Black box inventor David Warren Passes away

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The inventor of flight data recorder (Black Box), David Warren has died at the age of 85 in Australia. He was a research scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne.


He was born in 1925 at a mission station on remote Groote Eylandt in far northern Australia. He worked as the principal research scientist in the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne from 1952 to 1983. He was involved in the investigation team for possible causes of the crash of world’s first commercial jet airliner, the Comet in 1953. The mystery crash made him to come up with an idea of a recording device that could withstand a crash even if there were no survivors and no witnesses.


In 1956 he designed and developed the first flight data recorder, which later known as the Black Box. The device recorded the pilot’s voice and instrument readings for four hours on steel wire. Even though the machine was tested successfully, Australia’s Department of Civil Aviation dismissed the invention. Later he was given the resources to develop the equipment in the UK. In 1958 Dr Warren and his team built new models with crash-proof and fire-proof boxes, which is now compulsory equipment in most airliners.


The information collected from Back Box has been essential to determining the cause of many crashes. It is brightly painted to make them easy to spot at crash sites and name conveys the sense of a magical invention. Dr Warren received the Order of Australia - among the nation's highest civilian honors - for his service to the aviation industry. Dr Warren and his team were awarded the Lawrence Margraves Award for their work in 2001.

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