FARNBOROUGH: DRS makes case for deployable data recorders

Washington DC
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DRS Technologies says now is the time for airlines to embrace automatic deployable flight recorders and the company is highlighting the systems at this year’s Farnborough show.

“Since Air France flight 447 there has been a huge international effort to make sure we can locate downed aircraft,” says Blake van den Heuvel, DRS director of air programmes.

The 8 March disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 only serves to underscore the importance of finding missing aircraft quickly, adds van den Heuvel.

ADFRs, which are typically mounted on an aircraft's tail, can capture flight data and cockpit voice recordings.

They include a “crash survivable” emergency locator transmitters (ELT) that send the aircraft’s tail number and last known position to rescue agencies, says van den Heuvel.

The system is designed to separate from the fuselage after it detects a deformation in the aircraft’s structure.

Van den Heuvel notes that deployable recorders and transmitters have been installed on thousands of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft worldwide since the 1960s.

Deployable units gained attention after the June 2009 crash of Air France 447, which was followed by a lengthy search; the black boxes were not recovered for nearly two years.

A working group formed by French investigation agency BEA after the crash recommended that civilian transport aircraft be fitted with deployable recorders.

When installed on new aircraft, ADFRs are “almost inconsequential with respect to cost,” says van den Heuvel, adding that the system would eliminate the requirement that aircraft have a separate automatically-activated ELT.