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Black boxes engineered and manufactured in Redmond may be key to finding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
It has been more than a month since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared during its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and searchers are still looking for the plane, which had been carrying 239 people.
Search boats picked up signals off the west coast of Australia last weekend that officials hope came from locator beacons attached to black boxes in the plane, according to a CNN.com report on Wednesday.
Those black boxes, which contain a flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR), were engineered and manufactured at Honeywell's Redmond location and would provide authorities with information on the plane's final hours.
Steven Brecken, director of global media and analyst relations for Honeywell's aerospace unit, said Honeywell in Redmond engineered and manufactured FDRs and CVRs for planes from 1989 to 2008.
"We are one of the manufacturers of these systems," he said, adding that now, the devices are still engineered at the Redmond location but they are manufactured elsewhere.
The FDR holds up to 25 hours of data from a plane's various systems. Brecken said the FDR can monitor things such as a plane's speed, altitude, engine status and more — it all depends on the aircraft and what the airline wants monitored.
"It tells you what's going on with the airplane at that point in time," he said about the FDR.
The CVR on a plane records on a loop and records the last two hours of audio in a plane's cockpit. This information, combined with the data from the FDR can help investigators figure out what happens on an airplane in a crash.
"(The black box) allows airlines and the investigative authorities to understand what was going on in the cockpit and with the aircraft prior to the incident," Brecken said.
An airplane's black box is made of hardened materials including steel and cement and according to a post on Honeywell's aerospace blog, "the recorders are designed to withstand impacts of up to 3,400 Gs, the pressure of the deep sea, depths of 20,000 feet, the high and low temperatures of fire (1,100 C for 60 minutes) and ice, all while being certified to retain data for two years."
The post also reads that each recorder is fitted with an underwater acoustic beacon that has a "minimum operational life of 30 days, pings once per second at 37.5KHz and can be heard with specialized hydrophone technology at a distance of nearly one mile."
According to the CNN.com report, the Australian ship Ocean Shield first picked up underwater signals Saturday at 4:45 p.m., Perth, Australia time. The signal lasted two hours and 20 minutes. The second signal came a few hours later at 9:27 p.m. and lasted 13 minutes, the report reads. Nothing more was heard until Tuesday, "when it reacquired the signals twice," the report states. The two new signals were picked up at 4:27 p.m. and 10:17 p.m., Perth time, and lasted five minutes and 32 seconds and seven minutes, respectively. All four signals were within 17 miles of one another.
"I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370," said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) during the search for Flight 370, in the report. Houston added that the signals are getting weaker, meaning searchers are either moving away from the search area or the pinger batteries are dying.
Adm. John Kirby, spokesperson for the Pentagon, said in the report, "It's certainly encouraging that more signals have been detected…There is still much work to do, however."
In addition to the new signals, the CNN.com report states that authorities have analyzed the signals they picked up during the weekend and "concluded that they probably came from specific electronic equipment rather than from marine life, which can make similar sounds."
"They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder," Houston said in the report. "I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft or what's left of the aircraft in the not too distant future."