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Hijacking prevention

Airplane controls are seized from remote control and guided to safety
  [vote for,

The first part of this solution involves a "persistent" wireless network that keeps all planes in the air in constant contact with a centralized, international "ground station" that monitors all of the "vital signs" of an aircraft. There is no longer the need for a "black box" because the same data is being transmitted via satellite or wireless connection to the ground station, where the data is constantly being monitored, recorded, and archived.

When something goes awry, either an engine failure, fire, or deviation from the planned flight route, the ground station alerts all relevant parties, who can then access the planes data and voice.

All planes are required to have microphones and small video cameras embedded throughout the aircraft, not only the cockpit, but in the passenger area, bathrooms, even the cargo area, and the outside of the plane, so the whole condition of the aircraft can be inspected - if a fin isn't responding properly they can see it on a monitor.

Cameras and microphones in the cockpit can NEVER be turned off. They are not optional - they are ALWAYS ON and accessible. The cameras and microphones can be hidden in several places, behind instruments in the panels, in the air conditioning, etc...

Larger aircraft (or perhaps ALL aircraft) are equipped with a re-designed cockpit which looks and operates as cockpits do today, but are retro-fitted in such a way that every knob, dial, lever, etc... is not "hard-wired" directly to the planes controls but rather is routed to a "central control unit" elsewhere in the aircraft. Under normal conditions, the CCU simply relays the cockpit controls to the various aircraft systems.

In situations where the crew becomes unable to control the aircraft, either because of a fire, a heart attack, or a hijacking, the central ground station is alerted where pilots trained in emergency manouvers are on standby - and have access to one of many "cockpit simulators".

These simulators can be set to take over complete control of the aircraft. In order to work effectively, there must be a extremely reliable wireless network made up of satellite and ground transponders that are capable of relaying vast amounts of data in real-time between the central ground station and the aircraft. High-definition 3-D video cameras at the front of the aircraft capture a panoramic, three-dimensional view that is as good as or better than the view from the cockpit.

The pilot at the ground station must see exactly what the pilot of the aircraft would see. All the knobs, dials guages, and levers on the ground station cocpit must be motorized to match exactly what is in the aircraft. Signals sent from the ground station cocpit controls are relayed directly to the CCU on the aircraft, overriding the aircraft's cockpit. The pilot at gound station can then operate as though they were in the aircraft itself and guide it to safety.

A security team at ground control can monitor the conditions in the remainder of the aircraft and take control of situations they may put peoples lives in danger. In a hijacking situation, since they can no longer control the aircraft they can threaten the lives of the passengers with weapons or bombs. The simplest solution may be for ground control to trigger a switch which releases a sedative gas into the aircraft that simply puts everyone to sleep, or safely immobilizes them long enough to get the plane returned to a safe place.

There would inevitably be a 2 or 3 second time lag between the ground control and the aircraft, and the pilot on thr ground would have to be specially trained to accomodate this time lag. Improved wireltss networking technology and digital signal processing might help to reduce this delay, and if there were enough "central controls" around the world we could overcome the sluggish speed of light as well.

imagicsp, Sep 16 2001


       I see parts of this idea were already suggested in the "Virtual Black Box", "Aeroplane Hijack button", "Aircraft NOS Button".   

       - A potential security risk is there if a terrorist somehow managed to hack into this network and seize control of a plane - which underlines the need for a very secure network when we're talking about operating a 767 by remote control.
imagicsp, Sep 16 2001

       Why get rid of the black box? I think the black box should be better and include its own transponder that can not be turned off... so air traffic controllers always know where the plane is, and so they can find the black box after a crash more quickly.
mhh5, Sep 17 2001

       I heard an eyewitness account from a passenger on a flight from Los Angeles to the East Coast (U.S.) this past weekend. The entire flight was silent, and anyone rising to visit the restroom was watched closely. When a man with Middle Eastern features got up to answer nature's call, reportedly every healthy adult male stood up.
beauxeault, Sep 17 2001

       I think this already exists and is called "Home Run" courtesy of DARPA. http://www.geocities.com/mknemesis/homerun.html
Dr_Who, Aug 10 2003

       [admin] or [Dr_whatever]: The link in that annotation is screwing the page up. It should get moved to 'link.' Poster: you should be able to do this your self by clicking on 'edit' under your anno.
snarfyguy, Aug 10 2003

       doctor - use the link button under the idea.   

       As for the idea, the parts that havent been baked or halfbaked. Cameras everywhere are a good idea, apart from the bathroom. Remote control would be difficult to the point of infeasibility, though useful in the event of cabin crew being unable to control the plane. So overall I'm going to say (+).
chud, Aug 10 2003

       //A potential security risk is there if a terrorist somehow managed to hack into this network and seize control of a plane//   

       Or _all_ the planes. There'd be no way to turn the system off until every plane had diverted and landed safely. If the terrorists hacked the network, they'd have a weapons system to make 9-11 look like ... like what 9-11 made of the first WTC bombing.   

       I'm not in favor of remote control, nor am I in favor of reinforced cockpit doors. A terrorist-recruited pilot could just wait till the co-pilot was taking a leak and lock the door.   

       I'm also not in favor of armed aircrews for the same reason that correctional institutions and police interrogation rooms don't allow guns.   

       If anything, they could increase the number of air marshals (preferably unarmed) and bring back the third seat which would be randomly staffed.
FloridaManatee, Aug 10 2003

       But software bugs are so rare.
bristolz, May 23 2005


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