The Black Box: How Does It Work?

Believe it or not, but traveling by plane is significantly safer than by car. The many protocols, regulations, and safety nets commonly used in aviation simply outclass those implemented in standard vehicles. So, when a plane crashes, it comes instantaneous news and investigators work tirelessly to find out what happened. And their first clue is the aircraft black box.

The black box is essential to an aircraft. It contains flight data recorders as well as cockpit voice recorders. When the black box is retrieved, the information can be downloaded and can help explain what caused the accident. In some instances, the black box itself may be damaged, but the memory board inside can be salvaged. In order to retrieve data from these boxes, it can take weeks or even months.

Before the black box can collect data, that data is collected by sensors in the airplane and sent to the flight data acquisition unit. When turned on, data is then recorded by the flight data recorder. Microphones located in the cockpit document conversation and other sounds which are then recorded in the black box. These recordings can provide helpful information in the event that an aircraft is in an accident. To ensure functionality, black boxes typically use two generators with the main source of power coming from the aircraft’s engine.

Black boxes are designed to withstand harsh conditions as well as high-impact crashes. A combination of aluminum, high-temperature insulation, and stainless steel are used in their design. In the circumstance where an aircraft may be underwater, the black box also contains an underwater locator beacon--activated the instant water touches it--which sends ultrasonic pulses. Recently, in order to increase its durability, black boxes are transitioning from the use of magnetic tape towards the use of solid-state memory. The solid-state memory tends to be more reliable and less likely to be damaged in an accident.

NSN Fulfillment, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, is the premier supplier of aircraft components, flight data recorders, and aircraft black boxes, new or obsolete. If you’re interested in a quote, email us at or call us at our toll-free number, +1-714-705-4780. We have a wide selection of parts to choose from and we fully equipped with a friendly staff, so you can always find what you’re looking for, 24/7x365.


July 14, 2023

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