Black Box Data, International teams have spent nearly three weeks looking for evidence of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, a search that includes the hunt for the aircraft’s so-called black box, which holds flight data that would likely explain what caused MH370 to deviate from its course.
But many aviation experts wonder why, in our increasingly networked world, divers are scouring the Indian Ocean for a metal box when technology already exists that would enable planes to stream black box data to the ground in the event of an emergency.
“Look at how much money has been spent, on this crash and others, just to do the post-mortem,” says Doug Perovic, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Toronto.
“It’s crazy, when the technology basically woke people up to the fact that the tools that were being used at that stage were inadequate for dealing with emergency situations,” says Hayden.
Even so, he notes, “aviation doesn’t move very quickly to adopt change.”
Because of ever-present safety concerns, the industry is highly regulated and new technology is subject to rigorous vetting.
“Some of that inherent caution and conservatism is why airplanes are so safe,” Hayden says.
While there is widespread approval of a live-streamed black box system, most airlines see the cost of integrating it prohibitive, says Bill Norwood, vice-president of products and technology for JDA Aviation Technology Solutions, a Maryland-based consultancy firm.
Norwood says that the airline industry is reticent to add costs that will further erode the bottom line. This is an industry with notoriously low profit margins, he says.