Recent aviation disasters like the disappearance of flight MH370 highlight the importance of black boxes in aerospace communications. The question is what is the black box and is it similar to the one fitted in cars?
What is an Airplane Black Box?
Black boxes on airplanes provide such important information that other people or devices fail to provide. The box holds the story of what happened during the flight and what events occurred before the plane crashed.
Formally called flight data recorders, these black boxes record all the instructions sent to the electronic systems of the airplane. Recorded sounds include aerospace communications like conversations taking place in the cockpit, ambient sounds, performance parameters, radio communications, etc.
It can be said that the airplane’s black box acts like the eyewitness to events that led to the crash. It provides investigators helpful insight into what happened that caused the accident. In some cases, the black box might even give an explanation of why it occurred.
A black box points out safety lapses that can help find out who is responsible. Similarly, the answers it holds can also help ensure that a similar accident doesn’t occur in the future.
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What is a car black box?
While it might come off as a surprise, your car might be fitted with its own version of a black box. If you recently bought a car, then there is a high chance that there is an event data recorder present on board. Since the device is installed out of sight, you can’t be sure if there is one or not. Moreover, car manufacturers also don’t clarify when it comes to the type of data being recorded.
Basically, a car black box comes fitted with a GPS unit which records when and where you drive to. Other features also include motion detectors and sensors that record how you are driving. The features also record the condition of the road you are driving on. Moreover, it will also check if you accelerate rapidly or push the brake suddenly.
Airplane Black Box vs. Car Black Box Comparison Chart
Following is a brief comparison of the technologies in an airplane black box and car black box
|Technologies||Airplane Black Box||Car Black Box|
|Transmits data in real time||No||Yes|
|Records important driving/flight parameters||Yes||Yes|
|Records technical malfunction||Yes||Yes|
|Sensors like vehicle speed sensor, throttle position sensor||Yes||Yes|
Airplane Black Box vs. Car Black Box: Key Differences Explanation
Both the black boxes differ in certain aspects. A few of them are discussed below:
Some car black boxes can send crash logs to a server or an app. This feature is particularly present in black boxes used for usage-based insurance. However, airplane black boxes don’t have such technology. Instead, it is designed to withstand highly intense impacts and bad crashes. Similarly, it can survive extremely cold and hot conditions.
On the other hand, the airplane black box does come with an underwater location beacon. This beacon is powered by a battery and is activated when the black box goes under water. Once submerged in water, the beacon starts to emit an acoustic signal. A receiver within 20,000 feet can pick up this frequency. The beacon is activated in both salt and fresh water and can emit signals for up to a month. Due to this feature, it is easy to locate the airplane black box.
In the case of a car crash, the black box generates a crash record that contains approximately five seconds of data. This crash record logs the intensity of the crash, brake application, engine speed, and vehicle speed. All the information helps to figure out how your car was being operated before a crash and during it.
In a flight data recorder, there is a wealth of data. It stores different information like switch activations, airflow noise, control movement, aural alarms, etc. All the information is stored on memory chips. The recorded data help determine the causes of the crash and what happened during it.