The History of Flight Data Recorders Video

July 31, 2017


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Flight Data Recorders - Transformation throughout History! Let's take a look at the transformation of this technology throughout history, and how Curtiss-Wright has stayed on top of these changes over time.

Video transcript for the hearing and visually impaired 

Flight Data Recorders: Transformation Throughout History

Let's take a look at the transformation of this technology throughout history, and how Curtiss-Wright has stayed on top of these changes over time.

1930 - Flight data recorder (FDR) technology starts being used in various forms.

1954 - Australian Scientist, Dr. David Warren, invents the first "Black Box" while investigating the mysterious crash of the world's first jet-powered commercial aircraft.

1955  - Professor William A. Penny and Mr. James A.Giles develop the first magnetic FDR.

1957 - Penny and Giles invented the first aircraft accident recorder based on magnetic recording.

1960 - As a result of the Munich air disaster in 1958, UK Ministry of Aviation mandates that all civil carriers be equipped with a "Black Box".

1970 - Penny and Giles adds stainless steel taping, which yields 12 tracks and 25-hour recycling.

1983 - Penny and Giles becomes the first to combine Cockpit Voice Recording (CVRs) and FDRs.

1994 - Penny and Giles is the first to receive approval for solid state combined voice and flight data recorders.

2001 - Penny and Giles increases CVR and FDR recording capacity in a smaller, lighter more robust design.

2002 - Curtiss-Wright acquires Penny and Giles and combined, the two companies have 60+ years of extensive knowledge in FDRs.

2015 - The International Civil Aviation Organization introduces new recommendations for future FDR functionality.

2016 - New Regulations require longer ULB transmission (30 to 90 days).

2017 - Curtiss-Wright's latest FDR, Fortress, starts production.


The Future of Flight Data Recorders

Flight Data Recorders

  • Will become smaller and lighter.
  • See increased storage capacity.
  • Will eventually show real-time activity through satellites with physical units as backups

Flight data recorders are orange for easy retrieval within wreckage sites, though the term "Black Box" was coined due to the cryptic functionality of the FDR.

When the Vickers 739A Viscount crashed onto the Nürnberg-München highway in 1968 Mr. Penny retrieved the company's recorder and pieced all of the data together bit by bit.


Flight Data Recorders undergo extensive testing

  • Static Crush
  • Liquid Immersion
  • Crash Impact
  • Fire Protection
  • Piercing

Common Detected Movements Measured on a Flight Data Recorder

  • Computer Failure
  • Altitude
  • Ice Detection
  • Positions
  • Vibration Levels
  • Cabin Pressure
  • Wind Speeds
  • Rotor Speed
  • Acceleration

Flight Data Recorder Technology

  • Beacon
  • Encryption
  • Solid State Memory
  • Recorder Chassis

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