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Data stored on aiplanes’ black boxes may help a personal injury claim

Written by Ankin Law Office

Most safety experts agree that flying is the safest from of travel in existence today. However, airplane accidents, while rare compared to car crashes, do occur with regularity. The high rate of speed and altitude at which planes travel often results in a significant amount of damage to the human body. An Illinois personal injury attorney knows that those who survive these accidents are often left severely burned, with multiple broken bones and other significant, life-threatening injuries. These injuries can leave people permanently disfigured and disabled. When in this situation, a black box may be one of the best tools an injured passenger has to prove his or her case.

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airplanes with black box infographic

What is a black box?

One of the greatest tools that investigators use to determine why these accidents occur is known as the black box. The box is actually bright orange in color for easy locating following an accident. According to National Geographic, the black box is equipped with an Underwater Locator Beacon, which is activated whenever the device comes in contact with water. This beacon can transmit from a depth of up to 14,000 feet. They are also tested in extreme conditions to ensure that each black box has the greatest chance at successfully recording and storing data until rescuers and investigators can reach it following an accident.

A black box consists of a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder. All commercial airplanes and corporate jets are required to have these two pieces of equipment installed so that investigators have some information with which to determine why a crash occurred.

The cockpit voice recorder

As the name suggests, the main purpose of a cockpit voice recorder is to record every sound that occurs within the cockpit. It picks up the things the pilots say as well as any background noise that may occur. This may include any unusual sounds that happen immediately prior to an emergency. Keen investigators can pick up sounds that indicate something serious is happening, such as emergency pings, pops and stall warnings. Skilled investigators are even able to determine vital information about a plane, such as its speed, engine rpm and even the cause of a crash, simply from the sounds heard in the cockpit.

The Flight Data Recorder

The Flight Data Recorder may have an even greater significance than the cockpit voice recorder in aviation accident investigations and lawsuits. This small piece of equipment is responsible for recording the various operating functions of a plane including altitude, time, airspeed and heading. With modern advances in technology, the flight data recorder has also taken on the task of recording other important information that may lead investigators to the cause of an accident. These include individual wing flap movements, the use of auto-pilot, and how much fuel the plane has at any given moment. Using the data in this recorder, crash investigators can reconstruct the final minutes before a plane went down using computer models. This allows them to visualize how a plane is acting immediately prior to a crash.

Why black boxes matter for personal injury claims

The purpose of a black box is to determine the exact cause of an accident. When passengers are injured in an accident, absolute proof of the events that caused their injuries is essential to proving a case. A personal injury attorney often understands that negligence is usually a significant factor in aviation accidents.  With a cockpit voice recorder picking up the movements and speech of the pilot and copilot, injured parties may be able to prove that those who were entrusted with their lives were behaving inappropriately and inadvertently caused a crash.

Pilot error was deemed responsible for a recent crash that occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The flight was bound for Fort Lauderdale, but it crashed shortly after take-off after its engines ingested debris from the runway. One of the passengers on the flight, a Palm Beach County resident, sustained injuries to his arm, knee, neck and shoulder and was left with post-traumatic stress disorder following the crash. A preliminary investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration found that the pilots made several obvious errors that contributed to the crash, including entering improper runway and take-off speed information into the plane’s computer. The injured passenger is now suing the airline for damages.

Rare but dangerous events

According to reports from Boeing, one of the largest plane manufacturers in the world, 20 percent of accidents occur during takeoff while another 36 percent occur during the final approach and landing. Possible reasons for crashes at any time during a flight include the following:

  • Bird Strikes
  • Air traffic control error
  • Fire in the cargo hold or cabin
  • Design flaw
  • Fuel starvation
  • Lightning strikes

Pilot incapacitation may also be a factor in some crashes. This would occur if a pilot had a sudden medical emergency. In each of these cases, a black box would collect information and data unique to the situation so that investigators and those injured in a crash could learn, either directly or indirectly, the true cause of an accident.

Those who have been injured in an aviation accident should immediately seek out the counsel of a personal injury attorney in Illinois. Although these accidents are not as common as car crashes, their impact on the lives of those involved can be much more severe and long-lasting. With the help of an attorney, injured passengers may receive compensation for their injuries and the effects the flight has had on their lives.

Categories: Personal Injury