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Black box. I’m sure you’ve heard the term before, either on the news or in conversation. You’ve heard of them dozens of times before, but you aren’t totally sure of what they do. You aren’t alone. Most people don’t understand these devices very well, but they are incredibly important to the entire aviation industry and that isn’t an exaggeration. In layman’s terms, black boxes are found on every single commercial aircraft and are used to provide the FAA with statistical information on what causes planes to crash.

What’s in a Name?

Believe it or not but the black box isn’t actually black. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Instead, the black box is colored an incredibly vibrant orange. Why is it bright orange? Well, unfortunately, after an airplane crash, there tends to be a great deal of wreckage and the black box could be incredibly difficult to locate. With a bright color, like orange, the black box can be located a bit easier among the heaps of debris. So why is it called a black box? That’s even more of a mystery. No one fully knows why it’s called a black box; a popular theory suggests that since the boxes are covered with dark ashes, they appear to be black, hence the name, “black box.”

Two for the Price of One

Clearly, the black box needs a better name because not only is the black box not black, it’s not even one single item. In actuality, the black box is comprised of two separate pieces. The first component records the plane’s technical specifications (speed, height, etc.) while the second component records the audio and transmissions between pilots and ground control.

Voice Recordings are Important

You may be asking yourself, “why does the FAA need to know what the pilots were saying before the crash?” This is a valid question. According to multiple studies, the largest contributing factor to airplane crashes is a mistake on the pilot’s part. Because of this, the FAA needs to know exactly what pilots were doing and saying during a crash in order to figure out what he or she did wrong, and how they can better prevent those situations from occurring again.