Long-haul Airbus A350 and A380 passengers jets will soon come equipped with ejectable black boxes that can float, making them easier to find in an air crash at sea, aviation sources said
“At the end of last year Airbus got the green light from EASA (European Air Security Agency) to work on the necessary modifications to its planes in order to install these new black boxes in the rear of the planes,” one of the sources told AFP.
An EASA spokesman confirmed that the agency was working on changing the necessary certification to allow Airbus to equip its planes with the new flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
“The change is generally quick,” the spokesman added.
The technology, which has already been approved for military aircraft, has not been used in civil aviation because up until a few years ago air accidents have mainly happened during take-off or landing. Black boxes are generally found easily on land.
But in recent years passenger jets have crashed into the ocean raising the need for new technology to help find the black boxes.
These recorders are critical in air crash investigations as they provide information on how the planes were operating and the conversations of the pilots. Investigators say they help explain 90 percent of crashes.
In 2009 an Air France jet travelling from Rio to Paris with 228 people on board went down in the Atlantic and the search for the black boxes at the bottom of the ocean took nearly two years.
In March last year a Malaysia Airlines disappeared over the Indian Ocean and its black boxes have still not be found.
Then last month an AirAsia plane crashed into the Java Sea and so far divers have found the flight data recorder but not yet the cockpit recorder.
“The idea is to modify the black boxes so that each one records the flight details and (cockpit) conversations. One would be ejectable, the other not,” a source close to Airbus explained to AFP.
An ejectable black box would be equipped with an airbag system so it could float on the surface of the water in the event of a crash at sea. It would also help to indicate the exact point of impact at the time of the crash and to find the wreckage.
The Toulouse-based aircraft maker plans to install the ejectable black boxes first on its long-haul A350 and A380 jets since they are used in flights over oceans.
The International Civil Aviation Organization is set to vote next month on a recommendation of one its working groups to equip commercial airliners with the technology.
ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin said: “We will certainly be supportive of its efforts to improve the ability of its aircraft to be located in distress situations” as long as the new systems meet or exceed its standards.