Questions from the Cockpit: A question of color

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Bradley, a private pilot from Arizona, writes: Why are the flight recorders on airliners called black boxes when they’re painted orange?

There’s no crash here, but that won’t stop people from flaming me if I do my usual column-length tease and then admit that I don’t know for sure. So I’m warning readers — and flamers — in advance: I don’t know.

In fact, I’m not sure anyone knows for sure. There are almost as many theories flying around as there are recorders actually in flight. 

The Black Box isn’t black. (Photo courtesy Honeywell)

I’ll share the leading contenders with you in a moment, but first, the 411 on the flight recorder.

A flight recorder is an automatic system for creating a record of what an airplane is doing and what’s happening inside it. It’s used by accident investigators to help figure out what the Sam Heck happened after a crash.

Although introduced in the modern sense in the 1950s, flight recorders have actually been with us since the dawn of flight. The Wright brothers had a “black box” aboard to record the distance and duration of their flights. In the late 1930s the French created a recorder that used eight-meter-long strips of photographic film to record basic flight parameters. During World War II, the Brits created a crash resistant recorder that used copper foil to record data. And so it goes, on through aviation history…

Modern recorders, which are required to survive a stunning impact force of 3,400 “Gs” and temps of over 1,000° Celsius, come in two flavors: The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).

The FDR records a blizzard of flight parameters, some of them multiple times per second, while the CVR records both conversations and noises in the cockpit.

The recorders, sometimes collectively called LRUs in the biz (Line-Replaceable Units), are painted a bright, cheerful, international orange to make them easy to find in burned and tangled wreckage — but as far back as anyone can remember,

This post was originally published by General Aviation News on . Please visit the original post to read the complete article.

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