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Flight 447 sparks black box rethink

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How black boxes survived plane crash
  • Data recorders from Flight 447 were found almost two years after the deadly crash
  • Investigators were able to recover all the information they contained despite their immersion
  • Manufacturers now plan to extend battery life to give authorities longer to find the recorders

Paris (CNN) -- It should become easier to find flight data recorders in the wake of the Air France Flight 447 disaster, an aviation industry expert says.

Recorders from the doomed plane, which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009 on its way from Brazil to France, were found amid the wreckage last week after almost two years on the sea bed.

Experts were able to recover vital clues to the cause of the crash, which killed 228 passengers and crewmembers, despite earlier warnings that the boxes had only been designed to last about 28 days under water.

Now one of the major manufacturers of data recorders says the company will look to extend their battery life to give authorities more time to find them after a crash.

"We are very pleased that the boxes have been found, and have lasted almost two years down at 12,800 feet, which is well beyond the design life that they were established for," John Bolton, from flight data recorder manufacturer Honeywell, told CNN at the Paris Air Show.

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"The battery and the pinging [the signal which helps searchers to trace the recorders] are designed to last around 28 days," he said.

But he said that was likely to be extended, given that the recorders from Flight 447 had survived intact for so long.

"This has really helped us understand how long under submerged pressure the recorder is able to maintain its integrity, so you don't have corrosion or sea water entering into it," he told CNN.

"At that depth and level there's not a lot we can do, because of the atmospheric pressure, in terms of communication links, to get to them.

"So what we'll be looking at is can we extend the life, from a battery perspective?"

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Bolton said experts had been surprised investigators were able to recover 100 percent of the data from the recorders, despite their lengthy immersion in sea water.

"We do lab testing and accelerated life testing, but have not gone to the extent that those recorders have survived through, so it becomes a new benchmark of our design criteria to ensure that if unfortunate events like this occur that we have the products that the airlines and the industry would prefer."

Analysis of information from the flight data recorders on Air France Flight 447 showed the Airbus A330 plummeted 38,000 feet in 3 1/2 minutes, four hours into the journey from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

A preliminary report by France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) found that the pilots were given conflicting speed readings in the minutes leading up to the crash.

CNN's Jim Boulden contributed to this report


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