David Warren, the Australian who invented the black box flight-data recorder 54 years ago, has died at the age of 85, Defence Force officials said Wednesday.

He started working on the idea of recording pilots’ voices and instrument readings after investigating the crash of a Comet in 1953.

The Comet was the first commercial jet aeroplane.

The black box was dismissed as a worthless invention by Australia’s Department of Civil Aviation and it was not until a British aviation official saw it in 1958 that Warren was given the money to develop it beyond a prototype.

The black box -- so named not because of its colour but because it was a magical idea -- is now compulsory equipment in most airliners.

In 1960 Australia became the first country to rule that all airliners should carry a flight recorder.

Warren, a Sydney University graduate, is survived by his wife, four children and seven grandchildren.

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