List of unrecovered flight recorders

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Flight data recorders (FDRs) and cockpit voice recorders (CVRs) in commercial aircraft continuously record information and can provide key evidence in determining the causes of an aircraft loss. The greatest depth from which a flight recorder has been recovered is 16,000 feet (4,900 m), for the CVR of South African Airways Flight 295.

Recovered recorders are not always able to definitively identify, however, the causes of an accident. Recorders successfully recovered can be too damaged to be read, as with American Airlines Flight 77, or may have missing data caused by power loss, as with Swissair Flight 111. In the bombing of TWA Flight 841 on 8 September 1974, neither the FDR nor CVR were recovered from the Ionian Sea, despite the locations being narrowed down through the use of the attached Underwater locator beacons (known as "pingers").

Crash date Flight Airline Plane Presumed location Notes
1965-08-16 389 United Airlines Boeing 727-22 Lake Michigan, off Chicago, Illinois Resting in 76 m (249 ft) of water; FDR never found[1]
1966-11-15 708 Pan American World Airways Boeing 727-21 Near Dallgow in former East Germany The plane crashed in Soviet territory; only half of the wreckage was relinquished by Soviet authorities. The fate of the CVR and FDR is unknown.
1970-05-02 980 ALM Douglas DC-9-33CF Caribbean Sea Resting in 5,000 ft (1,500 m) of water; neither recorder found[2]
1972-06-29 290 North Central Airlines Convair CV-580 Lake Winnebago, near Appleton, Wisconsin One of two aircraft involved in the 1972 Lake Winnebago mid-air collision. An estimated 50% to 60% of the wreckage was recovered from the shallow, muddy water. FDR found in good condition; CVR not found.
1973-07-22 816 Pan American World Airways Boeing 707-321B Pacific Ocean, off Papeete, Tahiti Resting in 700 m (2,300 ft) of water; neither recorder found[3]
1974-09-08 841 Trans World Airlines Boeing 707-331B Ionian Sea, near Greece By the time the main wreckage was located, conclusive evidence of a bomb explosion had been found, and it was decided that whatever additional information the recorders held would not justify the cost and difficulty of recovering them.
1974-12-04 138 Martinair Douglas DC-8 Maskeliya, Sri Lanka FDR completely disintegrated by impact. Small fragments of the foil tape from the unit were recovered from the crash site, but all of the fragments were from the supply spool of the recorder, and thus did not contain any flight data. The aircraft did not carry a CVR.
1975-09-30 240 Malév Tupolev Tu-154 near the Lebanese shoreline Resting in between 600 and 1,000 m (2,000 and 3,300 ft) of water[4]
1977-09-02 3751 Transmeridian Air Cargo Canadair CL-44 2.5 Nautical Miles east of Waglan Island Recovery was hampered by bad weather and poor visibility. Undersea cables in the area precluded the use of dredging equipment, making salvage operations very difficult. Only 25% of the wreckage was recovered after an extensive effort; the CVR and FDR were not found.
1979-01-30 cargo Varig aircraft PP-VLU Boeing 707-323C in the Pacific Ocean, around 200 kilometers East Northeast from Tokyo, Japan The aircraft debris were never located and thus, neither the CVR and FDR was found and the cause of the crash was never determined.[5]
1985-01-01 980 Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727-225 25 nmi (46 km) from La Paz at the 19,600 ft (5,970 m) level of Andean peak Mt. Illimani. Due to the extreme high altitude and inaccessibility of the accident location, the FDR and CVR were not recovered at the time.[6]

A team of 3 men claimed in 2016 to have recovered the remains of the CVR and parts of the FDR.[7] Due to Bolivia remaining the country officially in charge of the investigation, the NTSB was unable to claim the components until January 4, 2017, after Bolivia officially requested assistance from the NTSB in December 2016.[8] On February 7, 2017, the NTSB released a statement, according to which what had been found was not the cockpit voice recorder, "but rather the rack that had fixed it on to the plane – and [a] promising spool of tape turned out to be 'an 18-minute recording of the Trial by Treehouse episode of the television series I Spy, dubbed in Spanish'." [9][10]

1987-11-28 295 South African Airways Boeing 747-244B Combi Indian Ocean, near Mauritius CVR located at 4,900 m (16,100 ft); FDR not found.
1987-11-29 858 Korean Air Boeing 707-3B5C Andaman Sea Neither flight recorder was ever found.[11]
1988-07-03 655 Iran Air Airbus A300 Persian Gulf Neither flight recorder was ever found.[12]
1989-03-10 1363 Air Ontario Fokker F28-1000 Dryden, Ontario CVR and FDR destroyed by post-crash fire.
1990-09-11 Ferry flight Faucett Perú Boeing 727-247 Atlantic Ocean, 350 miles southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland Missing. Aircraft was being returned to Peru after lease to Air Malta. Crew reported a low fuel notice and that they were preparing to ditch. 16 occupants were on board[13]
1992-10-04 1862 El Al Boeing 747-258F Groeneveen and Klein-Kruitberg flats in the Bijlmermeer, Amsterdam Zuidoost FDR found but severely damaged, with the tape broken in 4 pieces; CVR not found.[14]
1992-11-24 3493 China Southern Airlines Boeing 737-3Y0 12.5 miles south of Guilin Airport, China FDR found but severely damaged, with the tape being exposed to the post crash fire; CVR not found.[15]
2001-09-11 11 American Airlines Boeing 767-223ER North World Trade Center, New York City Due to significant impact and fire exposure, no trace of CVR or FDR could be found.[16]
2001-09-11 175 United Airlines Boeing 767-222 South World Trade Center, New York City Due to significant impact and fire exposure, no trace of CVR or FDR could be found.[16]
2001-10-04 1812 Siberia Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 Black Sea Neither flight recorder found. Main fuselage of the aircraft, believed to contain the recorder, was believed to be at depth of 1,000 metres – too deep for divers to retrieve.[17]
2003-05-25 N844AA N/A Boeing 727 Luanda, Angola Plane missing along with pilot Ben Charles Padilla and John Mikel Mutantu.
2004-10-14 1602 MK Airlines Boeing 747-244(SF) Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Halifax, Nova Scotia FDR recovered; CVR mutilated in post crash fire
2005-02-03 904 Kam Air Boeing 737-200 Pamir Mountains, Afghanistan Crash site located at a near inaccessible area of the Pamir Mountains. Most of the wreckage was buried in deep snow, and specialists had to clear landmines from the area before it could be accessed. FDR found with extreme difficulty (though it did not contain data due to a pre-existing fault in the data acquisition unit). CVR never found, and at least one investigator was killed during the search.
2005-10-22 210 Bellview Airlines Boeing 737-200 Lisa Village, Ogun, Nigeria Neither recorder found.
2011-07-28 991 Asiana Airlines Boeing 747-400F Korea Strait Neither recorder found.
2012-12-09 N345MC private Learjet 25 Iturbide, Mexico CVR and FDR destroyed upon high speed impact.
2014-03-08 370 Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-2H6ER South Indian Ocean Plane and all 239 passengers and crew missing
CVR and FDR missing.
2018-10-29 610 Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 Java Sea, off the north coast of Karawang Regency, Indonesia FDR was recovered three days after impact. The FDR's memory unit was significantly damaged due to the high impact speed, but data was able to be recovered.

CVR has still not been positively located, despite some pings from its underwater locator beacon being detected. The search for it is still ongoing.[18]

See also


  1. ^ NTSB Aircraft Accident Report, United Airlines N7036U in Lake Michigan
  2. ^ NTSB Aircraft Accident Report, Aircraft Accident Report: Overseas National Airways, Inc. Douglas DC-9 N935F, Operating as Antillaanse Luchtvaart Flight 980, Near St. Croix, Virgin Islands, 2 May 1970 Archived 22 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  4. ^ The Lost Flight – Malév 240 |
  5. ^ "Varig accident description". Aviation Safety Network. 1979-01-30. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  6. ^ Investigation of Controlled Flight into Terrain. Descriptions of Flight Paths for Selected Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) Aircraft Accidents, 1985–1997. by Robert O. Phillips. Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department Of Transportation, Project Memorandum DOT-TSC-FA9D1-99-01, March 1999.
  7. ^ "Two Massachusetts men claim they have found long-lost 'black boxes' in Bolivia". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  8. ^ "After Surprising Discovery, Somerville Men Turn Over Black Box From 1985 Plane Crash". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  9. ^ Bates, Claire (2017-02-22). "The housemates who found a lost plane wreck". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  10. ^ "NTSB Press Release".
  11. ^ "Seoul Pardons North Korean in Bombing of Airliner Killing 115". Los Angeles Times. 13 April 1990.
  12. ^ "Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655". Iran Chamber Society. 2004.
  13. ^ Accident description for OB-1303 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 27 January 2016.
  14. ^ nl:Bijlmerramp,
  15. ^ "1992年南方航空公司B737"11·24"桂林空难事故 - CEAA-中国实验类飞行器". 2014-05-19. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  16. ^ a b 9/11 Commission Report, Notes to Chapter 1, note 76, p. 456 (PDF p. 474),
  17. ^ Gilmore, Inigi (2001-10-07). "Israel accuses Ukraine of hiding missile strike that destroyed jet". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  18. ^ hermesauto (2018-11-02). "Lion Air crash: Divers racing against time in search of cockpit voice recorder". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2018-11-19.

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