First posted here y10912
Latest change Y10922

Copyright © 2001 by Hugo S. Cunningham

Video Telemetry

A Safety and anti-Hijack Tool

(13 Sep 2001)

1.  According to news reports, investigators are hoping to get clues
from the "black boxes" of the two jetliners that were crashed into the
World Trade Center.  But will they have survived the intense heat of
the fire?

  A.  Problems like this can be avoided by exploiting new
communications technology.  
    (1)  The most important "Black box" information should not only be
stored; it should also be instantaneously transmitted to ground
control.  Normally it could be erased without processing once the
plane lands.

    (2)  Video images (from hidden cameras) of the pilot's compartment
and the passenger compartment should be added to the "Black box" mix,
and also transmitted to ground control.  Normally, these images would
be ignored, but if a pilot, crew member, or certain passengers hit a
"panic button," a distress call would alert ground control to start
monitoring that aircraft's video.  Unless and until such technology
becomes cheap and redundant, however, there should be harsh penalties
for falsely tripping the "panic button."
    Ground control could assume control of the video, eg to get a
closeup of a suspect's face.  They could also make the decision
whether the pilot compartment door should remain blocked (to keep out
terrorists and nuts) or burst open (if the pilot himself is the nut,
as with Egypt Air 990 on 31 Oct 1999).
    (Fail-safe technology, eg the dual-key system, could provide
against the possibility that ground-control was infiltrated by a

    If we had such technology in place on 31 Oct 1999, we would have
had conclusive proof, whether Egypt Air 990 was downed by a rogue
co-pilot (the conclusion of US safety investigators), or whether there
was some undetected equipment malfunction (Egypt's view).  It would
not have mattered that Egypt Air 990's remains (and black box) were
scattered miles beneath the ocean.
    If we had such technology today, we would have many more clues
about the terrorists' identity, and their mode of operation.
    (And, if the pilot's door had been solidly barricaded, terrorist
control of the passenger compartment would not have mattered.  The
pilot compartment should have a separate sanitary facility and food

2.  Passengers should be encouraged to bring cell phones.  They have
provided much of our information, how the terrorists captured the
From: (Hugo S. Cunningham)
Subject: Safety and Anti-Hijack Tool: Video Telemetry
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 00:52:43 GMT
Organization: The Internet Access Company
Lines: 58
Message-ID: 9noktg$g0i$


On Wed 19 Sep 2001, p. B3, the "New York Times" ran an article on technological suggestions to thwart hijacker-terrorists.

Design Goal: Keeping Jets From Misuse as Missiles

"In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, aviation experts have begun considering changes in aircraft design that would help prevent terrorists from turning passenger airplanes into kamikaze weapons."
[rest of article deleted]

Experts advocated "broadband" communications between pilot and ground control (including the capabilities I suggested above), and said the technology was readily available.
They also noted new anti-collision technology that could be adapted to anti-terrorist purposes. The military have already been testing an automated pilot system to prevent high-performance fighters from flying into mountains; it could just as easily steer jetliners away from buildings.
GPS navigation technology could be used to create, in the airplane's navigation software, a "bubble" that blocks steering into a prohibited area, eg Manhattan.
Over the longer run, it should be possible for ground control to cut off the pilot/hijacker's controls entirely and land a plane safely from the ground. [Note: my fellow Usenet poster "Bloody Viking" pointed out that this, if not handled correctly, could create openings for ground-based terrorists to interfere with an airplane.]

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