Tech

EgyptAir Crash Highlights Problem Plaguing Commercial Flight, But Airbus Thinks It Has A Solution

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Ted Goodman Reporter
As investigators announced Wednesday the detection of a signal from the “black boxes” of Egypt Air Flight 804, pressure has mounted to replace the existing on-board recording units with something much easier to find. Airbus is pushing a novel, if not entirely new, solution to missing flight recorders from crashed commercial flights known as “deployable black boxes.”

Incidents like Egypt Air 804, Air France Flight 447 and Malaysia Air Flight 370 have increased public interest and private investment in alternative solutions to cockpit recording devices. Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, and the search for the black box took two years and cost close to 50 million dollars. Malaysia Air Flight 370’s black box was never found after the plane disappeared from radar two years ago, despite a $130 million dollar search.

The concept of deployable black boxes is an idea that some industry regulators and professionals have actually recommended in the past. Airbus executive vice-president of engineering, Charles Champion has come out in recent days, pushing for the implementation of deployable black box technology on board commercial airliners. The recording unit would eject away from the plane if sensors detect that the plan is crashing. Rival company Boeing has been skeptical over the feasibility and safety of deployable black box technology, warning that deployable black boxes are prone to ejecting accidentally which would pose a significant safety risk to the aircraft and people on the ground.

The United Nations recently came out with new requirements for the real-time tracking of passenger planes in distress, including a minute-by-minute real-time tracking, but left the decision on how to implement these requirements to individual airlines and governments. Additional proposals include live streaming the flight data and voice recording via satellite over a secure feed. Some safety advocates are pushing for the installation of video feeds into the cockpit of commercial aircraft, which pilots unions bitterly oppose.

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