The world remembers David Warren on his 13th Death Anniversary, an Australian research scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL) in Melbourne, Known for the invention of flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (FDR, CVR) or also called the black box.
What is a flight recorder?
A flight recorder is an electronic recording device placed in an aircraft for the purpose of facilitating the investigation of aviation accidents and incidents. The device may often be referred to colloquially as a "black box", an outdated name which has become a misnomer-they are now required to be painted bright orange, to aid in their recovery after accidents.
David was educated at Launceston Church Grammar School and Trinity Grammar School, New South Wales. His father died in the tragic crash of the de Havilland D.H.86 Miss Hobart over the Bass Strait in 1934.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours from the University of Sydney, a PhD in fuels and energy from Imperial College London, a Diploma of Imperial College, and a Diploma of Education from the University of Melbourne.
David Warren was born in 1925 at a remote mission station on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, North Australia. He was the first European child to be born on Groote Eylandt.
Invention of the Black Box Device
In the mid-1950’s he was involved in the accident investigations related to the mysterious crash of the world’s first jet-powered commercial aircraft, the Comet. It occurred to Dave that it would be extremely useful if there had been a recording of what had happened in the aeroplane immediately prior to the crash. David then recalled the world’s first miniature recorder that he had recently seen at a trade fair. Suddenly he could visualise such a recorder placed in all aircraft, continually recording details and able to be recovered after a crash.
It was 1958, during an informal visit to ARL by Sir Robert Hardingham, the former British air Vice-Marshal, that the breakthrough occurred. David Warren was asked, during his lunchtime, to demonstrate his ‘unofficial project’. Straightaway Sir Robert saw the potential. David and his black box were almost immediately on a flight to England. The reception there was most encouraging. The Ministry of Aviation announced that the installation of the black box flight recorder for instrument readings might soon be made mandatory. The black box was also successfully demonstrated in Canada. In America the authorities declined an invitation from the Australian Embassy to demonstrate the device.
It was only after the crash of a Fokker Friendship at Mackay (Queensland) in 1960 that the inquiry judge strongly recommended that black box flight recorders be installed in all airliners. Australia then became the first country in the world to make cockpit-voice recording compulsory.
Since that time, David Warren’s invention, the black box flight recorder, has been universally adopted as a means to investigate accidents and to prevent their recurrence.
The black box flight recorder has more than proved itself with its significant contribution to international airline safety.