Future

Airline Crash Innovation: Black Box “Ejector Seat”

As the hunt continues for data from a 2009 Air France plane crash in the Atlantic, a new French device could make such lengthy searches a thing of the past.

The new device would be stored at the back of the plane.
The new device would be stored at the back of the plane.
Paul Molga

PARIS – Will the black-box data from the fatal 2009 Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight – resting somewhere 4000 meters below the ocean's surface -- ever be recovered? Though part of the box was located this week, it did not include the "memory unit" that contains crucial information about the moments before and during an airplane accident.

But these same questions that arise after so many airline crashes may soon no longer need to be asked. The Belocopa project (an acronym for "ejectable buoy for the localization and collection of an aircraft's flight parameters') is aiming to produce the solution: an "ejector seat" for cockpit recordings.

A prototype for the new device has just been revealed by a consortium of small businesses from the southern French region of Provence, supported by the competitiveness cluster Pégasse and French public money to the tune of 1.6 million euros. The companies involved are: Tethys, specialists in complex pyrotechnic systems; Acsa, producers of transmission and sea tracking equipment; and Isei, which specialize in flight recorders. "Our complementarity gives us the global solution necessary to run this project", explains Tethys managing director Franck Garde.

Engineers had to develop a complex system that includes a pyrotechnic device capable of creating an opening through the aircraft's cabin that would be wide enough to allow the ejection of a buoy containing the flight recorders, a GPS positioning system to trace the buoy's path as it drifts on the ocean currents and a radio transmitter to communicate its precise location. The package is designed to be placed at the back of the plane. It has an autonomous energy supply and is armored to keep the data protected.

Recurrent debate

"This debate that resurfaces regularly when the extent of the area being searched for wreckage requires extremely long and costly search resources," explains Jean-Claude Marcellet, head of Isei. In the last ten years, 14 passenger planes have been damaged at sea.

Search teams have gone back five times since June 2009 to search for the black box after the Rio-Paris AF447 crashed into the ocean with 228 people on board. The first three attempts cost 20.5 million euros. The fourth, costing the company 9.7 million euros, enabled the area of debris to be identified in the South Atlantic, at the beginning of April. The last phase, launched last Friday to recover the black boxes, should add a further 5 to 6 million euros to the bill picked up by the French government.

"Considering these stakes, our solution targets very considerable markets," the consortium says. The air transport industry's fleet of more than 18,000 planes is set to double in size by 2025. Such growth could generate a 14 million euros annual turnover and create 35 jobs.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Red Barnes

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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