Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black Boxes

My masthead here (old newspaper term) says this blog is about political issues. So maybe discussing black boxes, which are in fact orange, is not political and belongs on Sidetracked Charley instead.

But with the loss of an Air France passenger jet in extremely deep waters putting the recovery of the black boxes, which are in fact orange, in severe doubt it raised questions as to why they don't float? Or better yet given the technology and the many communication satellites circling our globe why they don't emergency up-link data when something significant happens like sudden lost of altitude.

There are two black boxes in every commercial aircraft. One records communications in the cockpit like, "oh, shit." And the other records key flight instruments and controls like flaps and hydraulics, etc. In this country the FAA mandates these devices to insure passenger safety by careful analysis of what went wrong in a crash. In the recent years there has been more and more question about the safety of an aging fleet of commercial aircraft and the degree to which the FAA has given passes to already financially strapped airlines.

And evidently the Federal Aviation Administration, its budget cut to the bone by 'smaller government' Republican administration, hasn't the manpower to perform all inspections required. Add to this the aviation lobby (right in there with the big boys of tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, NRA) which whines every time it has to fix or upgrade something to meet safety standards, and it is highly possible the technology for better recording and transmission of flight data in an emergency, or just ejector mechanisms and floatation devices does exist and airlines have fought it as too expense to upgrade their fleets.

Obama has promised to curtail the influence of lobbiests in the United States. I think he ought to look first at the lobby efforts that diminish the safety of the public. Prescription drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes need to be reined in. But also automotive companies, airlines, and communications. And after we are finished with the safety issues let us go on to rates and throw in utility companies.

But we should start with those black boxes. Why don't they float?