"Black Boxes" Help us Understand Plane Crashes

Credit: Newsy Studio
Published on March 13, 2019 - Duration: 01:29s

"Black Boxes" Help us Understand Plane Crashes

When a plane crashes, there's a search for its "black box" — a tool which records crucial flight data that might explain how the crash occurred.

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"Black Boxes" Help us Understand Plane Crashes

When a plane crashes,  there’s often   a lot of chatter  about  its “black box.”  That’s because these devices can give investigators some of the best insight into what caused a plane to go down.  Black boxes are officially known as flight recorders, and they basically act as a plane’s memory unit.

The flight data recorder measures more than 1,000 different variables, including a plane’s speed, altitude and location.

A voice recorder collects all conversations happening inside the cockpit.

They often include an underwater locator beacon, as well, in case a crash happens over water.  These tools are designed to resist  even the most extreme  accident scenarios.

Before they're installed, these devices are tested to withstand temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour, pressures found at roughly 20,000 feet below sea level and  hitting a concrete wall  at more than 450 miles per hour.   SEE MORE: US Lawmakers Call On FAA To Ground US Boeing 737 MAX 8 Airplanes The Federal Aviation Administration has required all U.S. commercial aircraft carry black boxes  since the mid-60s .

U.S. laws are based on  EU rules , which set minimum requirements for how much data the boxes collect.  But it's hard to say exactly why the recorders are called "black boxes." There’s some speculation that the term comes from  WWII pilots , who used early versions that  did  come in black boxes.  Other stories say  the name comes from charring which can make the box appear black.  Legally, the recorders must be bright orange or yellow.

The U.S. government set that rule  in 1965 , so that they're easier to find if they ever have to be recovered.   Additional reporting from  Newsy affiliate CNN .

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