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Flight Data Recorder

The FDR on board aircraft records many different operating conditions of the flight. By regulation, newly manufactured transport category aircraft must monitor at least eighty-eight important parameters such as time, altitude, airspeed, heading, and aircraft attitude. In addition, some FDRs can record the status of more than 1,000 other in-flight characteristics that can aid in the investigation. The items monitored can be anything from flap position to auto-pilot mode or even smoke alarms.

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With the data retrieved from the FDR, the National Transportation Safety Board can generate a computer animated video reconstruction of the flight. The investigators can then visualize the airplane’s attitude, instrument readings, power settings and other characteristics of the flight. This animation enables the investigating team to visualize the last moments of the flight before the accident.

Both the Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder have proven to be valuable tools in the accident investigation process. They can provide information that may be difficult or impossible to obtain by other means. When used in conjunction with other information gained in the investigation, the recorders are playing an ever increasing role in determining the Probable Cause of an aircraft accident.

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