What Are Flight Data Recorders and What Do They Record?

The flight data recorder, often referred to as a black box, is an electronic recording device that may be implemented within an aircraft for the means of registering flight pertinent data that is used to investigate accidents and incidents. Modern flight recording systems actually consist of two separate devices, those of which are the flight data recorder (FDR) and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR). Both of these instruments record different parameters, and they have both seen significant improvements over the years for their capabilities and design. As flight recording devices are paramount for increasing the safety of aircraft to prevent future accidents, understanding their functionality and use is crucial.

Depending upon the type of aircraft, its intended operations, and other factors, there are a few FDR types that may be implemented within a particular assembly. Type I FDRs are capable of measuring parameters such as the flight path, speed, attitude, engine power, configurations, and the operation of a particular aircraft. Type II and IIA devices, on the other hand, may be used for recording flight path, speed, attitude, engine power, and the configuration of various lift and drag devices. To determine the right FDR type for a particular aircraft, one may refer to the information found in the provisions in ICAO Annex 6.

The flight data recorder first became widespread after the end of World War II, and at that time such devices were fairly limited in their abilities. The flight data recording devices used in the 1960s were capable of recording data with the use of an electromagnetic head and magnetic tape, though such technology was superseded by solid-state memory boards by the 1990s. As compared to tape flight data, solid-state technology offered much more reliability and contained no moving parts so that data could be safer in the event of a crash.

With modern digital flight data recorder technology, upwards of 25 hours of flight data may be stored for the FDR while two hours of audio data is retained for the CVR. The data of both devices is kept within memory boards that are secured within the crash-survivable memory unit (CSMU). To capture flight data for the FDR, numerous sensors are placed in areas that will allow them to capture data such as engine performance, airspeed, and even cabin temperatures. For the cockpit voice recorder, data is captured by microphones built into the cockpit and the headsets of pilots. The microphones placed throughout the cockpit allows for all conversations to be recorded alongside any alerts or audio. Before data can be stored in memory, it first passes through the flight-data acquisition unit (FDAU) which is located near the front of the aircraft. Regularly situated within the electronic equipment bay under the cockpit, the flight-data acquisition unit serves as the middle manager of the system which receives all the data from sensors so that it may be relayed to the CSMU.

As the information captured by the FDR and CVR is crucial for accident investigation, it is important that the black box is well capable of surviving a number of extreme conditions. To protect the CSMU, it is placed within a large cylinder that can withstand intense heat, extreme pressures, and crashes. Around the memory card stack is a thin layer of aluminum that serves as a housing, and high-temperature insulation is placed around it. To further protect the assembly, the insulation and aluminum housing are both contained within a quarter inch thick stainless-steel or titanium shell.

When an accident occurs, investigators can retrieve the black box and study its information to advance safety for the prevention of future incidents. If you are searching for flight data recorder parts for your aircraft, let the experts at ASAP Fulfillment help you secure all you need with competitive pricing. ASAP Fulfillment is a premier purchasing platform for aviation parts, and we offer competitive pricing on indicator black box parts, computer flight data components, flight data acquisition unit products, and much more. Get started today with a quote for your comparisons upon the submission of an Instant RFQ form as provided on our website.


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April 14, 2021
March 19, 2021

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