Any commercial airplane or corporate jet is required to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. It is these two items of separate equipment which we commonly refer to as a ‘Black Box’ (The current boxes are painted bright orange or yellow to aid investigators who might be looking for the box during a crash, they used to be painted black before 1965). While they do nothing to help the plane when it is in the air, both these pieces of equipment are vitally important should the plane crash, as they help crash investigators find out what happened just before the crash.
According to National Geographic, “The Black Box was first invented by a young Australian scientist named Dr. David Warren. While Warren was working at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Melbourne in the mid-1950s he was involved in the accident investigation surrounding the mysterious crash of the world’s first jet-powered commercial aircraft, the Comet. Realising that it would have been useful for investigators if there had been a recording of what had happened on the plane just before the crash, he got to work on a basic flight data recorder. The first demonstration unit was produced in 1957, but it was not until 1960, after an unexplained plane crash in Queensland, that Australia became the first country in the world to make the Black Box mandatory for all commercial aircraft.”
Watch this video from The Guardian.com below to see how a Black Box works!