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David Warren, 85; invented black box voice recorder

David Warren with his flight data recorder in an image from Australia’s Defense Department. David Warren with his flight data recorder in an image from Australia’s Defense Department. (Associated Press)
Associated Press / July 23, 2010

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SYDNEY — David Warren, an Australian scientist who invented the black box flight data recorder, has died, defense officials said Wednesday. He was 85.

Mr. Warren, who died Monday, came up with the idea for the cockpit voice recorder after investigating the crash of the world’s first commercial jet airliner, the Comet, in 1953, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

He thought it would be helpful for airline accident investigators to have a recording of voices in the cockpit.

He designed and constructed a black box prototype in 1956, but it took several years before officials understood just how valuable the device could be and began installing them in commercial airliners worldwide.

Mr. Warren was born in 1925 in a remote part of northeast Australia. In 1934, his father was killed in a plane crash in Australia.

He became the principal research scientist at the Defense Science and Technology Organization’s Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne from 1952 to 1983.

“Dr. Warren’s flight data recorder has made an invaluable contribution to safety in world aviation,’’ the defense department said.