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The box isn’t black and other stories

June 8, 2009

The box isn't black

It is almost a whole week since Air France Flight 447 disappeared mysteriously into the sky.

Or into the water.

In all probability the latter, we surmise, but only because of our grounded faith in gravity. I leave my options open but that’s mostly because in my worst nightmares, it’s always the sky that swallows up the earth and everything in it.

Over at The Daily Beast, Clive Irving is running a nice little series on the disappearance of Flight 447. In his June 7 post, he writes:

So why are we still so dependent on black boxes (they are not black and they are not boxes, but data recorders about the size of a carry-on bag) to yield the definitive answers to an airplane crash?

They were developed in the 1960s. The idea was not simply to collect all the data critical to the behavior of an airliner, but to entomb it in a casing that could survive the impact of a crash and a fire. The principle that all the vital information should go down with the airplane made sense then, but not now.

That the box isn’t black, we know.

And, as Irving argues, both the US Congress and international aviation bodies are “notoriously slow to agree to common standards for new technology” when the need of the hour are compression and speed.

Ah, but you must read the comments for a very interesting repartee by someone claiming to be a US Air Force pilot.

And the mystery deepens…

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