'Black Box' Inventor Dies

David Warren, the Australian scientist who invented the "black box" flight data recorder, has died at age 85, in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Warren came up with the idea for the cockpit voice recorder after investigating the 1953 crash of one of the world's first commercial jet airliners, the British-built de Havilland Comet.

He believed it would be helpful for crash investigators to have recordings of pilot voices in the cockpit, the Australia Department of Defence says in a statement.

Dr. Warren, who worked as a principal research scientist for the government from 1952 to 1983, designed and constructed a black box prototype in 1956. However, it took several years before officials realized how valuable the device could be.

The recorders, which are actually painted orange or red, are now of course installed in all commercial airlines worldwide.

"Dr. Warren's flight data recorder has made an invaluable contribution to safety in world aviation," says the government statement.

Born in 1925 in a remote part of northeast Australia, Dr. Warren lost his father in a plane crash in Australia in 1934.

He worked for the Australia Defence Science and Technology Organisation's Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne from 1952 to 1983, and was awarded the Order of Australia, one of the nation's highest civilian honors, in 2002.

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

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