Inventor of black box dies

The Aussie engineer who invented the black box flight data recorder, has died.  He was 85

According to AP, David Warren was born in 1925 at a mission station on remote Groote Eylandt in far northern Australia, the first European child born on the island in the Gulf of Carpenteria.

In 1934, his father was killed in one of Australia’s first air disasters, the loss of the de Havilland 86 Miss Hobart in Bass Strait. His last gift to David was a crystal radio set.

This sparked an interest in electronics and engineering.Warren was the principal research scientist at DSTO’s Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne from 1952 to 1983.

He hit on the idea of a black box flight recorder when he was involved in investigating the crash of the world’s first commercial jet airliner, the Comet, as it was en route to Australia in 1953.

Warren’s idea was to create a recording device that could withstand a crash where there were no survivors and no witnesses.

No one was particularly interested in the idea at the time, but he carried on with it and in 1956 he designed and built the world’s first prototype flight data recorder, which became known as the “black box”

It took another five years before the rest of the world caught up with the idea and another five before it was legally binding for aircraft companies to have them. 

The high-tech machines that are installed in passenger airlines around the world are seen as a testament to Warren’s work and they are now being used in road transport to capture information in the lead-up to accidents.

Warren was awarded the Order of Australia for his service to the aviation industry and two years ago Qantas named an Airbus A380 aircraft after Dr Warren.

Certainly it is his genuis that has saved many people’s lives as it has enabled countless air accidents to be understood and prevented.

He is survived by his wife Ruth, four children and seven grandchildren and the countless passangers who made it to baggage claim thanks to his efforts