Inventor of the Airline Black Box Dies

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News Posted: Thu, Jul 22 2010 8:59 AM
When an airliner crashes, the first thing authorities look for are the "black boxes," the flight data and voice recorders. There are even black boxes in cars, today. And on Wednesday, the inventor of the venerable black box, David Warren, died at 85.

David Warren was a research scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne, Australia from 1952 - 1983; ironically, his father was killed in a plane crash in 1934.


"Black Box" inventory, David Warren

In 1953, Warren was involved in the investigation of the crash of the world's first jet airline, the de Havilland Comet. Since there had been no witnesses or survivors, Warren envisioned an automatic recorder which could survive a crash and give investigators the clues needed to determine the cause of the accident.

The first flight data recorder was built by Warren in 1956. It's unclear where the name "black box" came from, as the boxes (a prototype shown with Warren, above) are coated in heat-resistant bright red paint for high visibility in aircraft wreckage.

David Warren died on Monday. He is survived by his wife Ruth, four children and seven grandchildren.
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Chainzsaw replied on Thu, Jul 22 2010 10:11 AM

Sad to hear. He has helped the airline industry improve on their safety greatly.

I'm kind of making a guess here, but I think the term "Black box" might refer to when the plane crashes, most likely there will be no survivors (talking about high altitude crashes) so they refer to it as the "Black box". Kind of like how they refer to some movies as "black" movies because of the nature of of the movie - dealing with death.

I didn't bother googling it up (black box).

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NThompson replied on Thu, Jul 22 2010 10:32 AM

How is it ironic that his father died in a plane crash, and then after his father died he started working on plane safety? Also, it took me 5 seconds to find what "black box" means. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box In this case, you'll never open it unless it needs to be repaired/replaced or a plane crashes.

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Chainzsaw replied on Thu, Jul 22 2010 11:58 AM

We already know what the black box does. What we want to know is where did the term come from? The wiki article explains a little bit about, but there is not any hard evidence of where the actual term came from or what it is derived from.

That hard drive looking thing he's holding up looks like one of those Quantum Big foot hard drives, man those were heavy giant beasts!

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ClemSnide replied on Thu, Jul 22 2010 11:43 PM

The term "black box" is an old one; it means a device whose operations you aren't aware of, you just have the measures of the inputs and outputs. Back when you had to know something about electronics to get your amateur or commercial radio license, you were trained on black boxes (some real, some just on paper) that may have had resistors inside, or diodes in a particular arrangement, or a variety of other components; based on what went in and out, you could deduce what was going on inside. I would guess that, because it was sealed, aeronautical engineers (well familiar with those black box test circuits) called it that because they weren't privy to what went on inside. But, that's just my guess.

Nor do I know the name of the comedian who came up with this one, but I'd guess Jerry Seinfeld: "Some people say the safest place to be in an airplane accident is the front part. Other people say the back part. I say it's the black box. You know, the thing that records what happened in a plane crash, and survives even the worst disaster? ...So I'm wondering, why don't they make the whole plane out of what this black box is built from?"

Farewell, Mr. Warren.

 

@acarzt (below): Sorry, we're going to need primary sources, of which a blog is never one of. (Yes, I know that was a badly constructed sentence, but this is the Internet. At least I used real words.)


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Inspector replied on Fri, Jul 23 2010 12:26 AM

LOL clem, if the whole plane was made of the blackbox materials i think the plane might not fly...

You did well in your life time Mr.Warren, Farewell.

 

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acarzt replied on Fri, Jul 23 2010 3:05 AM

Here is your answer Gentlemen

http://boardingarea.com/blogs/flyingwithfish/2010/02/10/reader-mail-where-does-the-term-black-box-come-from/

I was thinking because the box would likely be charred black from the crash :-D

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Chainzsaw replied on Fri, Jul 23 2010 3:10 PM

Interesting Clem, that explanation seems more plausible than any i've read.

One more thing, it is possible to make a plane lightweight and as strong as a black box, it's called carbon nanotubes. The only problem with carbon nanotubes is that they are hard to mass produce (if not impossible right now).

Carbon Nanotube materials are much stronger than steel, and even titanium. Also it is much lighter too.

Approximately 10 times lighter than steel and 250 times stronger.

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acarzt replied on Fri, Jul 23 2010 4:23 PM

I would the frame of my car to be made from carbon nano tube :-D lol

Actually... You say it is stronger... but is it harder? Does it flex more?

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Chainzsaw replied on Fri, Jul 23 2010 4:49 PM

sorry acarzt I don't know much about carbon nanotubes, but basically thats what they want to use for a space elevator if they ever make one (that alone should tell you the hardness/strengh). It can basically take the place of Titanium or steel.

One place I read about carbon nanotubes say it is twice as hard as diamond. I guess it really depends on how it is made and the purity of it.

As far as I know, its what titanium is to steel, as carbon nanotubes are to tatanium.

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eunoia replied on Fri, Jul 23 2010 4:59 PM

.

...pending.

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acarzt replied on Sun, Jul 25 2010 4:36 AM

ClemSnide:

@acarzt (below): Sorry, we're going to need primary sources, of which a blog is never one of. (Yes, I know that was a badly constructed sentence, but this is the Internet. At least I used real words.)

 

It's no worse than Wikipedia where any joe can put whatever information he wants on there lol

Also the explaination on Wikipedia does not reference a source... so who really knows where that came from. :-P

eunoia:

"The American Heritage Dictionary's secondary meaning for irony: “incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.”[1] This sense, however, is not synonymous with "incongruous" but merely a definition of dramatic or situational irony. The majority of American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel found it unacceptable to use the word ironic to describe mere unfortunate coincidences or surprising disappointments that “suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly.”[2]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony

Irony would be if he's being buried in a black box.

That really bugged you huh? lol

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eunoia replied on Sun, Jul 25 2010 1:58 PM

.

...pending.

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acarzt replied on Sun, Jul 25 2010 4:36 PM

lol actually it amused me :-)

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