Sunday, December 03, 2006

Making airliners 'hijack-proof'

An interesting article on says that Boeing has a Canadian patent pending for "an anti-terrorist system that will automatically fly and land airliners if the flight crew is incapacitated or killed."
The "uninterruptible" autopilot will be activated by pilots or co-pilots flipping a switch, by sensors that detect excessive force against locked cabin doors or remotely by officials on the ground.

Once initiated "no one on board is capable controlling the flight," say documents related to the patent application by U.S. Boeing, the world's largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners.


The Boeing system will have an independent and inaccessible power source and once engaged, will fly the plane to a landing site, avoiding any large populated areas along the way, presumably in the event of the aircraft blowing up.
Commenting on this system, an article on the Aero-News Network says:
An autopilot that can fly and land an airliner isn't new, but one that activates itself when it senses excessive force on the cockpit door is (the crew may also activate it manually).

Even that feature isn't as controversial as this: once initiated, the system may not be disengaged by anyone aboard the aircraft.

Once engaged, Boeing's system will accept directions from ground-based controllers. The controversy stems from concerns over what might happen should the system malfunction -- or worse, should terrorists gain control of an aircraft from the ground.
Another system to make planes 'hijack-proof' is being developed in Europe. According to the article on
It includes installing ultra-sensitive microphones and cameras to monitor passengers in the cabin, digital fingerprints and iris scans for access to the cockpit, and an avoidance system to prevent planes crashing into buildings.
The threat detection component of that system already has been tested by Airbus.

Another article about these new technologies, on Flight, features a schematic diagram of how the Boeing system works (see link below). The system already has received a U.S. patent.

Sources: High-tech systems aspire to render airliners "hijack-proof" -
Boeing Patents Airliner Anti-Terrorist System -
Diagrams: Boeing patents anti-terrorism auto-land system for hijacked airliners -

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