Boeing 787s to be fitted with enhanced data recorders

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By Guy Norris in Seattle
Additional reporting by Graham Warwick

Boeing’s 787 will be the first aircraft equipped with enhanced airborne flight recorders (EAFR), combined “black-box” cockpit voice and flight data recorders (CVR/FDR) with crash-protected memory and the capability to record datalink messages and cockpit imagery.

Smiths Aerospace is developing the 787 EAFR to meet the Arinc 767 standard now being finalised by the Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC). The solid-state EAFR will meet current mandates for CVR and FDR performance, but with capability “well beyond” that, says Daniel Martinec, director of industry activities for Arinc, which administers the AEEC. Arinc 767 includes the capability to record 4-6 frames/s of cockpit imagery.

Current recorders are limited by the capacity of the databus linking them to the aircraft flight data acquisition unit (FDAU), says Martinec. The EAFR is designed to work with the Ethernet-based AFDX wideband network chosen for the 787. This has allowed the AEEC to specify a “virtual FDAU”, giving the manufacturer the freedom to decide whether data is provided to the recorder via a stand-alone acquisition unit or taken directly from the aircraft databus. “We have only specified the format for data input into the recorder,” says Martinec.

Boeing’s original EAFR concept “didn’t meet the letter of the law” in some specific areas, including power supply, says 787 systems director Mike Sinnet. “We had to work with the [US Federal Aviation Administration] to get an acceptable means of compliance with multiple sources of power by putting two on the aircraft,” he says, adding that the EAFRs will be located “one in the nose and one in back.”