand a 900 MPH crash...

Did Giuliani join the FAA? (4, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724622)

to allow continued recording for nine to 11 minutes if all aircraft power sources are lost or interrupted.

9 / 11? Odd arbitrary range of numbers.

Re:Did Giuliani join the FAA? (2, Funny)

shadow42 (996367) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724728)

They didn't mention in the article that the boxes have to weigh less than 42 pounds.

Strict Laws (1)

MattPat (852615) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724634)

Of course, if your backup power source can only last for 8 minutes and 59 seconds, you are in flagrant violation of the law.

Re:Strict Laws (1)

aiht (1017790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724714)

Or 11 minutes and 1 second, for that matter.
Why is there an upper limit to this range?

Re:Strict Laws (3, Insightful)

wasted (94866) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724928)

Or 11 minutes and 1 second, for that matter.
Why is there an upper limit to this range?

So the recorder does not record much data from after the crash over data from before the crash.

Re:Strict Laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724734)

Of course, if your backup power source can only last for 8 minutes and 59 seconds, you are in flagrant violation of the law.
And if it records for 11 minutes and 1 second you are also in violation!

Realtime Streaming (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724682)

Why don't these black boxes stream their data live to satellites during the entire trip? Why is the technology limited to making a recording crash-proof?

They should keep the crash-proof boxes, for events that stop the streaing before the recorder stops. But why should they have to always wait to investigate the data until after a little box, that could have been itself destroyed in the massive crash, be found amidst all the debris, scattered sometimes across dozens of miles of often inaccessible terrain? If the data is streamed live, they might also find the box sooner, if the box has a GPS that continues streaming after the box has landed somewhere.

This seems elementary. Why not do it already, now that both air flight and radio have been with us for over a century?

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724822)

Why don't these black boxes stream their data live to satellites during the entire trip? Why is the technology limited to making a recording crash-proof?

One reason is that the lead time for new communication protocols and applications in aviation is measured in decades. Remember that all aircraft still report 12 bit mode 3a identifiers which have to be allocated before use because there aren't enough to go around, and use totally spoofable VHF AM radio transceivers.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724874)

Yes, but that attitude is stupid when lives and $billions are at stake.

Satellite phones are already decades-old tech. Something specific has to be holding them back. Or the aviation industry and the government that controls it are as immensely stupid at everything as they always appear to be.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725096)

Something specific has to be holding them back. Or the aviation industry and the government that controls it are as immensely stupid at everything as they always appear to be.

For a start it is an international system. Aircraft made in Pakistan have to interoperate with ground systems in the US, Canada, Russia, etc. Systems like mode-s and ADS/CPDLC go part of the way to what you want, but their adoption has been slowed by the fact the VHF voice comms are free everywhere and satellite communication costs a lot of money, particularly when you want an aviation grade connection and it has to be on all the time.

You are right, just wait 20 years.

Re:Realtime Streaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22725120)

>One reason is that the lead time for new communication protocols and applications in aviation is measured in decades.

And that is often repeated as though it is a perfectly reasonable thing.

A hardened flash memory device could have massive redundancy in a tiny package, but we still have wire recorders?

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724832)

Well, the airlines were all set to do this. But when they checked the per-minute rates on the back of their Airfone handsets, they realized that keeping a call open for the duration of each flight would bankrupt them.

Re:Realtime Streaming (3, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724862)

For one thing, it would be horrendously expensive to develop and deploy a network of satellites and ground stations capable of handling a high-speed data feed from every commercial aircraft that's in operation. Black boxes are much more cost effective and reliable. They work in all weather and are insensitive to aspect ratios and loss of attitude control.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724940)

There's already a satellite network, that handles data. The data doesn't need to be "high speed". The recorders don't record that much data.

I didn't say to get rid of the boxes. I said to keep them. But I said to add some technology that already exists, is already used for telemetry out of harsh environments. And that don't go down with the ship (or at least don't take all their data with them before being read when they go).

BTW, "aspect ratios"? Huh?

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725030)

I should have said "aspect angle".

What's the satellite network that you are referring to? Most remote telemetry applications use burst transmissions to transmit limited amounts of data.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725252)

There are several networks [wikipedia.org] that satellite phones use.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725338)

What are you proposing? Take those satellites offline from phone use and use them for airliners? What about the companies that paid for those satellites? Wouldn't they have to buy more satellites? Just because something exists that could meet your needs doesn't mean it is available for your use.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724906)

Why don't these black boxes stream their data live to satellites during the entire trip?

Because it would be absolutely horrendously expensive, terribly unreliable, and almost completely useless. There are huge, huge numbers of glitch-free flights every day (but they all have to pay for uplinking numerous megabytes of data per hour), and only the very tiniest fraction of aircraft ever need that flight data examined.

They should keep the crash-proof boxes, for events that stop the streaing before the recorder stops.

Which would be just about every single event that they would possibly WANT to examine.

If the data is streamed live, they might also find the box sooner, if the box has a GPS that continues streaming after the box has landed somewhere.

Black boxes already have locater beacons.

This seems elementary.

That doesn't mean it's useful.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725070)

Planes already have had onboard phones in constant connection with the ground. The amount of data we're talking about (10 megabytes per hour is only 2.7KBps, and actual FDRs capture something like 7.5MB:h) is trivial to transmit over such a phone connection. It can of course be buffered for when there are indeed interruptions, all of which is backed up in the local physical recording like before, like I said. But the actual cost of a 5h, or even a 19h phonecall, even at $2:min (so up to $2280) is trivial compared to the other costs of the flight, like fuel, crew salary, even insurance. And of course saving the cost of waiting days to start getting the data after a crash would pay for all the flights recorded without incident in between. [findarticles.com]

Moreover, most of the events examined in the current recorders happen before the aircraft loses integrity or actually crashes. All that data would be available immediately. It would even be available in realtime, so early warnings could be found sometimes before they became critical, and emergency crews mobilized at the earliest possible moment.

So yes, it is elementary, and much more useful that the current systems.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724916)

The black box should be ejected, or ejectable from the plane at certain acceleration levels if at all possible (accelerations such as those you would experience shortly after your "Hey, what's that sheep doing up in this cloud?" moment). The Lockheed D-21 supersonic drone used to drop the hatch containing spy cameras before landing, so there's build precedent. This would be in addition to filling the entire box with silicon rubber after assembly into it's own little alloy billet and all those other wonders our diseased minds can think of to isolate them from their little moment of hell.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725166)

Sure, that's good for the recorder and a few extra seconds at the end. But radio telemetry would reduce the search for the black box to something done while the analysts get right to work on all the data they've already got, without risk of loss.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724996)

Why don't these black boxes stream their data live to satellites during the entire trip?

There are privacy issues. The voice data logs are normally erased after a successful flight.

Many aircraft do in fact send some maintenance data back to HQ over a data link. The current system [wikipedia.org] is 2400 baud, so not much data is sent. Nor is it sent continuously. ARINC charges for receiving that data through their network of ground stations, and the cost per bit for this 1980s technology is quite high.

Re:Realtime Streaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22725174)

>There are privacy issues. The voice data logs are normally erased after a successful flight.

Voice recorders recycle every few minutes. This has been a problem in some investigations where the incident leading to the flight was longer ago than the tape loop.

There are opportunities for aircraft to be outfitted privately with equipment beyond what is mandatory, using much more modern resources. Why don't we hear about any of the aircraft makers adding equipment that is privately developed, far more fault-tolerant than what is required, in *addition* to the standard stuff? Part of the reason is that it is difficult if possible to get approval for any such thing.

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725236)

What privacy issues prevent the voice data from being scrambled for transmission, and being deleted when the flight is deemed successful?

And AFAICT, current recorders just record something like 7.5MB:h, which is something like 2.5KBps. There is an entire satellite phone system up, to say nothing of all the other satellite networks available. Why is it necessary to keep the 1980s tech, when we have 2008 tech that would be so much better? Why, when we're upgrading the whole system as the story we're discussion reports, aren't we doing it right?

Re:Realtime Streaming (1)

conscious.pilate (1203786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725422)

While not strictly streaming, many "events" are transmitted in real-time via the ACARS network http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACARS [wikipedia.org] You may get a call suggesting you monitor say an oil temp that is still within parameters but has trended up over the last few days. And bye the way, the recording boxes are day-glow orange, all the others are black.

Little known issue with flash memory. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724774)

Flash memory won't write under high G (about 3) situations. Hope nothing exciting happens in those last critical seconds. Don't believe me? Request the mil-spec qualifications from your favorite flash memory manufacturer.

Typical Bush tricks (0, Troll)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724780)

Here they go again. More surveillance in the name of "security".

WAKE UP AMERICA!!

Re:Typical Bush tricks (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724828)

Read the article again. What is oppressive about lengthening the duration of recorded cockpit coversation, using flash rather than tape drives, and having an internal power supply?

Finally (4, Informative)

ceroklis (1083863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724830)

This was one of the recommendations issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada following the crash of Swissair Flight 111. I'm glad they finally implemented that. To recap: the flight recorders in that flight lost power 6 minutes before impact, which necessitated a very costly reconstruction of a portion of the aircraft.

In any case I never understood why these recorders weren't required to have a battery backup from the beginning. Seems pretty idiotic since accidents involving loss of power are not hard to imagine. Furthermore devices like card access systems and elevators have had battery backups for years.

Re:Finally (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724904)

It's one more thing that can fail, requires regular maintenance, creates new hazards, and adds weight.

Re:Finally (1)

lawrencebillson (1136239) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724918)

The original blackbox recorders (the tape based ones) used to use an endless spool of tape; it would record for around thirty minutes before overwriting itself. By not having a battery backup, the tape would stop as the plane hits the ground.

It's not a perfect system. I recall hearing of a few crashes that didn't interrupt power to the blackbox and all of the relevant data was overwritten with fresher post crash stuff.... They probably got a whole bunch of firemen swearing or whatnot.

Re:Finally (1)

ryanov (193048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725428)

I was thinking of this myself, when I was reading about TWA flight 800 the other day. Apparently the black boxes stopped recording almost immediately, since power was lost. I thought about it a little harder and figured, well, the chances of there being anything to record if the rest of the airplane has no power might be pretty low. If the instruments for recording are actually IN the box though, and not just recording data sent from the rest of the plane, I suppose it would be possible.

Neat to see them mandate something I was just thinking about this week though.

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22724922)

Why don't they just transmit it over an AT&T channel so the NSA can record it live?

Summary forgot an important detail (3, Informative)

the pickle (261584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22724938)

From TFA:

"These provisions affect new aircraft manufactured after March 7, 2010."

This won't affect a single new aircraft for two years unless Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and Embraer decide to do it on their own, and it does NOT apply to the existing fleet of transport category aircraft at all (i.e., retrofits are not required).

p

Re:Summary forgot an important detail (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725380)

If the date of manufacture is the day the aircraft rolls off the assembly line, I'd say this will affect many aircraft.

FAA Looking To Make Money From Fines (2, Interesting)

AO (62151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725036)

I think the real reason for the new rules is to increase the money from fines.

From TFA
 

* By January 1, 2005, retrofit all airplanes that are required to carry a cockpit and data recorder with a system that is capable of recording the last two hours of audio; and is fitted with a 10 minute independent power source that is located with the device and that automatically engages and provides 10 minutes of operation whenever power to the recorder ceases, either by normal shutdown or by a loss of power to the bus.

* Require all aircraft manufactured after January 1, 2003, that are required to carry a cockpit and data recorder be equipped with two combination cockpit voice and data recording systems. One system should be located as close to the cockpit as practicable and the other as far aft as practicable. Both recording systems should be capable of recording all mandatory data parameters covering the previous 25 hours of operation and all cockpit audio and controller pilot datalink communications for the previous two hours of operation. The system located near the cockpit should be provided with an independent power source that engages automatically and provides 10 minutes of operation whenever normal aircraft power ceases. The aft system should be powered by the bus that provides the maximum reliability for operation without jeopardizing service to essential or emergency loads. The system near the cockpit should be powered by the bus that provides the second highest reliability for operation without jeopardizing service to essential or emergency loads.


As I recall, this is 2008, all year long.

Cockpit Conversation (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725214)

(With apologies to Gary Larson)

First Officer: "Oh No! The fuel warning light is on! We're all going to die!!!"

Captain: "You idiot. That's the public address system light, not the fuel light."

Yeah, good luck with that. (2, Interesting)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725340)

Voice recorders must also use solid state technology instead of magnetic tape, which is vulnerable to damage and loss of reliability
Okay. Good luck with splicing together itty bitty fragments of flash memory chips. Good luck with pulling information out of flash memory chips that have been under a couple of miles of salt water, and had the briny deep seep in between the legs and the epoxy and into their inner goodness. I hope they've got all kinds of grinding machines designed to allow them to separate individual chips off busted boards and prepare them for reliable connection to special test jigs, because the chance of them being able to play back from a flight recorder that's just fallen from 40,000 feet must be pretty slim.

I'm not saying you couldn't build a solid-state flight recorder that could survive most conceivable crashes, but surely tape and solid-state should be viewed as complementary technologies - current, perhaps improved magnetic recorders for the current timeframes (so you've got at least the last half hour on something you can piece together and pull an analog signal off, if need be) and the whole flight on an ever-improving series of solid-state recorders that would have to consider mil-spec as a starting point for where they need to head.

black bochs upgrade (0, Redundant)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22725424)

i got an idea for a black box upgrade. they say the black box can survive any crash. the upgrade is: build the whole fscking plane that way!
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...