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About Honeywell Black Boxes

Our thoughts remain with the families, loved ones and colleagues of those onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It is always our sincerest hope that our data and voice recorders aren’t needed for this type of investigation. Honeywell’s heritage and continuing mission is to make air travel safer. Our “black boxes” have helped with that by providing a detailed view into an aircraft’s most recent flight activity for many years. There have been a lot of questions around Black Boxes, so here’s a basic explainer via an Infographic to show what our recorders do and how they work. 

Honeywell Black Box Infographic

Author: Steven Brecken

Steve Brecken is the Director of Global Media and Analysts Relations for Honeywell Aerospace.  Brecken joined Honeywell in 2013 from ITT Corporations Defense and Space business (now Exelis) where he served as the Director of Media Relations. Earlier he served as the Director of Communications for the Geospatial Systems  and Night Vision Businesses. Prior to joining ITT Corporation Brecken worked for Raytheon Corporation in various communication positions at both the Corporate and business unit level. A graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, he and his wife Susan reside in Chandler, AZ

Comments for About Honeywell Black Boxes

Name: Nerve
Time: Thursday, March 27, 2014

Appreciate this technology. Kindly innovate some technology to make it satellite traceable.. like a satellite phones works.. Isn't this possible?

Name: A Sharma
Time: Friday, March 28, 2014

Does the Part No of Blackbox in ill-fated MH 370 read as "C-02-15821" ? Written on the orange cylinder

Name: Bharti
Time: Friday, March 28, 2014

So the underwater locator beacon would be pinging.

Name: Saleh Ghanem
Time: Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dear Sir,
We came across your article on black boxes via linkedin. I am an aircraft mechanic and our team was discussing whether there was any signal transmission on these devices after sudden impact to enable them to be found. It was interesting to read that there was an underwater acoustic beacon. Is there an equivalent for when the box is lost on the land?
with kind regards,
Saleh Ghanem

Name: Jerry Hunter
Time: Monday, April 7, 2014

It is time for new stuff. Embedded Program 32 k Bytes ! my old Atari from the 70s Used K Bytes. It did a wonderful job And went out of stile gracefully.

Name: Keith Sketchley
Time: Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"ELT" radio transmitters are often used, may depend on country regulation. Activated by impact forces, modern ones give aircraft position. High rate of failure to operate when needed, one reason is that cable between unit and antenna may break.

Life rafts typically have a radio ELT that floats in the water when deployed, antenna sticks up, activated by salt water.

The recorders of course have an accoustical transmitter, activated by salt water.

ELTs traditionally transmit on the standard distress frequency of 121.5MHz and/or higher frequencies for newer ones that satellites can receive.

No media reports of ELT signals being received relevant to MH370.

Name: Joe musson
Time: Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pulses of 37.5kHz (or 33kHz as heard) at 1 second intervals could each be modulated with a lot of data. What is the pulse duration? Does it contain any data to identify MH370? Is this secret information, since it is not mentioned in any news?

Name: Rahul
Time: Friday, April 11, 2014

What is end results, still we are facing difficulty to find crashed airplane,
work on those technology to track/control flight from satellite

Name: Edward Price
Time: Sunday, April 13, 2014

In light of the stories of the missing Malaysian airliner I would be interested in hearing what the pinging sound of the locator beacon on the data recorders sounds like. Could you post a link or send an email so that we could hear it? Thank you.

Name: Nabor Sequeira
Time: Monday, April 14, 2014

Would like to submit an idea


Name: Steven Brecken
Time: Monday, April 14, 2014

Thank you all who read my blog and left comments. I’ll do my best to answer your questions here.

Nerve-There has been much speculation and public interest on wireless connectivity of the voice and data recorders. From an engineering viewpoint, the technology exists today to wirelessly connect recorders and Honeywell would welcome the opportunity to work with the regulatory authorities, the airlines and aircraft manufacturers on a wireless solution.

A Sharma-The flight recorders have a reflective decal on either side of the cylinder that includes our company name and a message on either side (one in French, one in English) that states FLIGHT DATA RECORDER OR COCKPIT VOICE RECORDER – DO NOT OPEN depending on the recorder

Bharti-There is one flight data and one cockpit voice recorder on the aircraft. Each of these has an Underwater Acoustic Beacon (UAB) attached to it. The UAB’s is activated upon contact with water and has a battery life mandated to last a minimum of 30 days.

Salem Ghanem- As noted above the recorders UAB’s activate upon contact with water. There is a fixed Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) device on the aircraft that activates upon a g-force impact or by a switch in the cockpit. The ELT serves as the emergency beacon when an aircraft crashes on land, where the recorders are more easily found. The ELT is not designed to operate under water.

Jerry Hunter-the solid state technology and crash resistant design of our recorders is the most modern technology in operation with the world’s airlines today. Honeywell would welcome the opportunity to work with the regulatory authorities, the airlines and aircraft manufacturers on a new wireless technology solution.

Keith Sketchley-Terrific note and your observation is one we ask ourselves. Until the investigation is complete we won’t fully understand why the fixed ELT beacon didn’t activate. We do know the fixed ELT is not designed to operate under water.

Joe Musson-The pulse duration is 10 milliseconds +10%. This isn’t classified information, the public or media just haven’t asked for the information. Rest assured we have provided all of this data to the investigative authorities.

Rahul-We are all anxiously awaiting confirmed news as to the aircrafts final location. At Honeywell we will continue to support both the AAIB and NTSB and most importantly keep the families and colleagues of those on MH370 in our thoughts and prayers.

Edward Price-While Honeywell does manufacture both the flight and voice recorders we do not manufacture the UAB’s. The vendor has shared an audio file of the pinging sound with several news stations and I’m confident a quick internet search will provide you success to the audio file.

Name: Randy
Time: Saturday, April 19, 2014

It is my understanding that the black box will send a signal up to 3 miles.I would think those box's would have to be in the under water search area they are looking in now.Or is it possible the signal is sent a longer distance under water? I can only think if something is not found this week they are not there? Is it also possible they never did hear pings from the box's and it was something else very close to the same ping? I just think if they did hear pings from the planes box's it would be very unlikely for them not to find something in that under water area.It will leed one to think it simply is not there

Name: Mr.Yap
Time: Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dear sir,
I understand that Australia Ocean shield has detected four pings from the black box of MH370.Please informed by email me whether these four pings detected are 100% confirmed from MH370 black box.Moreover,how long can we know the result. Thank you.

From, Mr.Yap 20-4-2014

Name: Mr.Yap
Time: Monday, April 21, 2014

Dear sir,

Please inform me by email whether the four pings detected by Australia Ocean shield, is it

100% confirmed that these four ping s are from MH370 black box. Thank you

from, Mr. yap 21-4-2014

Name: Mr.Yap
Time: Friday, May 2, 2014

Refering to my question dated 20-4-2014, Until today 2-5-2014, I still have not received any reply from your company. Kindly reply my question as soon as possble. Thank you

Name: Mr.Yap
Time: Sunday, May 4, 2014

Please informed me by email;

For MH370, what is the serial number of MH370 Black box. Thank you

from Mr.yap, 5-5-2014

Name: Steve Brecken
Time: Monday, May 5, 2014

Mr. Yap,

Sorry for the delay in responding to your questions. Honeywell is not directly involved in the active search and recovery mission for MH370 so your question on the pings from the Underwater Acoustic Beacon's would need to be answered by the authorities who are directly associated with the search activities. As for the serial numbers on the recorders you would need to contact Malaysian Airlines or Boeing and request that information.

Name: j d
Time: Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Is it not possible for black box data to be uploaded continuously to a cloud data base?

Name: Randy
Time: Friday, January 2, 2015

Hi Steve, in the light of the recent AirAsia Flight 8501 search efforts, I have a suggestion on flight recorders. I'm not sure that this would even work but it is only a suggestion. If you could put a radioactive isotope capsule inside the recorder housing there would be a constant signal from it instead of a 10 millisecond ping. I know nothing about aircraft or the mechanics of the recorders or radiation from isotopes. There needs to be some new technology found for searching for submerged aircraft. It is at your descression to display this on your site. This is only a suggestion. I am an industrial engine rebuild technician in Wichita Kansas brainstorming. Thanks for your continued effort to improve the FDR and CPR's.

Name: paul jeynes
Time: Saturday, January 3, 2015

Jan "015. Really some people within the industry really need to start making waves to overcome the bureaucratic stubornness and lazy business interests and get that incredibly outdated blackbox technology updated. This is becoming a big science and technology embarassment. The boxes have their place in history but its time to move on.
Paul Jeynes
Associate Royal College of Science
Im going to start messaging whoever i can think of. We should all push this.

Name: George Chen
Time: Sunday, January 4, 2015

At this day and age, I'm sure everyone would suggest why not make the CVR and FDR satellite traceable anywhere in the globe. What are the technical challenges to upgrade this wonderful but very old piece of technology? Working in the control systems industry all my life I understand industrial applications always lag far behind the computer chip breakthrough. But the aviation safety should be the highest priority to develop whatever cutting edge technology required.

Name: Bob Hayes
Time: Thursday, January 15, 2015

How about an satellite received EPIRB, it would give an instant triggered position and could be traced even if it drifted. Or what about a tethered transmitter with 5000 ft. of braid line that automatically released on impact, wouldnt be much bigger than a black box and anything a bit better than the current system would be a bonus.

Name: Abby Hogan
Time: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hello. I am a student in the 8th grade at Scofield Magnet Middle School - which specializes in Science & Technology. I am working on a project needed for graduation. I have chosen the black box for my end of year presentation and need to ask a few generic questions to someone. Would someone at your company be willing to help? These are my questions:
1. Are your black boxes different in any way from the other 3 companies that manufacture them in the United States?
2.Why are they called black boxes when they are actually orange?
3.Once a flight lands safely, does the information from that flight that is on the black box just reset itself? Or does it stay on there until manually reset?
4.Can there be a black box “cloud” like we use on our iPhones? So instead of having to find the black boxes if a plane crashes, that information could just be on the cloud.
5.When a plane crashes in the water it makes a pinging sound. What sound does it make when a plane crashes on land?
Thanks in advance for your help! Abby Hogan

Name: Puck Link
Time: Friday, February 6, 2015

I'm doing a school project about the blackbox. I was wondering what the specs are in a blackbox, what is inside?

Name: Puck Link
Time: Friday, February 6, 2015

I'm doing a school project about the blackbox. I was wondering what the specs are in a blackbox, what is inside?

Name: Brad finn
Time: Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Something I was thinking about sitting on my couch watching TV. I really want to know what other people think. As a kid I always wanted to invent something but growing up in a poor family it seemed in possible but her it is.
First off its a ejecting black box with GPS, floating, and a parachute. I realize most plans are sealed and you can't really cut a already made plane open to install this device but maybe you can put it in the landing Geer compartment. the landing Geer come open before you land/crash it can be easily ejected. Impact sensors on the plane that trigger the ejection or can be ejected at the pilots command. It would solve the mysteries of plains missing at the seas. I know you can track water currents of the ocean and if the black box is afloat you can track the GPS history or the water currents of the time the aircraft went down. To narrow the searching field. This is not a replacement of the original black box on the aircraft but just a backup. I would even like to see an impact resistant outer shell on the black box so it could be deployed on to the ground. I would like to also see it remotely bound to the aircrafts internal Blackbox kinda like a compass on the deployed black box that can in since point to the direction of the downed aircraft

Name: Phil
Time: Sunday, March 1, 2015

Probably a little simplistic , but I believe not expensive . A new white box , reset for every flight , that transmits a tracking ping every few minutes and is recorded and re-transmitted by existing satellite technology to computer hardware based at Civil Aviation centres or similar for independent checks . Hardware cleared of data when flight is cleared as landed safely Very much along the lines of tracking equipment used currently to trace stolen cars . Except this one is used for in flight tracking . Existing technology is more than capable . If you like this idea or use any of it please let me know .

Name: Robert
Time: Monday, March 9, 2015

would it be be beneficial to flight data recorder design to add airbags that deploy either upon contact with water, impact, or with some time delay after separation from mount to aid in later recovery?
the bags, combined with a gps tracker could allow it, once found, to be traced back to the point it entered the water. That information would lead back to other plane remains in the event of an accident over water.

Name: Martin Hamilton
Time: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hi Stephen, is there no thought of streaming the data from the black box back to ground as well, so there is a secondary option. I realise this might not capture the last few moments and there are of course "holes" in satellite coverage, but surely getting that data to ground would be invaluable.

Name: Laurie
Time: Monday, April 13, 2015

BLACK BOXES SEND A SIGNAL FOR A TIME AFTER A CRASH... why not reconfigure the system so that the signal is transmitted if it receives an incoming signal that is reconised by the recorder. This method would ensure the time available would be extended for many months ,, not just days.

Name: mark defendi
Time: Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Can somebody tell me why 'black boxes' are not made to float?
Also why cant they be designed to send a signal upon contact with the sea to record the location of actual impact?
So when recovered many miles away finding the actual impact site would be much easier.
Why cant they be housed in the rear of the vertical stabiliser?
why cant they be in a 'pod' which can easily come away from the aircraft when a certain'g' is reached due to impact upon the sea?
to me this seems a simple way to make location of an aircraft .

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Editors Note: Any reference in this blog entry to a specific product, service, website or organization does not constitute or imply an endorsement by Honeywell International, Inc.

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