How many of you remember this poem?
For want of a nail, the horse was lost,
For want of the horse, the rider was lost.
For want of the rider, the battle was lost,
For want of the battle, the Kingdom was lost.
And all for want of a horseshoe nail.
Everytime searchers are looking for a downed/missing/crashed plane I think of that ditty. Because today’s black box technologies are so archaic and so pathetically inept, they remind me of that nail. And that because it was missing, the Kingdom was lost.
Black boxes, which aren’t even black but rather bright orange, are battery powered and record some 20 hours of data in a loop, thus erasing earlier data as the loop continues. But in today’s world that system is way out of date. With internet equipped planes, and web enabled flights, the obvious solution would be some kind of streaming data with it being collected and stored on the ground. That would make for almost instantaneous retrieval of “black box” data: the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), which in turn would greatly facilitate the work of the NTSB and those looking for the cause of the disaster. It would also greatly reduce the agony of those still waiting to learn what happened to their loved ones, on such ill-fated flights such as MH 370 which has now been missing for a month.
Considering the cost of data storage, the cost of streaming data, and the ability to access it instantly, the failure of the world’s collective aviation organizations to modernize the collection, storage, and retrieval of this data is nothing short of scandalous.