Using Technology To Prevent Future Hijackings

from the how-good-an-idea-is-this? dept

Soon after this all started, someone on a mailing list suggested a simple solution to future hijackings: have a “I’m hijacked” button in the cockpit which allows people from the ground, or autopilot to simply take over the plane and take it out of the hands of everyone on the plane. Then there’s very little reason for hijackers to hijack a plane again. It seems that others are suggesting the same idea. Others on the mailing list thought such a thing would be too difficult, but Steve Kirsch (founder of Infoseek, among other companies) seems to have put a lot of thought into it. Anyone have any thoughts on how well this would work?

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Comments on “Using Technology To Prevent Future Hijackings”

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Risky says:


Bottom line is that in reality whilst the technology to allow remote control of the plane is perfectly possible, it wouldn’t work :

1) WHat if the hijacker presses the “hijack” button and an accomplice takes over the plane – you dont even need a trained pilot hijacker then. You can talk all you want about encryption and keys etc., but this is a perfectly reasonable scenario.

2) The link clearly must be radio for it to be effective anywhere, so Hijackers simply have a jamming system that blots out signals.

3) The hijackers simply wreck the cockpit and the plane crashes

Techological solutions to human problems can always be beaten with enough will. (Which the nmd is such a stupid idea)

SpaceTrucker says:

Re: Hmmmm

Control from an onboard computer without any external radio link is theoretically
possible; they demonstrated landing jetliners on computer control alone many years ago (not with a 100% succes rate – there was a spectacular crash when they tried this at an airshow once – the computer thought the runway was off in the woods beyond the airfield for some reason).

Yes, the highjackers will still be able to bring the plane down one way or the other, but they can’t ram it into a target in a controlled fashion. That means less loss of life.

SpaceTrucker says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Since we’re on the subject of sci fi transportation… These posts reminded me that I’ve always been skeptical about the “space elevator” concept because of things like what happened on Tuesday. What would stop a terrorist group from slamming a plane into the thing and splitting it in two? The lower part would fall down and the upper part, not being under as much tension anymore, would go whipsawing off into space like the end of a big bungee cord. Supposedly we could build such a thing if we figured out how to make bukeyball tubes long enough to be wound into cables.

Dan Miller (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

The procedure during a hijack is for the flight crew to set their transponder to a special four digit code that indicates that the plane has been taken over. That code hadn’t been used in the U.S. for over 10 years when Tuesdays events started to unfold and still weren’t used during these hijackings. It requires that the pilot actually enter the number in prior to being removed from the cockpit.

The problem with the “press a button and give control to others” theory is that it presumes that hijackers don’t have a knowledge of how to fly or operate planes. That’s a valid assumptiom, based on hijackings of the past, but as we saw on Tuesday these were well coordinated attacks with highly trained individuals. Just as the system could be activated, it could be de-activated by an appropriately trained person.

Reality of the situation is that you can’t stop someone who wants to die, once a certain point is reached. The passengers on United flight 93 were able to save other lives, but not their own. We have to be willing to sacrifice the convenience of running to a plane 10 minutes before it leaves, in order to ensure a higher level of security.

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