How Black Boxes Work

Lots More Information

Author's Note: How Black Boxes Work

I have a recurring nightmare about zooming through the skies in a doomed jet. Each time, the plane leaves the runway during takeoff and then violently accelerates straight up into the sky. I never get to the end of the dream. Perhaps that's a good thing. Happily, aircraft malfunctions are exceedingly rare – statistically speaking, your car is a whole lot more dangerous. But when planes do fall from the sky, it's a relief to have some idea why...otherwise, engineers and family members would be left agonizing, wondering why innocent people died in such an awful manner. I hope I'm never part of an accident scene where a black box is necessary. Unless, of course, it's just in my dreams. - NC

Related Articles


  • Adler, Jerry. "The End of the Black Box: There's a Better Way to Capture Plane Crash Data." Wired. June 28, 2011. (March 6, 2014)
  • Barrett, Brian. "The Secret Sauce of an Airplane's Black Box." Gizmodo. Jan. 10, 2011. (March 6, 2014)
  • Clark, Nicola. "Key Piece of Air France Data Recorder is Found." New York Times. May 1, 2011. (March 6, 2014)
  • Corporate press release. "AeroMechanical Services Ltd. Announces Successful Completion of Flight Testing of FlyhtStream Live Air-to-Ground Data Streaming aboard Skyservice Airlines Inc. Aircraft." Businesswire. Oct. 19, 2009. (March 6, 2014)
  • Demerjian, Dave. "Inside Aircraft Black Box Recorders." Wired. March 6, 2009. (March 6, 2014)
  • Dubois, Thierry. "Airbus Helicopters to Make Cockpit Image Recorder Standard." AIN Online. Feb. 25, 2014. (March 6, 2014)
  • Jones, Bryony. "Flight 447 Sparks Black Box Rethink." CNN. June 23, 2011. (March 6, 2014)
  • Kaste, Martin. "Yes, Your New Car Has a 'Black Box.' Where's the Off Switch?" NPR. March 20, 2013. (March 6, 2014)
  • Kavi, Krishna M. "Beyond the Black Box." IEEE Spectrum. Jul. 30, 2010. (March 6, 2014)
  • L3 Corporate Page. "Frequently Asked Questions." (March 6, 2014)
  • L3 Corporate Page. "History of Flight Recorders." (March 6, 2014)
  • McCarthy, Erin. "How it Works: Air France Flight 447's Black Boxes." Popular Mechanics. April 5, 2011. (March 6, 2014)
  • National Geographic. "What is a Black Box?" (March 6, 2014)
  • National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation. "'The SAFE Act' – Safe Aviation and Flight Enhancement Act." PlaneSafe. 2008. (March 6, 2014)
  • NTSB. "Flight Data Recorder Handbook for Aviation Accident Investigators." Dec. 2002. (March 6, 2014)
  • Rapoport, David E. and Richter, Paul. D. "Cockpit Image Recorders: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words." Rapoport Law. 2005. (March 6, 2014)
  • Rickey, Patricia. "Product Focus: Flight Data Recorders." Aviation Today. June 1, 2007. (March 6, 2014)

More to Explore