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Airbus more confident in deployable recorder acceptance

Airbus's pursuit of deployable flight recorder marks a greater confidence in prospects for the concept than the airframer had expressed a year ago.

The manufacturer indicated during a briefing in Hamburg last year that operators were not showing particular interest in deployable recorders, despite the attention generated by such events as the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014.

Airbus vice-president of engineering Charles Champion had signalled that the use of pyrotechnics as an ejection mechanism appeared to have prompted concerns.

But a deployable recorder unveiled by the airframer during the Paris air show appears to address these doubts by using a spring-loaded release system instead.

Deployable recorders have long been used by the military but US legislative proposals in 2003 – driven by the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington – attempted to introduce the technology to civil aviation.

It built on previous National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, issued in 1999, for enhanced recorder technology to be carried on board aircraft.

But the 2003 proposal specifically mentioned a combined recorder "designed to eject from the rear of the aircraft", noting the US Navy's "successful experience" since 1993 with deployable technology.

Airbus has tied up with L3 Technologies and DRS Technologies Canada to develop and integrate a spring-loaded combined recorder in the tail fin of its aircraft, starting with the A350.

The airframer says it views such recorders as the solution which is "easily compatible" with the current search-and-rescue network, and one which can be introduced in a "reasonable timeframe".

Airbus has previously admitted that it would have to work hard to convince operators to accept deployable recorders, but ditching any explosive system is likely to assist its cause.

"The whole industry gets to benefit if we can apply new technology as it becomes available and help the industry avoid lengthy oceanic searches in the future," it says.

Airbus is still interested in the eventual use of real-time data streaming, enabling flight information to be stored outside of the aircraft, and states that it fully supports" discussions for regulatory standardisation of data-streaming capabilities.

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