European planemaker Airbus will fit ejectable flight recorders to its long-range A350 jets from 2019, meaning they could float in the event of a crash at sea, the company said on Wednesday.
It will also start to fit new fixed recorders to both short-range and long-range jets that can store 25 hours of voice and data information on a single recorder.
Currently, the “black boxes” of an aircraft are two separate recorders, one for voice and one for flight data, with the voice recording only covering two hours.
The ejectable or “deployable” recorders would separate from the tail during a crash and float, emitting a distress signal. Flight recorders at present emit acoustic signals for 30 days after a crash, giving search teams fewer than three weeks to locate them in what can be deep waters.
Recommended by investigators after an Air France A330 jet crashed in 2009, the idea came to the fore after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March 2014, for which the recorders still have not been found.
The new ejectable recorder, which Airbus calls the Automatic Deployable Flight Recorder, is made by L3 Technologies and can record up to 25 hours of voices from the cockpit and flight data.
The ejectable black box is also aimed at the other longer-range planes made by Airbus such as the A321LR, the A330 and the A380. The long-range planes would have both an ejectable and fixed recorder, while short-haul aircraft from the A320 family will be fitted with two of the fixed recorders, Airbus said.
However, some in the industry have expressed doubts over ejectable black boxes, saying they could deploy accidentally, while others have said they would prefer live streaming of data.