Crash Recorder Design

Crash recorder design is constrained by regulations and the necessary environmental conditions they are required to survive in. New regulations also periodically mean recorders must be redesigned in order to meet new standards. Material science, design techniques and the continuing miniaturisation and efficiency of electronics does however mean that over time crash recorders are becoming lighter, more versatile and can accommodate more data while meeting regulations – both old and new. How to achieve a good balance between cost, functionality and weight is the challenge.

A balancing act

A significant cost when developing a crash recorder is associated with the qualification process. Experienced and established manufacturers have learned over the years how to best ensure products meet standards as quickly as possible and that the entire process runs as professionally as possible. However, different customers can have different interface requirements either to meet specific regulations or so they can also use the recorder for other applications. Redesigning the electronics and/ or the physical unit may require re-qualification. This has a serious impact on cost and often results in a price vs. functionality trade off.

One way to add functionality without altering the crash recorder is to use an intermediary data acquisition unit - i.e. a Flight Data Acquisition Unit (FDAU). This unit can send the required parameters to the flight recorder and additional parameters to a separate quick access recorder. Another option is to design the crash recorder in such a way as to enable modular plug-in boards to be used at production. This has the advantage that only the ‘daughterboard’ requires certification – this is less time consuming than recertifying a new motherboard. This also means the cost of purchasing and installing an FDAU is removed.


Curtiss-Wright’s Fortress cockpit image, voice and flight data recorder has taken all these design decisions and is implementing the manufacturing processes to create the most functional, low cost and light weight recorder capable of meeting current and future regulations.

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