An Overview of the Flight Recorder

While major aircraft accidents are extremely rare in occurrence, it is critical that investigators are always able to thoroughly determine what caused the incident so that it can be prevented in the future. With flight recorder devices placed within an aircraft, investigators can access pertinent information such as flight data, pilot conversations, and much more. In this blog, we will discuss the functionality and use of flight recorder equipment, allowing you to better understand their immense role in continuing safety efforts for aviation.

As required by international regulation, all aircraft must be equipped with two specific flight recorder equipment devices. One of these recorders is the flight data recorder (FDR), and such equipment may be used to collect a variety of instrument readings and flight data over recent flight operations. As the data collected by the FDR is paramount to accident and incident investigations, the recording equipment is placed within a housing that is capable of withstanding immense heat levels and impact forces. While United States regulations require 88 parameters of the aircraft to be measured and collected, some equipment may provide further measurements for increased ability of investigation. Furthermore, recordings are often made multiple times a second for each parameter, and the device can store upwards of 25 hours on a continuous recording loop. If the aircraft is more modern in its design, pilots may be able to toggle an event button that allows for a marker to be set in the flight data recorder when something abnormal occurs.

The other major component of flight recorder equipment is the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) which stores all audio from the cockpit over a specific duration. Most importantly, the CVR will also capture conversations between the pilots so that investigators can understand how they handled a situation leading up to an incident. To record the audio of the cockpit, signals from the pilot’s headsets and mics are used alongside a microphone placed on the roof above the pilots. Generally, a standard cockpit voice recorder can store up to 2 hours of data across 4 channels of audio, and newer data constantly overwrites the oldest data during flight operations.

While the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are two separate instruments, they are often combined into a single unit. As such, both recorders are placed within a robust housing that is fireproof, waterproof, and shock proof to withstand a variety of forces and environments. Additionally, more modern solid state recorders have made retrieving accident data much easier, and they have extended the amount of data that can be stored on a device. Despite flight recorders often being referred to as “black boxes”, such equipment is most often painted a bright and vibrant orange. With this design choice, the flight recorder can be much more distinguishable from surrounding structures or objects at the site of an accident.

As the industry continues to improve upon the capabilities of aircraft technology and equipment, many engineers have sought ways to further improve the flight recorder for increased investigative abilities. As one proposal, cockpit image recorders may provide a new avenue for investigations through the capturing of instrumentation, pilot views, radio communications, and more. With recordings of the flight instruments, for example, investigators could compare what is displayed on a flight deck to flight instruments to find if there are any discrepancies that may have caused the issue. As smaller aircraft may not be required to have flight recorders, cockpit image recorders may improve their safety as well.

When you are searching for flight recorder equipment and aircraft recording sets for your operations, look no further than Unlimited Purchasing. As a premier purchasing platform for aviation needs, we can help you secure competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on a plethora of new, used, and obsolete items that we offer. Get started on the purchasing process today and receive a personalized quote in 15 minutes or less when you fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form.


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