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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Black Boxes

Contents of Flight Data and Cockpit Voice Recorders Are Missing

All jetliners are equipped with flight data recorders (FDRs) and cockpit voice recorders (CVRs) contained in "black boxes" designed to survive the most severe crashes. To date, none of the contents of any of the black boxes have been released to the public, With the exception of a partial transcript of Flight 93's CVR, the contents of any of the black boxes remained unknown to the public until August of 2006, when the National Security Archive published long-hidden NTSB Reports including flight path and other studies of the commandeered flights. The studies include FDR data from Flight 77 and Flight 93. Authorities had previously claimed that all but the voice recorder on Flight 93 were either not recovered or too damaged to yield data. The black boxes of Flight 77 were allegedly found on September 14th. 1   2   3  

Ground Zero book
This book, written by Gail Swanson, and published in 2003, includes accounts of firefighters Mike Bellone, Robert Barrat, and Nicholas DeMasi.

According to the federal authorities controlling Ground Zero, the black boxes from the two crashed 767s, Flight 11 and Flight 175, failed to turn up in the rubble taken from the site. 4   The 9/11 Commission Report backs the FBI's story, flatly stating: "The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175 were not found."

There are accounts contradicting the official account of the black boxes. Two men who worked in the cleanup operation at Ground Zero claim that they helped authorities find three of the four black boxes in October of 2001. One of the workers, New York City firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, has self-published a book with other Ground Zero workers in which he describes the recovery of the devices. 5   The book, Behind the Scenes: GROUND ZERO, A Collection of Personal Accounts, can be ordered through SummerOfTruth.org.

In December 2005, CounterPunch reported that an NTSB source contradicted the official account:

"Off the record, we had the boxes," the source says. "You'd have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here." 6  

Survivability Requirements

Events that would damage the recorders sufficiently to make them unreadable are extremely rare. NTSB spokesperson Ted Lopatkiewicz said that he couldn't recall a domestic case before 9/11/01 in which the recorders were not recovered. 7   The recorders are designed to survive the kinds of impacts that happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FAA has placed durability requirements on the recorders and their casings to survive severe impact and fire

The storage medium of each recorder is located in a protective capsule, which must be able to withstand an impact of 3,400 Gs (3,400 times the force of gravity). Additionally, each must also survive flames at 2,000 F for up to 30 minutes, and submersion in 20,000 feet of saltwater for 30 days. Typically, to increase their chances of survival, the recorders are located in the tail section of the aircraft, which usually sustains the least impact in a crash. 8  


1. Flight Data and Voice Recorders Found at Pentagon, PBS, 9/14/01 [cached]
2. Feds Would Have Shot Down Pa. Jet, CBSNEWS.com, 9/16/01
3. Flight Recorders Found in Pentagon Rubble, cnn.com, 9/14/01 [cached]
4. Speed Likely Factor In WTC Collapse, CBSNEWS.com, 2/23/02 [cached]
5. 9/11 'black box' cover-up at Ground Zero?, Philadelphia Daily News, 10/26/04
6. Did the Bush Administration Lie to Congress and the 9/11 Commission?, 12/20/05
7. Speed Likely Factor In WTC Collapse, CBSnews.com, 2/23/02
8. And I alone survived, MeMagazine.org, [cached]

page last modified: 2006-12-22