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Beyond the Black Box

, 408 pages

38 halftones, 183 line drawings

December 2007



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Beyond the Black Box

The Forensics of Airplane Crashes

The black box is orange—and there are actually two of them. They house the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, instruments vital to airplane crash analyses.

But accident investigators cannot rely on the black boxes alone. Beginning with the 1931 Fokker F-10A crash that killed legendary football coach Knute Rockne, this fascinating book provides a behind-the-scenes look at plane wreck investigations. Professor George Bibel shows how forensic experts, scientists, and engineers analyze factors like impact, debris, loading, fire patterns, metallurgy, fracture, crash testing, and human tolerances to determine why planes fall from the sky—and how the information gleaned from accident reconstruction is incorporated into aircraft design and operation to keep commercial aviation as safe as possible.

George Bibel, a former NASA summer faculty fellow, is a professor of mechanical engineering at the School of Engineering and Mines, University of North Dakota. He recently completed the Air Line Pilots Association Advanced Accident Investigation Course.

"The author does a first-rate job... The easy-to-read and engaging manner of the writing makes this an interesting historical as well as scientific text."

"Bibel takes the reader, chattily and with skill, through his analysis of a series of fatal accidents."

"Offering insights into how aviation accident investigations are conducted, Bibel addresses the causes of such accidents, from in-flight breakup to metal fatigue and combustion, and the lessons learned. Enriched with many drawings, graphs, and equations... Highly recommended."

"A fascinating book."

"The author succeeds in both science and storytelling."

"The easy-to-read and engaging manner of the writing makes this an interesting historical as well as scientific text."

" Beyond the Black Box provides a behind-the-scenes look at plane crash investigations."

"Bibel takes responsibility for his readers' understanding... using similes based on everyday events and objects."

"Terrific book."

"A good book that explains how and why airplanes can crash through descriptions of a wide variety of crashes and near-crashes followed by explanations of the science that governed those incidents. The stories of the accidents, and their explanations, read like mysteries; I found myself reading faster to get to the end of the story and find out why things happened the way they did. Bibel clearly has a love for all things aeronautical and that shines through on every page. "

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