Boeing, Airbus square off over ejectable black boxes that float
Airbus said it intends to equip airliners with data and cockpit voice recorders that eject so that they can float to the ocean’s surface, an idea Boeing has rejected as too risky.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The world’s two largest commercial-aircraft manufacturers are at odds over equipping airliners with black boxes that eject in the event of a crash, making them easier to find.
Airbus is nearly ready to equip airliners with data and cockpit voice recorders that eject so that they can float to the ocean’s surface instead of being trapped in wreckage, Pascal Andrei, Airbus chief product-security officer, told a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board forum Tuesday.
Boeing has no plans to include such recorders in its planes, Mark Smith, an accident investigator for the company, told the safety board. Such recorders are prone to ejecting accidentally and creating a safety risk, he warned.
Black boxes are equipped with an emergency locator transmitter that would be easier to detect if they are floating on the water’s surface.
Questions about whether airliners should be equipped with deployable black boxes arose after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March. The Boeing 777 with 239 people on board still has not been found.
The purpose of the forum was to explore new technologies that would better enable planes like Flight 370 to be tracked and found.
“We can say today that we are quite confident on this solution,” Andrei said Tuesday. Airbus is working with its suppliers, he said.
“Something would come very soon after some more studies and assessments,” he said.
A slide presentation provided by Andrei indicated Airbus plans to include the deployable recorders in its A350 and A380 airliners, which are designed for long-haul flights over ocean.
Based on previous searches for planes, Boeing’s Smith estimated there will be only one accident every 10 years involving a commercial airliner that crashes into the ocean and cannot be found for more than a year.
On the other hand, five or six accidental ejections are likely each year, he said.
“Unintended (ejections) from a commercial airplane would not be an acceptable risk and would be a risk that we would have to manage,” Smith said. “We need to beware of introducing unintended consequences into the large commercial fleet that is flying.”