View Full Version : Boeing patents anti-terrorism auto-land system for hijacked airliners

canuck slf
1st Dec 2006, 19:33
Cannot believe that nobody else has seen this and there is not uproar!
Apologies if it has been posted elsewhere.


1st Dec 2006, 19:58
Well, I have been annoying people for years with my predictions of pilotless a/c: the progression from 4 or 5 crew to 2, soon one, soon none...should coincide with the last drop of fuel available for the engines. Sort of goes along with the way that pilot lifestyles/pay/working conditions have deteriorated along the way and will probably also coincide with the above.

Four or five pilots sitting about in a lounge, drinking tea. "Captain Prune, flight 6533 is having problems with an engine, Simulator 6, please."
Captain P. enters the sim and straps in, pushes the connect button and connects to the troubled flight, somewhere just short of Paris enroute Frankfurt. He sees the problem with the engine, ensures it has auto-shut-down, reviews the algorithms and proceeds to monitor the approach to Frankfurt. Just for a bit of fun, he takes the controls and flies the approach to the ground, where he returns it to auto as it taxis to the gate. He gets out of the sim and returns to the lounge, looking for his cup for another round, looking forward to his commute home tonight for his next round of days off.:{

1st Dec 2006, 20:24
Sorry, why is this a bad idea which should cause uproar? I don't understand.

1st Dec 2006, 20:43
I wouldn't say this idea will cause uproar, BUT

People will be quite sceptical if they fly aircraft equiped with such a system.
There's always a chance that somebody (on the ground or in the air) activates the system when it's not supposed to be activated.

"ladies and gentleman due to a small mistake we are now going to land "in the middle of nowwhere"( - even i don't know where this will be- :uhoh: ) . As soon as we have landed we wil try to reset all systems, refuel the A/C, and hopefully be airborne soon. I'm sorry to announce that you will not be able to make your connection flight. On behalf of Stupid Airlines i appologize for the delay and inconvenience we caused you. ":}

i doubt if such a system will be on the market soon, since it wil have to be independed of cb's and fuelcontrolswitches, so it will be quite an complicated and expensive system.

canuck slf
1st Dec 2006, 21:02
I assumed that the concept of some system being capable of removing the crews ultimate command of the aircraft would not be well received, however you live and learn!
There is also the whole aspect of a faulty activation, or a failure in the override system causing a crash while the crew rides the plane to their destruction as observers.
I wonder if the response would be different if it was an Airbus patent?:)

1st Dec 2006, 21:04
Surely the activation of such a system would instantly cause the hijackers to do their worst - and as a result the aircraft may never make its pre-determined haven?

Alpine Flyer
1st Dec 2006, 21:15
In order to be tamper-proof such a system would need to be protected in a number of ways. Otherwise hijackers could try to hack up the floor or ceiling to get at some power supply wiring in order to just "kill" autoflight, FADEC, etc.

Even the flight deck doors which resemble a burglar-safe door set into a chainlink fence are quite heavy. Making all the electronics compartments tamper-proof would add quite a lot of deadload.

Most airplanes I have flown with so far had some more or less easily accessible avionics compartment in the cabin and wreaking havoc in there probably wouldn't enhance the capabilities of George the Saviour.

Giving George the capability to look out for weather might be a headache, too.

Remote control looks more likely though I don't know how one would overcome the time lag.

Basically it boils down to the question whether John Public is more afraid of flying without a pilot or of flying with a pilot trying to make a religious or political statement by crashing.

FCS Explorer
1st Dec 2006, 22:27
the other day we lost both GPS in a 738. not a single light came on. and now you're telling be, boeing thinks, they can make the all-by-itself-autoland-plane. :} :} suckers can't build a plane that flys straight.

1st Dec 2006, 23:22
just with the news of the anti hijack system will make terrorists use their favorite tacktic




2nd Dec 2006, 00:36
So while doing this automatic diversion and landing the system is going to be capable of dealing with all the possible contigencies that a highly trained pilot is prepared to deal with (e.g. system failures, fires, weather, traffic conflicts, etc etc etc)????:uhoh:

2nd Dec 2006, 00:48
I think its hard to avoid the conclusion that such systems and UAVs represent the beginning of the end for human pilots on every flight.
How much would the airlines love to eliminate two more expenses from the front end of every leg? If they really were that bent on security, they could have just made the bulkhead solid with a seperate toilette and a coffee/ meal passthrough....not that I find that idea particularly appetizing either.

However while they are at it, perhaps it would be a good idea for the government to have the capability to assume control of all moving/ delivery trucks (HGVs)...there are just so many risks that we really need to eliminate!!

2nd Dec 2006, 02:33
Remote control of airliners exists - for crash analysis
It would remove the threat of suicide hijackers, they would only have to hack into the system from a safe location. Until the pax can view a cockpit camera in flight, we only have your word you are up there!

2nd Dec 2006, 11:39
Hi Guys,

The idea is not a big deal ! Just a more robust autoland type setup, with the inclusion (obviously) of auto flap, gear, navaid tuning ..etc..

However, I can't ever see the UK CAA allowing a system (that effects primary controls) that cannot be over-ridden by the crew ...

2nd Dec 2006, 12:09
Surely the activation of such a system would instantly cause the hijackers to do their worst - and as a result the aircraft may never make its pre-determined haven?

Agreed, Tim.

To paraphrase the US of A current V.P. . . .

Are we the only people reading this?


Will 'they' learn from these discussion?


Will Boeing achieve anything other than giving all admin types a (false) feeling of complete control?


(I could easily go on, but . . .)

So, lets all retire to the local Aero Club bar, and celebrate that 'we' will be needed for a while yet (at least for as long as I am still getting around as a (retired) pax.

2nd Dec 2006, 13:51
I noted this idea in Bruce Schneier's blog just after 9/11 back in 2001. I'm surprised that Boeing were able to patent it as it's so trivial to think of the idea. I'm certain I can't be the first person to come up with the idea as I'm just SLF and not in the aircraft flight computer business.

However, emergency auto-land makes perfect sense from the security point of view: deny the aircraft as a arbitrary destination flying bomb or as a traditional hijack situation (a la the 70's and 80's). It will not stop those who want to just blow up the aircraft who have figured out a way of doing that. Two out of the three major hijack modes completely dispensed with. History has shown that hijackers have never succeeded once back on the ground.

Arming pilots is a stupid idea - it just adds additional arms on a plane already equipped with many tonnes of fuel and an axe.

Solidifying the crew door is a good idea as it makes entry to unauthorized individuals much harder, particularly as PAX seem willing to fight back now, thus allowing pilots to land the plane quickly before the door can be compromised.

Physical security is not about absolutes, it's about deter, delay, and detain. Autoland is deter - there's simply no point any more. Hardened doors and better PAX screening is "delay". One day, someone will crack it especially as screeners are increasingly trained to be unbending and unthinking automatons.

This is a good addition to the threat model, even if it's not implemented widely. A sign saying "autoland fitted" is just as good as the system being actually installed as the attacker will not know for sure unless accompanied by inside knowledge.


2nd Dec 2006, 14:22
So while doing this automatic diversion and landing the system is going to be capable of dealing with all the possible contigencies that a highly trained pilot is prepared to deal with (e.g. system failures, fires, weather, traffic conflicts, etc etc etc)????:uhoh:

To elaborate on my previous post...

Once this diversion and land system has been activated, and it cannot be over-ridden how is it going to cope with...

- Engine failure
- Other possible mechanical failures
- Fuel leaks
- Depressurization
- Fires
- Traffic conflicts
- Traffic on runway
- ILS failures

Basically anything unusual that requires the intervention of highly trained flight crew.

So it takes you to your diversion airport, and the ILS is out, or the runway is occupied. Then what? Or you have an engine failure on approach? Or gear problem? Or a depressurization during the diversion? Or you spot a conflict with GA traffic? Or you start to run low on fuel?

Trained flight crew who could handle the situation would only be able to sit there and watch.

It's a frightening idea.

2nd Dec 2006, 17:31
So,not far from now,hackers will start playing with airliners...remember seeing a movie about this once

4th Dec 2006, 06:20
Can this new autoland system...

Avoid Windshear,
Read a NOTAM,
Avoid a vehicle, aircraft, person or animal on a runway,
Avoid hazardous weather,
Make a critical safety decision,
Perform a missed approach,
Determine that it has a safe amount of fuel, and (the really important question)

Does it breath life, and is it willing and able to preserve that life???

4th Dec 2006, 12:15
they can't even spell the word "foolproof" properly. "fullproff" my $ss...

I do of course agree though... computers make much safer pilots than people. But it only takes one crash to never let computers fly again. How many crashes have human pilots produced?

4th Dec 2006, 19:05
It is a bad idea to put control of every commercial aircraft in the hands of the very entity that still has not been proven innocent in the original incident that got us here.

And, all communication systems that receive signals from the outside (i.e. non protected networks) are susceptible of being compromised. Next thing you know we will have some bored Dutch kid in cattle class taking control of the aircraft with his cell phone on some transatlantic flight.

:ugh: :\

Max Angle
4th Dec 2006, 20:08
This idea, just like locked doors, fighter escorts etc. etc. has nothing to do with preserving the life of those onboard and everything to do with saving the lives of those on the ground. If the system was ever installed the authorities won't give a monkeys if it can read a notam, decide if it's got enough fuel or do a go-around, all they want is for the aircraft not to fly into a crowded city centre. A safe and assured landing for the aircraft and passengers would be a bonus but if it spears in somewhere away from a large population centre it would still have achieved it's objective. Scary stuff, hopefully will be retired before this becomes reality.

10th Dec 2006, 22:49
I would fly any aircraft, if it has the autopilot disenagage button. :} can`t imagine, that I`m sitting there and have no choice to do anything (just like the A320 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxP8LwSArYA) no way :ugh:

13th Dec 2006, 02:24
I would fly any aircraft, if it has the autopilot disenagage button. :} can`t imagine, that I`m sitting there and have no choice to do anything (just like the A320 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxP8LwSArYA) no way :ugh:

Looks good enough for government work!

Check Airman
13th Dec 2006, 02:56
I would fly any aircraft, if it has the autopilot disenagage button. :} can`t imagine, that I`m sitting there and have no choice to do anything (just like the A320 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxP8LwSArYA) no way :ugh:

can anyone point me to the official (or highly reliable) documentation on the cause of that accident please?

much appreciated.

re the thread topic...NO WAY am i boarding, let alone flying a plane with that system...i don't even want to be in the same airspace...

15th Dec 2006, 13:55
I don't have a problem with the system kicking into action in a hijack situation. What concerns me is what happens when it kicks into action because it's malfunctioned.

19th Dec 2006, 20:12
Quote from article "by government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency" that says it all the CIA a contradiction in terms.:)

19th Dec 2006, 22:29
You have to wonder.

Over the years, what is the percentage of aircraft that have been hijacked and used as a weapon?

How much is the development going to cost?

How much is it going to cost the airlines to implement?

Is it likely to be used?

Can the money be put to better use in other areas of aviation safety?

20th Dec 2006, 00:22
1.2m people killed each year
50m people injured each year
500 children killed each day
85% of casualties in low and middle-income countries
Road deaths to double by 2020
That's one 11/9 every day 7 days a week 52 weeks of the year or 8 747's every day - It does make 555 on an A380 or 400+ on a 747 pale into insignificance.
Hi-jacking is IMHO a thing of the past anyone saying I'm taking over this plane has around 60 seconds to live before the on board slc tear them apart.
Giving the likes of the CIA control of aircraft remotely is just letting the lunatics take over the asylum for what? We never got this paranoid during the troubles so why now? Trouble with the cousins is that they take time to rise and then they go ape and knee-jerking becomes a national sport.

20th Dec 2006, 02:15
I saw this on another thread here:

A computer will be able to fly an aircraft when it can answer these three questions:

1. Why is it doing that?
2. How do we make it stop?
3. What is that smell?

20th Dec 2006, 06:56
Hasn't a system of this kind already been used to fool some people into thinking that a group of mediocre flight students from the Middle East flew airliners, with pinpoint accuracy, into the World Trade Center?

23rd Dec 2006, 14:20

Great Questions...nail on the head.

Pilots being removed from the front are strictly a cost saving measure. Nothing more. It does nothing to improve safety. It does nothing to improve security on airliners. And do you think that the average person wants to be transported across any ocean at 35000 feet with no driver? Before we see this happening, and I am not saying it won't, we will see a pilotless USAF that has operated these pilotless aircraft for many years, in all areas from combat missions, to routine supply flights on A/C like the C-17, or the C-5, (I am sure these birds will be long retired, and replaced with newer A/C), before it is applied to civilian transport.

As for this anti terrorist system? At what cost? And, as automation has proven, over and over again, (Airbus), systems are flawed, prone to error, and cannot be relied upon, without the Human brain Mk. 1 sitting in the front seat.

One more thing, the human brain thinks at around 500 wpm, and we speak at around 150 wpm. A computer thinks at millions of words a minute and speaks at around the same, millions of words a minute. Who won the race, the tortoise or the hare.

Slowly does it every time.

23rd Dec 2006, 16:55
autopilot or not autopilot,

any hijacked and unresponding planes will be SHOT down...


26th Dec 2006, 11:01
So what authority does the CIA have to order a civil transport to be shot down?

As far as I’m aware the rest of the World doesn’t take orders from the CIA…indeed neither do the domestic authorities in the USA I believe, since the CIA is not permitted to conduct operations on US soil.

FWIW, PLOC (prolonged loss of contact) is something flight crews deal with regularly, nothing sinister in that.

Any government that started shooting down civilian transports as a response to PLOC would find themselves out of office and in the dock in very short order.

The hi-jack tactic has been hi-jacked by those with vested interests…both politically and commercially. The days whereby 350 passengers sit idly by while a few would be hi-jackers try to smash their way through the armoured flight deck door ended on that fateful day a few years ago. I’d give them around 30 seconds before the rest of the passengers turned them into a stain on the carpet.

As a pilot I’m interested in looking after the safety of my passengers and crew from all dangers. That includes trigger happy government policy.

26th Dec 2006, 14:32
I don't know guys, but to me it sounds crazy to leave a computer taxing-taking off-flying etc. (with out pilots) What if something goes wrong?? As many of you allready wrote, how in heaven is a computer going to deal with problems like ILS failures, engine failures.. and so on.. The amount of money that should be used for a computer being able to fly an aircraft with thoose kind of problems would be too way expensive..

The link that Check Airman posted shows allready the results of an aircraft FULLY flown by a computer and the consequences of it.

No way :=

26th Dec 2006, 15:46
Trouble with the cousins is that they take time to rise and then they go ape and knee-jerking becomes a national sport.

Epic quote! :}