News / Europe

Downed Malaysian Airliner’s Voice Recorder Intact

A pro-Russian rebel prepares to turn over recorders from crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Donetsk, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
A pro-Russian rebel prepares to turn over recorders from crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Donetsk, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.

As the Dutch paid their respects Wednesday to victims of the Malaysian airliner shot down over eastern Ukraine, an international team of investigators is examining the Boeing 777-200’s voice and flight recorders for clues about its demise.

Investigators say the voice recorder retrieved from the crash scene has been damaged but shows no evidence of manipulation, the Associated Press and other media reported.

It had taken several days of negotiations before pro-Russian rebel leaders controlling the crash site near Donetsk had handed over the two “black boxes.” The voice and flight recorders tracked the final minutes before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, killing all 298 people aboard. Nearly half of the passengers were from the Netherlands.

Watch: Related video by VOA's Carolyn Presutti

MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Detailsi
July 24, 2014 3:22 AM
The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.

The delay, along with U.S. accusations that the rebels had deleted social media posts boasting they’d downed an aircraft at approximately the same time and place at which Flight 17 exploded, have fueled suspicions of tampering. The rebels have proclaimed their innocence, instead saying the flight was shot down by Ukrainian government forces.  

Investigators found the voice recorder “was damaged but not manipulated, and its recordings were still intact,” the Dutch Safety Board said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.   

“Black boxes are designed to withstand tremendous force, but all of the data from the boxes are stored on memory chip,” says Anthony Brickhouse, who teaches a course on aircraft accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “… Once you take the memory chip out, then it’s exposed. Conceptually, you could destroy” the information.

But “a trained investigator would be able to look at the unit and know it had been tampered with,” Brickhouse added.

What is a black box?

“Black box,” a misnomer, refers to the two recording devices required on commercial aircraft: a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. Each comes sheathed in bright orange metal casing to enhance visibility. They can be completely separate devices or they can be housed in a single chassis.  

A cockpit voice recorder tracks all sound in the cockpit, from conversation to ambient noise such as buttons being pushed or doors opening. “It will tell you what the crew was doing, right up until the time something untoward occurred,” said Les Dorr, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

“A flight data recorder will tell you what conditions the aircraft is experiencing and what the aircraft systems are doing at any given time,” Dorr said.

It can track air pressure, turbulence, wing adjustments, altitude and much more.

The Boeing 777-200 downed in eastern Ukraine was equipped with 20-year-old recorders, said Steven Brecken, spokesman for Honeywell Aerospace. The New Jersey-based firm had acquired the company that made the airliner’s first-generation solid-state recorders.

Its cockpit voice recorder had a capacity of 30 minutes, unlike newer models that go up to two hours before an incident halts its operation.

The airliner's flight recorder can track up to 25 hours. An airline and the government that oversees it determine what will be measured, Brecken said. “It’s proprietary information, not provided to Honeywell.”

NTSB investigator to assist

The U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board was sending a senior investigator to assist in downloading flight and voice data. Investigators will examine the flight data on Thursday, the AP reported.  

The NTSB declined an interview request, instead providing a video clip of research and engineering director Joe Kolly explaining and demonstrating how black boxes work.

The recording devices -- layered with aluminum and insulation and corrosion-resistant stainless steel or titanium – are built to withstand extreme conditions, according to Honeywell. The devices can retain data for up to two years, surviving impact of up to 3,400 Gs, ice, or fire of up to 1,100 degrees Celsius for an hour.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: David from: Italy
July 23, 2014 10:52 PM
Nazism speaks Russian nowadays!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs