Deployable Flight Data Recorders

Deployable Flight Data Recorders

The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) has come out in favour of deployable Flight Data Recorders (FDRs), i.e. a means to deploy a floating capsule containing an FDR from an aircraft with its own Emergency Locator Transmitter.  This would then preserve the flight data and provide an automatic ELT independent of the aircraft.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is considering the idea for a proposed amendment to ICAO Annex 6. FSF President and CEO Jon Beatty said:

Deployable Flight Data Recorders have been around for decades and are in use by the military and in many helicopters. We have the technological capability and with several high profile events, including Air France 447 and Malaysia 370, there is clearly the need for a better way to retrieve the flight data information immediately following an accident.

The FSF published several articles about deployable flight data recorders in August 2009 and in April 2012. One example, by DRS, is on use on the Boeing F-18. While Automatically Deployable ELTs (ADELTs) have been widely fitted to offshore helicopters, they have not had a stunning service experience however as the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAArecently reported in CAP1144. Alternatively, the FSF proposes that data is ‘deployed virtually’ through a triggered transmission when it is recognised an aircraft is in an unrecoverable state. The FSF advocates these methods to supplement the existing FDRs. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been progressing a number of allied initiatives to improve the ability locate the existing fixed FDRs, which resulted in an Agency Opinion in May, as part of the legislative process.

UPDATE: On 15 September 2014, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued the preliminary agenda for a for one-day forum, titled ‘Emerging Flight Data and Locator Technology’, which will be held at the NTSB in Washington on 7 October 2014.

UPDATE: The presentations are available here.

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