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News > Alumni Spotlight > The flying Trinitarian - David Warren '43

The flying Trinitarian - David Warren '43

Who knew that a Trinitarian invented the “black box” flight recorder, and had a Qantas aircraft named after him?

This intriguing piece of history may be old hat to those steeped in School folklore.

But it came to light, at least for newer Trinitarians, when Qantas announced that the “David Warren” Airbus A380 had returned to Australia for the first time since the pandemic.

The naming honour was one of the last in a long list of accolades given to the Class of 1943 scientist, who invented the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

Mr Warren, who died aged 85 in 2010, was born on the mission station on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory, and educated at Launceston Church Grammar School and later Trinity.

He graduated with honours in Science from Sydney University, then gained a PhD in fuels and energy from Imperial College, London, and a Diploma of Education from Melbourne University.

He taught maths and chemistry at Geelong Grammar School, lectured in chemistry at Sydney University, worked as a scientific officer at the Woomera Rocket Range, and was principal research scientist for more than 30 years at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne.

He came up with the idea for the “black box” after the crash of the world’s first commercial jet airliner, the Comet, in 1953.

He had to call on his powers of perseverance as well as a thirst for knowledge, because Australian authorities initially told him his invention had “no immediate significance” in civil aviation. Black boxes are now standard equipment on aircraft around the world.

David Warren was inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013, a year before the Defence Science and Technology Organisation renamed its Canberra headquarters after him.

He was buried in a casket bearing the label “Flight Recorder Inventor; Do Not Open”, a play on the “Flight Recorder Do Not Open” label on his recorders.

His father died in the crash of a de Havilland DH 86 over Bass Strait in 1934.

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