The loss of a loved one in a plane crash is always painful but the failure to know the reason for the crash to prevent re-occurrence may be more painful and highly worrisome. This might explain the personal reason why Dr. David Warren had to
invent the flight-data recorder popularly known as the “Black Box”. Dr David Warren was 9 years old when his father died in 1934 in one of Australian air crashes. As an individual, I cannot imagine how painful it would be for anyone to
lose his biological father at such a tender age of David Warren in a plane crash that would have probably been avoidable. David Ronald de Mey Warren was born on the 20 th of March, 1925. He was an Australian scientist who invented and developed the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR), with its media name known to the public as the ‘Black Box’. The (CVR) is made to record any radio transmissions and sound in the cockpit e.g. pilot voice and engine noises, stall warnings, landing gear extension and retraction, among others. The sound recorder can also help to determine other factors like engine rmp, system failures, speed, the time of specific incidents, conversation with Air Traffic Control, automated radio weather briefings and conversation between the pilots and cabin crew are the features of CVR while the (FDR) is made to record parameters e.g. altitude, airspeed and heading. More so, other FDRs have capacities to store over one thousand related in-flight features that can provide the investigators a clue to the cause of accident.
David Warren humble beginning
He was born on Groote Eylandt, an island off the coast of the Northern Territory. He went to Launceston Grammar School in Tasmania and Trinity Grammar School
in Sydney. He graduated from University of Sydney, where he obtained his first degree in Science with Honours; he also got his PhD in fuel and energy from Imperial College London, a Diploma of Imperial College and a Diploma in
Education from the University of Melbourne.
David Warren career with dates
*1944-1946:- Teacher of Mathematics and Chemistry, Geelong Grammar School,
1947-1948:- Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Sydney.
*1948-1951:- Scientific Officer, Woomera Rocket Range and Imperial College,
1952-1983:- Principal Research Scientist, Aeronautical Research Laboratories,
Melbourne, (now part of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation).
1981-1982:- Scientific Adviser (Energy) to the Victorian State Parliament.
However, when David Warren was still working in Defence Science and Technology Organisation’s Aeronautic Research Laboratories in Melbourne, he rose to the post of Principal Research Scientist. However, as a Principal Research Scientist in Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL), a reputable organization, he was called upon to investigate the plane crash of the first commercial jet-powered airliner in the world, the Comet.
Dr Warren: A Thoughtful Friend of Humanity
While still investigating, he had an idea, he had a deep thought within himself, that it would be good and far better, if there would be an object or device that would record all that would happen in a plane immediately before the crash. He, however, supported his idea first with a miniature recorder he had seen in a trade fair.
He further thought that if such a recorder could be installed in a plane to record details and be able to get it back from the wreckage. It would go a long way to determine the cause of a plane crash and to prevent it from re-occurrence. His thought showed concern for the needs and feelings for all people. What a good thought for humanity!
A Dogged Persistence in Pursuing a Vision and a Mission for Humanity
He had a vision and a mission; his vision is to invent a device that would make air transport safe for all and his mission is to do everything possible to bring his vision
to reality. It is interesting to know that Dr David’s vision was not welcome in his home country in the first place. So, he made it known by writing to air transport
authorities in other countries in the world, yet no country showed interest.
However, in a bid to make his vision acceptable, he took time off to build a
cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder with capacity to store up to 4
hours before any crash. All of these efforts were parts of his mission to make his
vision successful. So, the first black box was made. Hence, the saying, ‘seeing is
A successful Vision
However, Dr David’s efforts eventually paid off in 1958 when the former British
air Vice-Marshal, Sir Robert Hardingham visited Aeronautical Research Laboratory
(ARL). During his lunch hour, Dr Warren was asked to showcase his project; it was
then he was able to prove the importance of the black box. Sir Robert saw it as a good project; therefore, he was invited to England to exhibit his project and it was
a successful exhibition as the Ministry of Aviation announced that the installation
of the black box would soon be made mandatory in England. The exhibition was
also made in Canada and America through Australian Embassy.
Dr Warren’s project used magnetic recording media which accepted easy erasing
and re-recording and which made it useful for commercial airliners. Despite this
qualities, Warren’s project lacked Australian support at first, yet Dr Warren was
never discouraged until the project was accepted in other countries, wherefore,
in his home country better plans for the project were made for better development and production.
This project, however, without doubt, has proved immensely useful for plane
crash investigations. There were incidents where CVR provided important
information to the accident cause. For instance, as fate would have it for Dr
Warren, in 1960, after the crash of a Fokker Friendship at Mackay (Queensland), it
was strongly recommended that the black box flight recorders be installed in all
aircraft. Why? It is because data recorded through the black-box were good
evidence to be used in plane crash investigations and more importantly, the box
can provide data or information that may be difficult if not impossible to obtain
by other means. As a result of this, Australia was the first country to make the
black box mandatory. Hence the saying, ‘persistence may be a bitter plant at first
but it has a sweet fruit’.
The Qualities of a Black Box
With the modern technology, the black box is the most survivable object of a
plane crash. The box is made and protected with an Under-water Locator Beacon
(ULB); the ULB is to provide protection for the black box if it falls in water or river, and if this happens, the device known as “Pinger” is set off or turn on, and from
the depth of 14,000 feet, it sends auditory wave on 37.5 KHz to a unique receiver.
However, once the black box is found from a crash, a special unique computer
and audio equipment can be used to get the information stored in the recorder
and to inter-print it into a comprehensive manner that will help the transport
investigator to determine the cause of the crash and to prevent the re-occurrence.
Honor to Who Honor is Due
Dr Warren’s passion for humanity has been honored by several organizations for
his dogged commitment to air safety for all. However, the following are the honors and awards credited to Dr Warren:
*FAIE-Fellow of the Australian Institute of Energy
*The Australian Institute of Energy Medal (1999)
*Hartnett Medal of the Royal Society of the Arts (2000)
*Centenary Medal (2001)
*Lawrence Hargrave Award of the Royal Aeronautical Society (2001)
*Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) (2002)
*ICAO Edward Warner Award (2016)
*In November 2008, Qantas named one of their Planes A380s after Warren in
honor of his commitment to aviation industry.
*Dr Warren’s casket had an inscription that read “Flight Recorder Inventor, Do
Not Open.” However, he died on July 19, 2010, when he was 85 years old.
*The ACT Government named a road after his name, in the suburb of Hume, in
*In November 16, 2013, his name was instated into the Australian Aviation Hall of
*The Defence Science and Technology Organisation, on 25 th of March 2014,
named their Canberra Headquarters after his name.
Beyond Air Transport
Having considered the great importance of the black box in air transport safety, the Federal Railway Administrations (FRA) US has also made it mandatory for the US; Canadian and Mexican trains operating above 30 miles per hour on the US rail net work must install event recorders. This is (FRA) ‘final rule 49 CFR part 229’ that was revised on June 30, 2005.
The Black box in rail transport is also an object that records data about the train
operations. The Modern Train Event Recorder is used to record so many things in
train operations such as time, distance, speed, horn signal, brake pipe pressure,
throttle position, emergency brake system, independent brake cylinder pressure
U.S. Specification for Modern Train Event Recorders
The Modern Train Event Recorder is expected to follow the International or
National Standards like IEEE Std.1482-1999; FRA Final Rule 49 CFR Part 229; IEC
62625-1; among others,. However, here are the specifications in terms of hardness to test the crash worthiness:
*It must be able to resist fire temperature of 750 at least for one hour e.g.
temperature of burning fuel.
*It should be able to accommodate impact shock of 55g.
*Static crush of 110 KN for five minutes: this is to test when there is locomotive
derailment with blunt object impact
*It must be able to withstand fluid immersion at least for two days in diesel,
water, salt water, and lube oil.
*Hydrostatic pressure equivalent to immersion to a depth of 15 m in water for
*It must be able to store the last 48 hours of safety-critical train data.
UK and Ireland Specifications of the Modern Train Event Recorder
The Modern Train Event Recorder is expected to follow GM/RT 2472 standard;
wherefore, all trains operating in UK and Ireland are to install the black box that
has the following specifications:
*It must be able to resist fire of 700 C for 5 minutes
*It must be able to accommodate impact shock of 100g, 3 times on each of its 6
*Static crush of 20 KN for 1 minute, to all edges and faces.
*It must be able to withstand fluid immersion in water, AFFF or R134A for 1 hour
Black Box in Road Transport
Dr Warren invention is not only relevant to air transport, but to other modes of
transport. It is important to note that the Modern Event Data Recorders are now
installed in cars these days; new cars now come with installed black boxes. Speed
has been identified as one of the leading factors of road accidents and one of the
functions of the black box is to record speed at a particular time before any road
accident or collision. Undeniably, the black box remains relevant not only in air
transport but also in road transport.
Black Box Components
Without any element of doubt, at this point, you will also agree that the
importance of the black box in modes of transport cannot be over-emphasized.
The plane, the train and the motor car are all equipped with the black box for
safety purpose. Wherefore, one may be wondering to know the component parts
of this important box. However, the major components of this inevitable box in
transport operations are stated below:
*A Steel Plate
A positive revenge for father’s death and a strong desire for safety
As a writer of this article, I will not like to conclude this article without providing a
broad overview of Dr. Warren’s history in line with the above sub-title. As an
individual, I see Dr Warren’s history and project as positive revenge for his father’s death and strong desire for safety for all. Indeed, David Warren was a friend of humanity. Like I noted earlier, David Warren lost his dad in 1934, in one of the Australian air crashes, when he was just a 9 year – old.
Young David Warren became a fatherless child and probably grown up with a pain
for losing his dad in a plane crash. By that time, he might not know the cause of
the plane crash that killed his father; all he knew was that his father also died in a
plane crash. Plane crashes, without having the clear pictures of what the causes were, might be the most worrisome issue in the heart of a researcher like David
As fate would have it, Dr. Warren got a job in 1952 in Aeronautical Research
Laboratories (ARL), Melbourne: a science research organization that deals with
the operations of aircrafts. It was there he rose to the post of Principal Research
Scientist and as a researcher in such an organization, he carefully studied to find
new knowledge for transport investigators to easily determine the cause of a plane crash and to have the clue to preventing a re-occurrence.
Actually his father died in a plane crash many years ago when he was nobody; so
when he became a researcher in ARL, he took the matters into his own hands and
revenged the death of his father for the safety of humanity. He discovered the
black box for the benefit of humanity. He had successfully defeated the plane
crash that hurt him many years ago for the benefit of all.
His passion for safety for all is a famous land-mark to reckon with in the history of
humanity. Even though he was not paid for his selfless service to humanity, what
he had done for the human race cannot be easily forgotten. Even though he is no
more but his handiwork still speaks for him till today.
He was a man of vision and mission. Like I noted earlier, his vision was to make
the air transport safe for all and his mission was to do all he could to actualize his
vision. He introduced his vision in his country, he was turned down. He later took
a bold step to write to other countries about his vision, yet he was also turned down. Nonetheless, he was not discouraged; he took time off to build the black box. These are parts of his mission to actualize his vision and indeed, his vision was accomplished.
Despite the discouragement, he was still focused. A man with vision is a man with
a focus. This is the attitude of the persistent people and they never lose their focus. David Warren’s vision for safety came to pass. Experts have judged the air transport as the safest mode of transport in the world. Indeed, he actualized his vision for all.
I humbly and really celebrate a man who was a hero to all; I celebrate a man whose work touches lives;I celebrate a man who loved unconditionally; I celebrate a man who believed in sharing knowledge and vision for humanity sake; I celebrate a man who believed in caring for humanity; I celebrate a man who desired safety for all and also put a smile on people’s faces. Though he is no more, but his legacy lives on. My tribute to a hero: Dr. David Ronald de Mey Warren.