Australia — Mourning the death of Dr David Warren, inventor of the Black Box flight data recorder

Vale Dr David War­ren AO: 1925 — 2010
Defence and the Aus­tralian sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty is mourn­ing the death of Dr David War­ren, inven­tor of the Black Box flight data recorder, who passed away on 19 July at the age of 85.

Born in 1925 at a remote mis­sion sta­tion in far north-east Aus­tralia, Dr War­ren served as Prin­ci­pal Research Sci­en­tist at the Defence Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Organisation’s Aero­nau­ti­cal Research Lab­o­ra­to­ries (ARL) in Mel­bourne, from 1952 — 1983. Ear­ly in his career, Dr War­ren was involved in acci­dent inves­ti­ga­tions relat­ed to the mys­te­ri­ous crash of the world’s first jet air­lin­er, the Comet, in 1953.

He advo­cat­ed the use of a cock­pit voice recorder as a use­ful means of solv­ing oth­er­wise inex­plic­a­ble air­craft acci­dents. He designed and con­struct­ed the world’s first flight data recorder pro­to­type at the ARL in 1956. This device became known as the ‘black box’.

It took five years before the val­ue and prac­ti­cal­i­ty of the flight data recorder con­cept was realised and a fur­ther five years until author­i­ties man­dat­ed they be fit­ted to cock­pits in Aus­tralian air­craft. The mod­ern-day equiv­a­lent of Dr Warren’s device, installed in pas­sen­ger air­lines around the world is a tes­ta­ment to his pio­neer­ing work. It is now also used in oth­er forms of road trans­port to cap­ture infor­ma­tion in the lead-up to acci­dents. Dr Warren’s flight data recorder has made an invalu­able con­tri­bu­tion to safe­ty in world avi­a­tion.

In Novem­ber 2008, Qan­tas announced that they had named an Air­bus A380 air­craft after

Dr War­ren in hon­our of his con­tri­bu­tion to avi­a­tion. Dr War­ren was one of only two avi­a­tion pio­neers who were there to see the unveil­ing of the names that would grace the new fleet. His name will join such avi­a­tion lumi­nar­ies as Sir Charles Kings­ford Smith and Nan­cy-Bird Wal­ton in adorn­ing one of twen­ty new planes.

Among many awards dur­ing his career, Dr War­ren and his team also received the Lawrence Har­graves award in 2001 for their work on the Black Box flight recorder. He was appoint­ed an Offi­cer in the Gen­er­al Divi­sion of the Order of Aus­tralia in 2002 for ser­vice to the avi­a­tion indus­try.

Dr War­ren simul­ta­ne­ous­ly served as chair­man of the Com­bus­tion Insti­tute (Aus­tralian & New Zealand Sec­tion) for 25 years (1958 — 1983) and Sci­en­tif­ic Ener­gy Advis­er to the Vic­to­ri­an Par­lia­ment (1981 — 1982).

David War­ren is sur­vived by his wife Ruth, four chil­dren and sev­en grand­chil­dren.

Media note:

The fam­i­ly asks that their pri­va­cy be respect­ed at this time.

Media con­tact:

Defence Media Liai­son: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia