View Full Version : ATC to Land Distressed Aircraft by Remote Control? - Bush

28th Sep 2001, 04:49
From the Washington Post's coverage of President Bush's speech at ORD:

"He said the government will offer grants to develop new airline safety technology, such as video systems to allow pilots to monitor the passenger cabin and transponders that cannot be shut off from the cockpit and continuously relay a plane's location to air traffic controllers. >>He also said the government will explore the possibility of allowing air traffic controllers to take over the helm of a plane in trouble and land it by remote control. Aviation experts say such technology is well within reach.<<"

This would be something new, even if the technology is feasible on newer fly by wire aircraft, would the cost of training and other issues be worth whatever incremental margin of safety this would add? Sounds a lot like the research to control aircraft attitude by thrust alone proposed after the UAL Sioux City DC-10 crash. Perhaps not worth the money invested considering the low probability that it would indeed save lives someday.

The cabin video and transponder proposals sound much more reasonable to me.


28th Sep 2001, 08:45
For ATC to take over the helm of a plane in trouble implies that there is no-one on board the aircraft capable of piloting the aeroplane, otherwise someone would.That only leaves a few possibilities.

The first is that the pilots are all dead or incapacitated and the hijackers cannot fly the aircraft - pretty dumb move on their part! Otherwise any pilot trained terrorists would disconnect the remote flight system and do what they wanted with the aeroplane. At least, the terrorists would simply find some way to crash the aeroplane, such as shutting down the engines, rather than be flown quietly to jail.

The second possibility is that the FAA is thinking in terms of gassing everyone on the aeroplane to secure it. Then the plane would have to be landed from outside.

The third possibility is that the Feds are thinking of installing some sort of automatic system which is totally separate from the normal aircraft control system and which can be used to over-ride them. Next time ATC says "hold 210 till the marker" they can just fly the aircraft for you!

Where is Boy George getting his ideas from? No wonder security is a mess if the same people are advising him who bought up this idea. The FAA cannot even keep their present radars working. Any high tech. system they have tried to install has been a disaster with massive delays and cost overruns. How would controllers be trained and kept current? What technology would be needed? The aircraft installation alone would be enormously complex and expensive.

Sounds like a turf grab by the FAA to me.

How many sky marshals could you buy for the R&D costs of this project? To be more accurate, it would probably be cheaper and quicker to buy a few of the more troublesome countries than finance this idea.

I sure hope it works better than the missile defence system!

28th Sep 2001, 09:10
Didn't someone try this with an old 707 during an experiment? Trying out a new fuel? It didn't work then...and the remote pilot must have had hours of pratice!!!

West Coast
28th Sep 2001, 09:51
The technology to fly the aircraft already exists to a limited degree in the military through data links. Autoland capability has also been around for awhile. Don't discount the idea out of hand.

28th Sep 2001, 12:37
Yes, it is a brilliant idea. This way, you don't even have to be on the plane to hijack it. Just take over the ATC center which is probably a lot easier - or duplicate the comms somehow. Gee, now a terrorist won't even have to be onboard the plane to crash it...


Now if the plane instead goes to a CAT III alternate (lots of those all over as we all know) automatically when a panic button is hit, the idea is just outrageously ridiculous, not criminally stupid.


28th Sep 2001, 12:44
Also, what happens if the Terrorists jammed the radio datalink.....? :eek:

.....scary........ :eek:

The technology isn't easy to come by, but then it's not easy to train B767 pilots and they managed it. No shortage of electronics engineers out there..... :rolleyes:

All you do is rebroadcast the RF signal in antiphase......