Commercial, Embedded Avionics

Focus on CVR, FDR Data in Aftermath of Fatal FlyDubai Crash

By Juliet Van Wagenen | March 21, 2016
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[Avionics Today 03-21-2016] Investigators have begun inspection, opening and extraction of the significantly damaged Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) from the FlyDubai next generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft that fatally crashed at Rostov-on-Don airport in Russia on March 19. The cause of the crash of FlyDubai flight FZ981 is as of yet unknown, with the aircraft circling the airport several times and making three landing attempts hours apart prior to the crash, according to online statements released by FlightRadar, a company that tracks global air traffic in real time.

According to FlightRadar, the Boeing 737 carrying 55 passengers and seven crewmembers, performed a missed approach two hours before attempting a third landing attempt, at which point it diverted from its flight path and immediately lost altitude.

“FZ981 was climbing after a go-around when it suddenly started to fall with vertical speed of up to 21000 feet/min,” FlightRadar said in a March 19 tweet regarding the incident.

An investigation team from the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (ICA) and specialists from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for civil aviation safety (BEA) have recovered the FDR and CVR from the site of the aircraft collision.

Investigators have begun to extract the memory modules from the FDR crash-protected cases, as well as the data readout, in an effort to continue work on recovery of the interface cables and preparation for the data downloading, according to the IAC. The preliminary analysis shows that the recorder was operational in flight, and was recording the flight data until the point of the aircraft-ground collision. According to the IAC, the quality of recording is satisfactory and the investigators have started the recording data decoding and analysis.

Investigators focus on the flight data recorder recovered from the fatal FlyDubai crash
Investigators focus on recovering data from onboard "black boxes" recovered from the fatal FlyDubai crash. Photo: The Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC)

The CVR has sustained mechanical damages, however, in the course of which the data cable was destroyed. The IAC has X-rayed the memory module and interface cable and is continuing to recover and examine the module non-volatile memory state.

The investigators and UAE representatives are continuing to analyze the radar surveillance data, communications between the flight crew and air traffic controllers, and the weather information. Boeing has also joined the investigation team and will serve as a technical advisor to the IAC under the direction of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Weather in the region surrounding the Rostov-on-Don airport was notably poor at the time of the crash, but the airline and investigative agencies are holding off on speculation until all the data is recovered.

“As far as the investigation is concerned, we have specialists from our engineering, safety and security departments on the ground at the crash site. They will be working with the authorized authorities to help them identify the cause of the accident as soon as possible. They are there to provide expertise and any information the air accident investigators might need,” said FlyDubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith, in a statement released March 20. “We are aware that in the course of the past 24 hours there has been a great deal of speculation as to the cause of this tragedy. We share the desire to get answers as quickly as possible but at this stage we must not be drawn into speculation. We would ask that the investigating authorities are given the time and space they need to report definitively on the causes of the accident.”

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