ICAO Honours ‘Black Box’ Inventor

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The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council, has recognised the inventor of the first-ever aircraft flight data recorder, David Ronald de Mey Warren, with its 41st Edward Warner Award. 

Warren was honored posthumously during the opening day of ICAO’s 39th triennial Assembly last week.

Three of his children attended the ceremony to accept the award from ICAO Council president, Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.

“Flight recorders are one of our most relied upon resources for the improvement of aviation safety,” Aliu said, “and I wish to acknowledge here the tremendous debt of gratitude owed to Dr. Warren’s vision, commitment and tenacity, and his far reaching contributions to international civil aviation.”

A jet-fuel expert, Warren was recruited in 1953 to participate in a team analysing midair breakups being experienced by the de Havilland Comet, the first operational jet airliner.

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During that work, he realized post-accident safety analysis would benefit from a recording of what had happened on the aircraft before an accident. Noticing miniature recorders demonstrated at a trade fair, he began to conceive the idea of using them in commercial aircraft. This led to the development of his first demonstration unit.

“While today we all understand and appreciate the safety benefits of Dr. Warren’s inspiration, like many innovations his was first met with skepticism. But consistent with his passion for innovation and his commitment to helping prevent accidents and save lives, Dr. Warren persevered with his idea to the benefit of air transport and its now billions of yearly passengers,” Aliu said.

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