Video: Say, how about having only one pilot on commercial flights?

posted at 10:41 am on May 20, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The rapid expansion of drone technology has many applications — but not all of them particularly welcome, as privacy activists are discovering. Here’s another that might have even more concerned about the future of pilotless aviation.  According to CBS, reporting from an industry source, airlines are investigating the idea of putting co-pilots on the ground rather than in the cockpit, using UAV technology to help fly commercial aircraft:

On Friday, a respected aviation blog called“Operationally Speaking” said research is underway. Boeing and a number of big European manufacturers are reportedly interested.

It would work like this: a co-pilot would be stationed on the ground. That co-pilot would essentially act like the pilot of an unmanned drone. They would be able to take “remote control” of the flight if needed.

CBS asked legendary pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to offer his thoughts on single-pilot commercial flights.  His reaction came in a single word — “ludicrous”:

“What we’ve learned in aviation is how to take individuals and help them create a very effective team so that they can handle the unexpected and solve whatever problem that may come and that just can’t be done remotely,” he said. “That has to be done in the cockpit with both people experiencing the same situation, feeling the same vibrations, smelling the same electrical odors or whatever is going on, sometimes wordlessly, because the workload can be so high, you sometimes can’t have a conversation with someone on the ground.”

Sullenberger, famous for his “Miracle on the Hudson” landing, said he wouldn’t have had a successful landing if his co-pilot Jeff Skiles had not been at his side while he was trying to land US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. Sullenberger said, “If Jeff Skiles had been on the ground … there’s absolutely no way. It could not have been.” …

“Technology can only do what has been foreseen and for which it has been programmed and it’s the human element working in this human and technology system that we have in our cockpit that can innovate, can take what we do know and apply it in a new way to solve in 208 seconds, in our case, a problem that we had never seen before.”

That’s not to say that the technology has no upside.  Terrorists on 9/11 were able to successfully seize the cockpits of planes for which they only had a minimum of training and turn them into guided missiles. Only the counterattack from the heroes of United 93 foiled the fourth plane from carrying out an attack on the capital.  If we had that kind of full remote-control capability, we may have been able to stop one or more of those attacks, and perhaps the heroes of United 93 would not have needed to make that counterattack at all.

If the UAV technology could be adapted for commercial flights, that would seem to be its best use — ensuring that any hijackers who manage to get that far end up with no control of the aircraft anyway.  For that, though, you’d only need a few pilots on the ground ready to take control in an emergency rather than one for every flight in the air, and you’d also need to make security so robust that hijackers couldn’t do the same thing from the ground themselves.  We should keep developing the technology but reconsider the application.

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What could go wrong?

changer1701 on May 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM

ensuring that any hijackers who manage to get that far end up with no control of the aircraft anyway.

Then lets trade..
Automated pilots and no junk handling…

Electrongod on May 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM

I’m neither a pilot nor a psychologist, but I would think that in an emergency situation one’s susceptibility to panic and poor decision-making would be much higher if one were physically alone.

Chuckles3 on May 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM

What’s next, One engine–one stew–one gal of fuel?

Don L on May 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM

ummm….no

If we had that kind of full remote-control capability, we may have been able to stop one or more of those attacks

or make it easier?????

dmann on May 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM

You would never ever ever never EVER get me on such a plane, I hate flying as it is.

Bishop on May 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM

My dad has 25 yrs under his belt at AA, doing mainly international. I don’t think he’d be too keen flying a Triple 7 over the pond to the UK, particularly when that flight route has been routinely targeted by AQ.

blatantblue on May 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Technology?

Maybe with these new 3-d printers we can print up and extra pilot or two?

Don L on May 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Terrorists on 9/11 were able to successfully seize the cockpits of planes

only due to a pussified no resistance doctrine.

dmacleo on May 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Airbus has been pursuing this type of technology, where the plane will override the pilot’s input when the parameters exceed those set in its programming. A number of crashes have resulted from this.

Reminds me of the old joke about the new plane that only needed one pilot and a dog. The job of the pilot is to watch the plane fly itself; the job of the dog is to bite the pilot if he tries to push any buttons.

Socratease on May 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM

What’s next, One engine–one stew–one gal of fuel?

Oh, yeah….if it can save the airlines tons of money on equipment, maintenance, fuel and salaries, they’d certainly explore the feasibility.

As for only one pilot —- why not go full computerization and eliminate pilots altogether. Does a plane really need even one?

After all humans are often unreliable and prone to error.

/s

hawkeye54 on May 20, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Technology?

Maybe with these new 3-d printers we can print up and extra pilot or two?

Don L on May 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Like Otto the Pilot in “Airplane!”?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQbj9uvYL8I

Del Dolemonte on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Why have any human pilots…Why have any human automobile drivers…Why have any human doctors…

We already have a disengaged remote controlled presidency. He knows nothing about what’s going on around him…in fact most of his cabinet are remote and know nothing about what’s going on around them either.

workingclass artist on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

There is merit to this from a security standpoint. Like if you think of what could have been better on 9/11 had they been able to take control from the ground. Think of the locked cage in a jewelry store in a bad neighborhood. However…

…let’s not be so stupid to think that you’d ever want to have this as a routine.

I am reminded of a time when this sweet old lady was scared to death of flying in the snow. The captain summoned her to the cockpit, where he showed her the lining of his hat and the picture of his wife and baby girl, and the first officer did the same. THe captain explained to the old lady that if flying in that weather was going to jeopardize him getting home to see his wife and kid, he wouldn’t be doing it. She felt a lot better.

Part of what makes it so you can be safe on an airplane is that the pilot has to sit in the same plane that his/her passengers do. If you crash, they crash. That’s why pilots don’t take unneccesary risks. A pilot on the ground does not have the same investment.

CycloneCDB on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

For that, though, you’d only need a few pilots on the ground ready to take control in an emergency rather than one for every flight in the air, and you’d also need to make security so robust that hijackers couldn’t do the same thing from the ground themselves.

This is why there should always be a pilot on-board a any commercial aircraft. Pilotless freight will be here someday whether we like it or not, but without a pilot to sever the a remote hijacker bad things will happen. And that’s all it takes to prevent a remote hijacking. A pilot to turn off the receiver.

NotCoach on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Best argument I’ve heard for road trips.

Flying would never again be an option. No way, Jose.

tru2tx on May 20, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Sure…Not like there are any problems with hackers or anything…Oh Wait…

workingclass artist on May 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Heeeeey! If you were a copilot, you could come to work drunk without worrying about dying if you crash. Nice.

SailorMark on May 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Hey why have air crew on board at all.

Make flying like a ride at Disney where some somebody makes sure you’re buckled in, close the door, and let the ride begin. And let’s make the overhead bins into pay lockers with a vending machine next to the restrooms in case you get thirsty.

I’m sorry but the report that came out last week shows that airlines make billions on all the fees they charge. For the kind of money the public has to pay in fees, it isn’t too much to expect a full crew in the cockpit.

Happy Nomad on May 20, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Heeeeey! If you were a copilot, you could come to work drunk without worrying about dying if you crash. Nice.

SailorMark on May 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM

And why couldn’t the same co-pilot handle more than one flight at the same time- multitasking. What could possibly go wrong.

Happy Nomad on May 20, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Why even pressurize the planes or heat them. Give every passenger a B-17 gunner’s flying suit, hook them up to oxygen and tell them to grab a spot on the deck somewhere.

Bishop on May 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM

There is merit to this from a security standpoint. Like if you think of what could have been better on 9/11 had they been able to take control from the ground. CycloneCDB on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

I guess that makes a lot of sense, but only if you’re not asking that question about the terrorists.

Don L on May 20, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Why even pressurize the planes or heat them. Give every passenger a B-17 gunner’s flying suit, hook them up to oxygen and tell them to grab a spot on the deck somewhere.

Bishop on May 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Gosh, you just perfectly described what happens when your are told to enter door “B” by the Obamacare Death Panels (door “C” folks get to pilot the plane)

Don L on May 20, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Sully missed a golden opportunity to say “Surely you can’t be serious.”

Punch Rockgroin on May 20, 2013 at 11:09 AM

And of course there’s no chance that a terrorist or some teenage hacker in his basement can take control and crash the plane. No, of course not. /sarc

jnelchef on May 20, 2013 at 11:09 AM

As the old story goes, the ideal crew for an airliner is one pilot and a dog. The pilot’s job is to monitor the controls and feed the dog. The dog’s job is to bite the pilot if he actually touches any of the controls.

NeighborhoodCatLady on May 20, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Punch Rockgroin on May 20, 2013 at 11:09 AM

I am serious. And stop calling me Shirley.

SailorMark on May 20, 2013 at 11:12 AM

If we had that kind of full remote-control capability, we may have been able to stop one or more of those attacks

Yes, but you’ll be opening the door for so many more new kinds of attacks. The terrorists will be able to hijack planes from home.

Phoenician on May 20, 2013 at 11:15 AM

I’m not there yet.

Cindy Munford on May 20, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Ya know, when the hydraulics fail, I hope the co-pilot on the ground can exercise enough remote muscle power to help the pilot control the aircraft. Or, I suppose they will both be on the ground (or in it).

Old Country Boy on May 20, 2013 at 11:16 AM

So instead of having to smuggle weapons on board, would be hijackers just have to figure out how to hack the remote control system?

Rip Ford on May 20, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Why even pressurize the planes or heat them. Give every passenger a B-17 gunner’s flying suit, hook them up to oxygen and tell them to grab a spot on the deck somewhere.

Bishop on May 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Throw in a parachute rack and charge a deposit fee and you wouldn’t even have to land the plane that much.

Happy Nomad on May 20, 2013 at 11:20 AM

I’m thinking about the pilot who dead-sticked the Airbus into the Hudson River. Ask the passengers if they would have trusted some guy with a cup of coffee and a joystick to land it, or a pilot with his own life on the line with the help of his co-pilot to focus on landing that plane.

itsspideyman on May 20, 2013 at 11:23 AM

I would like the pilot to have some “stake” in me getting down safely, I would never ride in a remote controled airliner :)

rgranger on May 20, 2013 at 11:25 AM

This is the kind of craziness that emmenates from a bureaucracy, even a corporate one. Most airlines have executives who have never been pilots of large, multi-engine aircraft and they are always looking for ways to improve their bottom lines! Usually, at the expense of the traveling public. In this case, the sheer idocy of such an idea, confirms why this pilot is more likely to drive rather than fly using commercial aviation….certainly, if this idea is ever implemented!

tomshup on May 20, 2013 at 11:25 AM

This idea has upsides and downsides. As others have mentioned, the day will come that freight air will be automated and have little if any human interaction. If a shipment of junk mail and Amazon trinkets crashes into the ocean, who is going to miss it? On the other hand, if Grandma goes down . . . that’s another story.

I work in radio, where what we do is largely automated (although it doesn’t sound like that). Even still, we always have someone on hand in case the system decides to crash. Because at some point, on some day, it inevitably will. And then someone has to be there to throw a CD on the air, open the mic, and talk with the people while the technicians are running around trying to figure things out. Or if there’s an earthquake or a hurricane or some other unforeseen event, someone needs to be there to tell the people what’s going on. You can’t keep playing David Jeremiah or Charles Stanley when there’s a tsunami coming ashore.

BUT – automating the radio station has allowed us to do an awful lot more with an awful lot fewer staff. It frees us up to go out to events, have a community presence, have a large Web presence, etc. etc. So it cuts both ways.

JoseQuinones on May 20, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Ya know, when the hydraulics fail, I hope the co-pilot on the ground can exercise enough remote muscle power to help the pilot control the aircraft. Or, I suppose they will both be on the ground (or in it).

Old Country Boy on May 20, 2013 at 11:16 AM

All fly by wire now so no muscle input needed.

Dr. Frank Enstine on May 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Yes, instead of having multiple pilots in multiple vehicles lets have only a few pilots in ONE central, easily targeted location.

Brilliant!

thgrant on May 20, 2013 at 11:35 AM

It would work like this: a co-pilot would be stationed on the ground. That co-pilot would essentially act like the pilot of an unmanned drone. They would be able to take “remote control” of the flight if needed.

Voice control in Jive?

Shy Guy on May 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Part of what makes it so you can be safe on an airplane is that the pilot has to sit in the same plane that his/her passengers do. If you crash, they crash. That’s why pilots don’t take unneccesary risks. A pilot on the ground does not have the same investment.

CycloneCDB on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Or as one pilot told me: “I get there 30 feet before you do.”

BTW, Sully has his own Facebook page. Doesn’t post much, buy when he does it’s always interesting.

Del Dolemonte on May 20, 2013 at 11:43 AM

I guess that makes a lot of sense, but only if you’re not asking that question about the terrorists.

Don L on May 20, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Yep – a lot of vetting yet to be done. I am not saying this is a great idea – just saying it’s worth looking into as a contingency - not as a primary way of piloting the aircraft.

CycloneCDB on May 20, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Chariots of Nurse Practitioners rain down from the heavens!

derit on May 20, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Why even pressurize the planes or heat them. Give every passenger a B-17 gunner’s flying suit, hook them up to oxygen and tell them to grab a spot on the deck somewhere.

Bishop on May 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM

They could just put us all in individual parasails and tow us behind. Then if the drone goes wonky we just cut the tether and all float down to the ground. Hopefully ground. Or shallow water. Warm, shallow water. But not the Everglades. Or anywhere in Louisiana, actually.

TexasDan on May 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Remote piloting by a human being is probably not advisable. Sully is basically right: no flight simulator is going to give a remote pilot all the sensory and other cues as to the plane’s position and activity, and it would make it more difficult for the pilot and co-pilot to communicate and coordinate efforts in an emergency. And in a plane-crash scenario, seconds count. How long would it take a remote pilot to get up to speed on what’s happening?

If you are going to remove co-pilots from flights, I think you would need to replace the co-pilot with a computer pilot. I’m just not sure whether artificial intelligence technology has advanced to the point where a computer would be able to reliably assess the ground, find the right place to land, and safely bring a distressed flight down itself.

Outlander on May 20, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Of course, remotely piloted commercial aviation opens the door for a digital 9/11 where you hijack the signal…

drlax15m on May 20, 2013 at 12:08 PM

I’m thinking about the pilot who dead-sticked the Airbus into the Hudson River. Ask the passengers if they would have trusted some guy with a cup of coffee and a joystick to land it, or a pilot with his own life on the line with the help of his co-pilot to focus on landing that plane.

itsspideyman on May 20, 2013 at 11:23 AM

What really impressed me about that was how calm he was. Did you listen to the radio broadcasts? You never heard tension or panic in his voice. And, they have the photos: Sully was the last man off the plane. (Unlike in Italy, where the captain of that cruise ship ran for the exits and abandoned his crew and passengers!)

Of course, Sully was a military pilot. They teach discipline and commitment.

Outlander on May 20, 2013 at 12:09 PM

I’m thinking about the pilot who dead-sticked the Airbus into the Hudson River. Ask the passengers if they would have trusted some guy with a cup of coffee and a joystick to land it, or a pilot with his own life on the line with the help of his co-pilot to focus on landing that plane.

itsspideyman on May 20, 2013 at 11:23 AM

That’s him in the video.

TexasDan on May 20, 2013 at 12:09 PM

the remote hijacking scenario was thought of even before 9/11 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3WW6eoLcLI

drlax15m on May 20, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Boy the hackers will have fun with this!

They’ll be able to stage aerial dogfights with actual aircraft with people on board. Won’t that be fun?

Maybe the plane will just get re-routed, if you’re lucky. To the nearest mountain or ocean if you aren’t.

Because those UAV’s have already had hacking problems… so why not keep an actual person in the loop and at the controls, instead? And those drones that so many want to fly around the US? Yeah, prime hacking targets, as well. The electronic shoot-down will soon be a feature of daily life in the US, with drones crashing from the sky into major urban areas and the culprits will be untraceable.

Such a love of technology!

Such a shallow grasp of human nature.

ajacksonian on May 20, 2013 at 12:17 PM

If we had that kind of full remote-control capability, we may have been able to stop one or more of those attacks, and perhaps the heroes of United 93 would not have needed to make that counterattack at all.

Not likely. The hijackers just would have learned to pull the fuse on that system as the first thing they did.

That’s assuming they wouldn’t just turn the technology around and hijack the airplane from the relative comfort of their living room, leaving the regular pilots on board wondering just what the heck was happening.

GWB on May 20, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Boy the hackers will have fun with this!

They’ll be able to stage aerial dogfights with actual aircraft with people on board. Won’t that be fun?

Maybe the plane will just get re-routed, if you’re lucky. To the nearest mountain or ocean if you aren’t.

Because those UAV’s have already had hacking problems… so why not keep an actual person in the loop and at the controls, instead? And those drones that so many want to fly around the US? Yeah, prime hacking targets, as well. The electronic shoot-down will soon be a feature of daily life in the US, with drones crashing from the sky into major urban areas and the culprits will be untraceable.

Such a love of technology!

Such a shallow grasp of human nature.

ajacksonian on May 20, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Eric Holder will also be able to sign an administrative warrant to reroute a plane to fly over some TEA Party rally and take a look.

slickwillie2001 on May 20, 2013 at 12:26 PM

http://pilotsfor911truth.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=21049
This has nothing to do with terror….

timgibbonz on May 20, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Why not an inflatable co-pilot?

profitsbeard on May 20, 2013 at 12:35 PM

And you don’t need no stinking mamogram or prostate screening every year. You only need those expensive tests every 3 years or so.

stenwin77 on May 20, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I had to put my pilot career on hold because I could make more money changing oil at Midas than I would being a flight instructor or co-pilot of a regional jet. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of dollars it costs me to finish my training only to receive a big punch in the face once I finish. One of the instructors told me one day that he would be happy as a flight instructor if he could just be guaranteed a $20,000 a year salary.

NeverLiberal on May 20, 2013 at 12:46 PM

i think it would work fine. you have a human in the plane for that element (i trust technology more than humans, personally) and one on the ground who can probably think better under calm circumstances.

sully is just protecting jobs and the status quo here (i assume one guy on the ground could “co-pilot” multiple flights at a time).

9/10 technology is better than human. just a reminder, human’s suck, by and large.

truecon on May 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM

If we had that kind of full remote-control capability, we may have been able to stop one or more of those attacks

Trains are on tracks and they still manage to crash into each other when apparent computer controls fail.

LoganSix on May 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM

You have the ‘best’ example in the Airbus technology ‘taking over’ for what disaster spells like.

Schadenfreude on May 20, 2013 at 1:00 PM

(i trust technology more than humans, personally)

truecon on May 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM

You obviously don’t work much with technology, then.

Trains are on tracks and they still manage to crash into each other when apparent computer controls fail.

LoganSix on May 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM

And, moving at relatively slow speeds compared to aircraft. Oh, and on the ground, too.

Schadenfreude on May 20, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Are you talking about the mid-Atlantic crash?

GWB on May 20, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Part of what makes it so you can be safe on an airplane is that the pilot has to sit in the same plane that his/her passengers do. If you crash, they crash. That’s why pilots don’t take unneccesary risks. A pilot on the ground does not have the same investment.

CycloneCDB on May 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Exactly this. ^

Plus, a good pilot will feel his plane, and make minor navigational adjustments for gusts acting on control surfaces, for the prevailing wind aloft. (which is never as predicted, or stable across an entire flight path) And then you have to correct on the fly for Magnetic vs Gyroscopic compasses. Heaven forbid there’s even a slight bit of processor delay, or radio weirdness between the actual craft and the on-ground takeover enabled simulator when trying to read a VOR or ILS.

PXCharon on May 20, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Why stop at the co-pilot? Make the whole aircraft “pilot free” and put both of them on the ground. Many accidents in the past occurred because the stress of flying caused the pilot/co-pilot to overlook what was clearly observable to investigators.

While we are reducing aviation accidents every year the primary cause of most crashes remain pilot error and by a large percentage, at least in the 90% percentile.

I’m not a pilot but I do know that more and more planes are capable of taking off, flying a route and landing with little or no input from the pilots. Air Force 1 is a prime example of a plane that could fly without pilot input.

to reduce or eliminate aircraft accident in the future we are going to have to reduce or eliminate the stress on the flight deck.

Maybe this is the way to do that?

Personally, I’d be scared to death to get on a plane without at least one pilot.

But at one time I wasn’t scared of medicine bottles that weren’t tamper proof, cars without seat belts or airbags, of getting onto airplanes without a security screening, drinking out of someone else’s soda bottle, riding a bicycle without a helmet, etc., etc. the list is almost endless of the things we won’t do today that we were cheerfully willing to do 10-30 years ago.

I don’t think we can dismiss this out of hand. If nothing else install a system that could cut off the on board controls, even if we still have two pilots. How different 911 would have turned out if we could have completely taken over the aircraft from the ground. It might have been bad for the passengers but the twin towers would still be standing.

E9RET on May 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Are you talking about the mid-Atlantic crash?

GWB on May 20, 2013 at 1:08 PM

No – I’m talking about their computerized idiotic landing system.

Schadenfreude on May 20, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Many accidents in the past occurred because the stress of flying caused the pilot/co-pilot to overlook what was clearly observable to investigators.

E9RET on May 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM

And removing them from the aircraft will reduce the stress and allow them to more carefully observe? Ha! That’s libfreeordie level of ignorance right there. The reason it was “clearly observable to investigators” is because they are looking at it after the fact. Ever heard of “hindsight is 20/20″?

the primary cause of most crashes remain pilot error and by a large percentage, at least in the 90% percentile

You’re wrong. The consistent contributing factor is pilot error. This is because almost anything that goes wrong can be corrected by the pilot if he takes all the right actions – if he misses something, then that becomes a contributing factor of “pilot error”. In light aircraft (where the vast majority of civilian accidents occur) there is a higher likelihood of “pilot error” – primarily because they have less experience and less training than a commercial or ATP pilot. Of course, they also don’t have any paying passengers on board, either.

to reduce or eliminate aircraft accident in the future we are going to have to reduce or eliminate the stress on the flight deck

Again, “stress” is not the prime contributor to aircraft accidents in commercial aircraft. “Stress” is a major component in accident findings because there is already something else going wrong. You won’t remove that stress by putting the pilots somewhere else.

But at one time I wasn’t scared of medicine bottles that weren’t tamper proof, cars without seat belts or airbags, of getting onto airplanes without a security screening, drinking out of someone else’s soda bottle, riding a bicycle without a helmet, etc., etc. the list is almost endless of the things we won’t do today that we were cheerfully willing to do 10-30 years ago.

I’m still not scared by cars without airbags or seatbelts and pills in bottles that aren’t tamper-proof (and “tamper-proof” bottles aren’t). TSA screening at airports doesn’t make you one bit safer. And, I drink out of other people’s bottles all the time (with permission) and don’t necessarily wear a helmet when riding my bike. I don’t try to live in a protective bubble because you can’t keep yourself safe. You will die. The question is whether you’ll live before you do.

If nothing else install a system that could cut off the on board controls, even if we still have two pilots. How different 911 would have turned out if we could have completely taken over the aircraft from the ground. It might have been bad for the passengers but the twin towers would still be standing.

Any ability to “cut off the on board controls” could be overridden by simply pulling a fuse. If it couldn’t then no intelligent pilot would fly that aircraft – what happens if the system goes wonky and shuts the pilots out on a normal flight? What happens if someone hacks the controls and shuts them out? Can you say “9/11 with no risk to the terrorists”? Oh yeah, it would be very bad for the passengers, but it certainly wouldn’t guarantee the WTC was still standing.

GWB on May 20, 2013 at 2:36 PM

No – I’m talking about their computerized idiotic landing system.

Schadenfreude on May 20, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Have they had a problem with it? I haven’t been paying attention. (Or forgot.)

GWB on May 20, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Such a love of technology!

Such a shallow grasp of human nature.

ajacksonian on May 20, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Well said.
Are cost-cutting bureaucrats just Big-Bang-Theory geeks on a different substantive plane?

AesopFan on May 20, 2013 at 3:44 PM

If we had that kind of full remote-control capability, we may have been able to stop one or more of those attacks, and perhaps the heroes of United 93 would not have needed to make that counterattack at all.

…or Islamic hackers could have taken control of the UAV system and STILL carried out 9/11 without even setting foot in our country. If you think this type of system could be made secure, I need to introduce you to my cousin who audits utility networks for security. He’ll set you straight in a real hurry!

The more complicated you make a system, the easier it is to gum up the works. And I say that as an app dev person.

dominigan on May 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM

GWB

Now that was a spanking!!! ;-)

E9RET on May 21, 2013 at 11:56 AM