Flight Data Recorders and Their History

Posted on March 11, 2021 linda strong aviation

Since the advent of flight data recorders, accident investigators have been able to help airline industries and manufacturers discover new ways to increase the safety of flight operations. First introduced in the early 1900s, flight data recorders are electronic devices that are installed within aircraft to record and collect data on many flight parameters and instructions that are sent to aircraft systems. Throughout their history, many improvements have been made to such devices to increase their capabilities and assist in investigations. In this blog, we will discuss the history of the flight data recorder, allowing you to understand how they have been developed over the years and how they are used for accident investigation.

While flight data recorders have a long history beginning in the early 20th century, it was not until 1942 when the first modern flight data recorder was produced. Known as the “Mata Hari”, the device was used to record parameters within Finnish fighter aircraft during test procedures. During World War II, experimentation with aircraft voice recorders also began as British and American air forces utilized magnetic wire recorders. As flight data recorders were slowly becoming more prevalent within the aviation industry and development during the 1950s, many were simplistic in their design and capabilities. Relying on metal foil and a stylus for storing data, the early flight data recorders were only capable of recording heading, altitude, airspeed, vertical acceleration, and time. As such data could only be used once, the device was fairly short-lived in its inability to effectively assist accident investigators in determining the cause of crashes.

In 1953, Australian research scientist David Warren proposed a device that could combine the parameter recording of flight data recorders with the up and coming cockpit voice recorders that could capture cockpit voices. In 1958, the first combined flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder prototype was produced, and it was intended for civilian aircraft use. While aviation authorities were reluctant to accept the technology at first, the units later began being implemented within some model types and grew in popularity. As countries across the world began to implement requirements for flight data recorder use, such technologies began to quickly take off in their popularity. With the later introduction of magnetic tape for recording, data capacity increased as thirty minutes or ambient cockpit noise could be stored.

Over the following decades, flight data recorders and their related technologies quickly advanced as new breakthroughs were made. During the 1990s, flight data recorders saw the biggest technological jumps as solid state technology paved the way for hundreds of parameters to be recorded alongside two hours of cockpit voices. Additionally, countries such as the United States have since also increased their requirements for parameter recordings, now setting the bar at 88 parameters for any aircraft built from August 2002. With more recent incidents sparking concerns over lost aircraft in the sea, manufacturers have also begun introducing underwater flight data recorder location beacons to make searching easier. As we move into the future, increased recording capabilities and cloud based data transfer are all avenues being researched to improve safety and accident investigation.

With flight data concentrator recording technology, aircraft accidents can be better investigated to prevent their occurrences in the future. At Aviation Sourcing Solutions, we can help you procure the aircraft fasteners, systems, and components that you need for your operations with competitive pricing and lead-times. We invite you to explore our offered listings at your leisure, and you may initiate the purchasing process at any time through the submission of an Instant RFQ form. Once received, a member of our staff will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less to provide a personalized quote based on your needs. 

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