Malaysia Airlines MH370: 7 'treasured' secrets plane's black boxes hold

Mar 29 2014, 16:16 IST
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Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: US equipment designed to detect black box signals arrived in Australia as searchers stepped up efforts to find missing plane. (Reuters) Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: US equipment designed to detect black box signals arrived in Australia as searchers stepped up efforts to find missing plane. (Reuters)
SummaryMalaysia Airlines Flight MH370 black boxes, only source of solving mystery, may be lost forever in Indian Ocean.

One the world's foremost black box laboratories opened its doors to journalists to provide some insight on how technicians can recover information from flight data and voice recorders, like those from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

It remains very uncertain if the Malaysia Airlines missing plane's recorders can be found in the depths of the vast Indian Ocean. But if the search succeeds, the information inside could help solve the mystery of why the jet flew so far off-course.

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board experts say even if the recorders have been submerged in deep water for an extended period, data can usually be recovered.

Also see: Malaysia failed to check its passport database prior to Flight MH 370's disappearance: Interpol

black-box

If searchers succeed in the herculean task of retrieving the black boxes from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, a new recovery job will begin to retrieve information from the flight data and voice recorders. (AP)

Here's some key points about how the information is retrieved, and what it can tell us:

1. The black box, which is actually orange to aid visibility, consists a rectangular housing for electronics and a crash-hardened memory module that holds the data that investigators are looking for. Attached to the module is a pinger that sends out a signal to help locate the black box.

2. While the battery that powers the pinger will run down after about one month, there's no definitive shelf-life for the data itself. The black boxes of an Air France flight that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 were found two years later from a depth of more than 10,000 feet, (3,000 meters) and technicians were able to recover most of the information.

3. If the box has been submerged in the sea, technicians will keep it submerged in fresh water to wash away the corrosive salt. As water may seep into the recorder, it must be carefully dried for hours or even days using a vacuum oven to prevent memory chips from cracking. The electronics and memory are checked, and any necessary repairs made. Chips are scrutinized under a microscope; even if one is cracked, often the data on it will have jumped onto another chip.

4. Data is downloaded onto computer. The flight data recorder carries 25 hours of information, including prior flights within that time-span, which can sometimes provide

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