- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

The cockpit voice recorder from the jet that crashed into the Pentagon and that held most promise of revealing the details of Tuesday's hijacking was so badly damaged no information could be retrieved.
"The cockpit voice recorder from the Pentagon is cooked. They're not getting any useful stuff out of it," a reliable source informed The Washington Times.
National Transportation Safety Board officials refused to answer questions about the recorder salvaged from the remains of American Airlines Flight 77 because the FBI has control of the investigation.
Investigators had high hopes the voice recorder might disclose what the hijackers might have said to the flight crews before taking their places at the airplane's controls. But aviation analysts expressed doubts today about whether any of the high-tech "black boxes" actually red boxes with white stripes on four hijacked jets used by terrorists could endure the hellish heat of fires set by the plane's fireballs.
"They are shielded from short-term heat, but the boxes cannot stand long-term cooking for 30 hours," one veteran of many aviation accident investigations told The Times.
Current computerized recording equipment is built to withstand up to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit but only for 30 minutes, according to technical information on the NTSB website.
A 1992 recommendation for improvements, following loss of black boxes in a number of accidents, was rejected by the Federal Aviation Administration, but the FAA adopted a followup 1995 recommendation to double that 30-minute survival time.
That "technical standards order" to develop what is called "a realistic thermal profile" still is in the research phase six years later.
The FAA was not responding to telephone calls today, so the current status of the effort could not be confirmed.
The flight data recorders recovered from the Pentagon plane and United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside after turning back toward Washington still are being examined. The FBI said the flight data recorder from the Pentagon flight is yielding data.
That recorder is expected to reveal the course of Flight 77 which was hijacked after takeoff from Dulles International Airport. Some reports indicate it may have circled over Washington before plunging into the Pentagon.
Recorder units not yet recovered from the the two Boeing 767s driven into the World Trade Center twin towers were likely exposed to tremendous heat for many hours and may be useless. However there is hope that although the Pentagon plane's voice recorder is damaged, other "black boxes," on the craft might function. They were found buried and might have been protected by the earth surrounding them.


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