AirAsia crash makes case for ejectable black boxes
A long-delayed proposal to outfit commercial airliners with ejectable “black box” recorders may have a better chance of being adopted following the AirAsia crash in the Java Sea, according to three sources at the U.N. global aviation body.
The idea, which would equip commercial flights with black boxes that detach from the plane and float in water rather than sink, has bounced around International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) committees for years and is back on the agenda at its High-Level Safety Conference in February, the first of its kind in five years.
ICAO wants to develop a global system to improve plane tracking and ensure accident sites are found quickly as part of its response to the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner last year.
“The time has come that deployable recorders are going to get a serious look,” said an ICAO representative who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. Deployable is the industry term for black boxes that detach from the plane when it crashes.
A second ICAO official familiar with the discussions said that public attention has galvanized momentum in favor of ejectable recorders on commercial aircraft.
“I think there’s a more positive attitude now because of the last few accidents,” he said in reference to AirAsia and an Air France flight that crashed in 2009 in the Atlantic. The Air France black boxes weren’t found until 2011.
Investigators said on Wednesday they have found the tail of the AirAsia plane, which crashed off the coast of Borneo on Dec. 28, killing 162 people, indicating the crucial black box may be nearby
Montreal-based ICAO, established in 1947, sets standards followed on most international flights, as the guidelines it develops typically become regulatory requirements in its 191 member states.
In 2012, ICAO’s Flight Recorder Panel drafted a broad standard meant to make it easier to locate crash sites, including the use of ejectable recorders as one of several options, along with continuously tracking flights.
But according to recently released documents, ICAO’s powerful Air Navigation Commission sent that standard back to the panel twice “for reconsideration,” while it approved other changes, including longer battery life for conventional black boxes. ICAO did not immediately comment on why the panel’s drafts had been rejected.