SAMMIES Finalist Improving Transportation One “Black Box” at a Time

In 2009, the US Airways Flight 1549 emergency landing on the Hudson River made international news as “The Miracle on the Hudson”. The ditching of the aircraft and successful rescue of all passengers and crew was recognized as a “heroic and unique aviation achievement”. In the aftermath of the downed flight, one of the critical components of the accident investigation involved analysis of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. While these boxes were recovered without significant damage, in some cases it requires significant effort to recover data from burned or otherwise damaged boxes.

SAMMIES finalist James Cash, Chief Technical Advisor of the Office of Research and Engineering at the National Transportation Safety Board, spoke to Chris Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER about deciphering information from electronic recording devices, helping to determine the causes of major aviation and other transportation accidents. His work has lead to several policy reforms and resulted in greater safety for the traveling public.

In many situations, the recording devices are damaged and it is difficult to decipher the information they have stored. As Cash states, the information is priceless, and is crucial for determining what happened during the accident. Cash has played a large role in the development of this technology over the years. He told Dorobek, “We did have just pieces of data – in some places we didn’t have the full width of the tape – we developed a technique to go in and recover data from a tape that was so damaged it would not play in a regular recorder.

In keeping up with changing technology, Cash also spoke to the need for data recovery from devices such as cell phones, car GPS systems, etc. These devices add a new element to the analysis of transportation accidents and can help paint a clearer picture of exactly what went wrong. As he said to Dorobek, you need to understand what happened in these past events in order to prevent them from happening again in the future.

To listen to the complete podcast from today, check out GovLoop Insights.

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Chris Cairns

Very interesting subject. Pretty cool to learn how new technologies are being use to decipher the details of a crash.