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Where is the black box carried on an airplane?

Find out where the black box is carried on an airplane and how it is used.

An airplane mid-flight, with the black box inside. [©2008. Jupiter Images]
©2008. Jupiter Images
An airplane mid-flight, with the black box inside.

Actually painted bright orange to make it more visible in an aircraft's wreckage, the black box is a tough metal and plastic case containing two recorders.

Installed in the rear of the aircraft—the area most likely to survive a crash—the case has two shells of stainless steel with a heat-protective material between the shells. The case must be able to withstand a temperature of 2,000°F (1,100°C) for 30 minutes.

Inside it, mounted in a shockproof base, is the aircraft's flight data and cockpit voice recorders. The flight data recorder provides information about airspeed, direction, altitude, acceleration, engine thrust, and rudder and spoiler positions from sensors that are located around the aircraft. The data is recorded as electronic pulses on stainless steel tape which is about as thick as aluminum foil. When the tape is played back, it generates a computer printout. The cockpit voice recorder records the previous 30 minutes of the flight crew's conversation and radio transmission on a continuous tape loop. If a crash does not stop the recorder, vital information can be lost.

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