How indestructible is the indestructible black box?

But first, what is a black box?

The Black Box, a misnomer for Flight Recorder, is a device which documents, records and preserves the details of a flight in two parts- the flight data recorder or FDR and a cockpit voice recorder or CVR.

The flight data recorder (FDR) is a device that preserves the recent history of the flight and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) preserves the recent history of the sounds in the cockpit, including the conversation of the pilots.

And, what is it used for?

In 1934, a young nine-year-old Australian boy by the name of David Warren lost his father in a plane crash.

Eventually, in the early 1950s, a certain doctor had an idea for a device that would record flight data and cockpit conversations to help investigators in the event of an accident. His idea did not receive much popularity till five years later when the devices were finally manufactured in the UK and the US.

This doctor was the young David Warren who had lost his father as a boy.

What makes it so indestructible?

Black boxes have stacks of memory boards that store information. To protect them, they are wrapped in a thin layer of aluminium and a 1-inch layer of high-temperature insulation, and then encased in a corrosion-resistant stainless steel or titanium shell. They can withstand an acceleration of 3,400 Gs (3,400 times the force of gravity), and survive flames up to 2,000 degrees F for one hour, and a beacon should be able to emit a signal once per second while submersed in 20,000 feet of saltwater for 30 days.

Is it indestructible then?

Fires and heavy impact ground crashes can damage black boxes and render the data unrecoverable. But such cases are almost unheard of. Even if a fire damages the outer side of the box and does not melt, the data inside is still protected.

A black box, so to say is not actually indestructible, but they have a reputation of outperforming themselves, hence, it is safe to say that a black box is as indestructible as it can get!

And is it really black in color?

Unlike popular imagination, a black box is in fact not black in colour- it’s orange!