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MIT researchers expand use of the black box

September 13, 2011, 04:07 pm

A new tool developed by aeronautical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may allow an airplane's black box to act as a more effective safety tool, according to MIT News.

Black boxes, initially designed to record technical flight data used to determine the cause of mechanical failure or human error in the event of a crash, are now being used to prevent accidents from occurring, according to the news source.

John Hansman, a professor at MIT, developed a method of cluster analysis, a statistical method that takes groups or subsets of data to establish working normal ranges. In the case of flight information, the data can determine normal vectors for air speed, internal temperatures and acceleration, among other elements. Data readings outside the normal range or cluster may indicate a mechanical anomaly and potential safety threat, Hansman notes.

While Hansman and his team note that flight safety remains high, they also cite a number of accidents identified by running old data sets through the cluster analysis could have been prevented with the new analysis in place.

Pilots face a unique set of safety concerns, and many pilots take out specialized pilot insurance policies that cover the specific needs of an aviator. Many of these policies are offered through pilot organizations at discounted rates.  

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