Facts about airplanes and black boxes

Airplane crashes attract attention of individuals mostly because these are rare compared to car crashes, train accidents and sinking of vessels. In Bangladesh, the ratio is even lesser. Last time a commercial airplane crashed and lost all passengers in Bangladeshi territory was in 1984. It was a Fokker F-27. Captain Kaniz Fatema Roksana, made two attempts to land the airplane at the Dhaka airport in reduced visibility, due to heavy rain, but could not find the runway. Running low on fuel, on the third attempt, the airline crashed in 500m short of the runway, in a swamp, killing all 49 people on board.
Black box becomes the most significant thing as soon as an airline crashes as it captures data of airspeed, altitude, vertical acceleration, fuel flow and cockpit conversations. Interestingly, black boxes are not black in colure. They are orange. Here are few other facts about the black boxes:
  • Aviation experts do not call them black boxes. They call it ‘electronic flight data recorders’. The term ‘black box’ was in point of fact invented by the media. Then the makers opt to use it as it is shorter compared to ‘electronic flight data recorders’.
  • Black boxes are practically indestructible. These have the capacity to remain intact in 1,100 degree Celsius fire, in 5,000-pound pressure, in salt waters and in jet fuel.
  • A black box comes in two parts. One is the flight data recorder and the other is the cockpit voice recorder.
  • Black boxes are kept in the tail of the airplanes.
The perception on how things work inside an aircraft is quite different than how things actually works. There are many misconceptions regarding oxygen masks, lights, hard landing, mobile phone uses, and cleanless of headsets. For instance, if oxygen masks drop down, a person gets about 15 minutes of oxygen from the point of pulling it down. But at a high altitude, one person has just 15-20 seconds to grab it and put on the mouth because most likely he / she will pass out after that.

Cabin crews never tell why interior lights dim while landing at nights. No passenger cares to ask as it is perceived that the light dimming is part of the landing procedure. The reason why they dim the lights is because in case passengers are needed to be evacuate upon landing, the eyes are already adjusted to the darkness so it can see better once outside the airplane.

If the airplane makes a hard landing in bad weather, it is not because of a lack of pilot skills. In bad weather, pilots do it intentionally to deflate the water layer on the runway.

In long flights, pilots sleep most of the time. They do not need to maneuver the airplane as much time as it is on the sky. Once things are set, they go to sleep.

Uses of mobile electronic devices are not preferred in airplanes, but not prohibited. Uses of mobile phones never bring down an airplane but they can be really annoying to pilots as some signals can be heard on their headphones.

The headsets given to passengers are not new; they are just wrapped up in new bags.

The captain gets a boundless authority when the doors are closed. Once the doors are closed, the pilot has the authority to arrest people, write fines and take the will of a dying passenger. Another interesting fact is that two pilots are served different meals and are restricted from sharing. This is done to avoid calamity in case of food poisoning.


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