Airbus considers flight-data downlink to aid investigations

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Airbus is to examine downlink of flight-critical data, and other possible techniques, to explore whether vital information could be more easily retrieved in the event of an accident.

The initiative follows the fatal loss of an Air France Airbus A330 over the South Atlantic on 1 June. Investigators are working with only limited information because neither flight recorder has been located.

There have been cases of other inquiries being hindered by flight recorders failing to function or sustaining damage to their recording media or solid-state electronics.

Airbus says there are "various technical means" which are "principally available" to "reinforce" recovery of crucial data - among them, extended transmissions from aircraft, although the quantity of information on cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders would require substantial transmission bandwidth.

"Gathering information from accidents is vitally important to further improve the safety of flying," says Airbus chief Tom Enders.

"We will study different options for viable commercial solutions, including those where our experience with real-time data transmission from our own test aircraft could support the further development of such solutions."

Customer services chief Charles Champion and head of engineering Patrick Gavin are to lead the study. Airbus is intending to invite partners from various sectors to participate.