Honeycomb sandwich structures are generally designed to carry flexural loads. However, mechanical properties can be influenced by accidental impacts, or service conditions. Thus a nondestructive detection testing is desired for them. In contrast to many conventional nondestructive evaluation (NDE) techniques, acoustic emission (AE) technique permits continuous damage inspection, classification and identification of failure modes in real time. In this work the fracture process of steel honeycomb sandwich beams has been investigated by in-situ AE technique. Pre-cracks were made both for L-direction and W-direction specimens subjected to three-points bending loads. Damage initiation sites were observed in the vicinity of the crack tip. A series of curves among the AE hits, AE amplitude, AE energy and loading time were obtained. Damage characteristics were discussed based on the above parameters. The results indicate AE characteristic parameters can reflect the damage and failure process of specimens. A good agreement was found between the experimental and analytical results.