For those curious about the Black Box of an aircraft, more properly known as an aviation or flight data recorder, here’s a peek into one of them. These photos were taken at L-3 Aviation Recorders headquarters, in Sarasota, Florida, USA, for a Focus feature in Aerospace Singapore magazine Volume 3 No. 3 in 2010.
A FA2100 flight data recorder (FDR) by L-3 Aviation Recorders, the largest manufacturer of such a device. Mandatory for every aircraft, this device makes cockpit voice and other flight data recordings, especially crucial in any air incident investigation. Designed to be very reliable and highly survivable, a FDR’s components are tested in various ways in extreme conditions at L-3 Aviation Recorders’ facility, including resistance to 3400G impact and 1100°C fire. It is actually painted a bright orange for better visual detection during recovery and has an underwater acoustic beacon with a six-year battery.
Shown in a puncture test rig, the Crash-Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU) has a protective casing made of stainless steel or titanium designed to survive flight and crash conditions as listed:
Operating Temperature -55 °C to +70 °C
Non-operating Temperature -55 °C to +85 °C
Operating Altitude -1,000 to 55,000 ft.
Operating Vibration DO-160C Para 8.5.2
Category C (random)
Penetration ED-55 500 lbs./ 10 ft. /¼-in. probe
Static Crush ED-55 5,000 lbs.
Fire Protection 50,000 BTU/ sq. ft. /hr. for 60 min. at 1100 °C; 10 hrs. at 260 °C
Impact ED-55 3,400 G, 6.5 ms, half-sine shock wave
Electromagnetic interference test set up.
Mounting of sensors for a vibration test.
The current solid state flight data recorder in the middle with the Crash-Survivable Memory Unit detached, flanked by older models.