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# code to perform landing on autopilot possible?

M

Jan 1, 1970
0
J

#### Jon Slaughter

Jan 1, 1970
0
I was reading up on several air disasters, among them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_522

and I was wondering, with today's hardware, would it be possible for
an autopilot computer system to land the airplane at the nearest
airport (or in the nearest flat area) in the event that the pilot was
incapacitated, or in the event that cabin depressurization was
detected at high altitude?

Maybe... Flight simulators do it all the time.

I imagine that the number of actual crashes due to a pilot that was
unavailable compared to the overall crashes is pretty insignificant.
(although its much larger for smaller planes/solo pilots) Its not really in
the interest of the airlines to do such a think because chances are it won't
save that many lifes(and hence that much money). It might be fessible for
smaller planes but I doubt there is any real demand for it. Someone would
not only have to develop the system but also scout hundreds of thousands of
locations and somehow get permission to use them. Also there might be legal
reasons why someone wouldn't want to develop such a system. If the autopilot
plows into a group of small children then who's going to get blamed?

N

#### Nobody

Jan 1, 1970
0
I was reading up on several air disasters, among them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_522

and I was wondering, with today's hardware, would it be possible for
an autopilot computer system to land the airplane at the nearest
airport (or in the nearest flat area) in the event that the pilot was
incapacitated, or in the event that cabin depressurization was
detected at high altitude?

Modern passenger aircraft routinely land on auto-pilot; that's the easy
part.

Having it select a nearby airport and a suitable approach route is
somewhat harder. For a start, it isn't going to be able navigate around
other air traffic, so the system would need to be able to integrate with
ATC, and you would need to ensure that it only activated in airspace under
such control.

It would also need up-to-date information on (non-)availability of
specific airports, e.g. due to maintenance, weather conditions, etc.

I think that, realistically, such a system would need to be designed to
be activated manually, e.g. via a control transmission from ATC giving it
a new flight plan. You would need strong authentication mechanisms so
that a terrorist can't tell it to land on an obstructed runway, fly
into a restricted area with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy, etc.

R

#### Rene Tschaggelar

Jan 1, 1970
0
I was reading up on several air disasters, among them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_522

and I was wondering, with today's hardware, would it be possible for
an autopilot computer system to land the airplane at the nearest
airport (or in the nearest flat area) in the event that the pilot was
incapacitated, or in the event that cabin depressurization was
detected at high altitude?

Did you ever do a landing ?
The tower tells you which track, perhaps it is the 09,
perhaps the 27, depending on local winds. When the
track(s) are busy, the tower tells you to stand by
at Echo at 2500 feet, the tower also warns you about
an approaching aircraft from the west at possibly
2000 feet. On the same airport, there also are gliding
planes operating. Watch them too. These guys are allowed
to radio in the local language, and they gladly do that.
The gliders have the right of way, by the way. They
cannot start through, nor take another round.

An automatic approach would be challenging, and
possibly be successful if all involved were cooperating.
In case of an accident, the insurances are known not
to be cooperating.

Rene

P

#### PeterD

Jan 1, 1970
0
I was reading up on several air disasters, among them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_522

and I was wondering, with today's hardware, would it be possible for
an autopilot computer system to land the airplane at the nearest
airport (or in the nearest flat area) in the event that the pilot was
incapacitated, or in the event that cabin depressurization was
detected at high altitude?

Michael

Autopilots in large planes are capable of taking off, flying to the
destination, and landing without any user (pilot) intervention.

Issues involved include

1. People don't trust 'em
2. They can't handle all conditions
3. They have problems with changes
4. People don't trust 'em

<g>

How would the autopilot know it was needed? Saying cabin
depressurization doesn't always mean the pilot is unable to fly. If
the auto-pilot was off, who would turn it on? If the auto-pilot was
on, how would it know there was a problem?

R

#### RST Engineering $$jw$$

Jan 1, 1970
0
The aircraft of the future will have three entities on the flight deck. A
computer to fly the airplane, a pilot to fly the airplane in the event of
the apparent malfunction of the computer, and a dog to bite the pilot if
(s)he attempts to fly the airplane.

Having said that, it would be relatively trivial to design such a system,
but to get everybody on board for the one-off instance of that one lone
incapacitation in the last googol of years isn't going to happen.

Jim

N

#### Nobody

Jan 1, 1970
0
How would the autopilot know it was needed? Saying cabin
depressurization doesn't always mean the pilot is unable to fly. If
the auto-pilot was off, who would turn it on? If the auto-pilot was
on, how would it know there was a problem?

One option would be a "dead man's handle", where the pilot has to respond
to occasional prompts, similar to a watchdog timer. Of course, the
lack of a response might mean that that the system which detects that the
pilot is still alive has simply stopped working.

Given that total pilot incapacitation is quite rare, it's doubtful that
you could come up with a system which prevents more accidents than it
causes.

P

#### Paul Hovnanian P.E.

Jan 1, 1970
0
I was reading up on several air disasters, among them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_522

and I was wondering, with today's hardware, would it be possible for
an autopilot computer system to land the airplane at the nearest
airport (or in the nearest flat area) in the event that the pilot was
incapacitated, or in the event that cabin depressurization was
detected at high altitude?

Michael

With the latest GPS gear, an uplink from ATC and suitable remote command
and control protocols, this could be done.

Problem: I was reading a while back where the Department of Defense
considers the outsourcing of avionics s/w development to third world
countries to be a major stumbling block in the development of robotic
battlefield systems. They are trying to figure out how to keep back
doors out of code that will be used for controlling autonomous weapons
systems. Imagine the havoc if some teenage hacker d00dz with a laptop
crack the system and get control of a missile equipped robot helicopter.
Or al Qaida.

This is the Department of Defense. If they are going to have trouble
ensuring clean and secure software, can you imagine how bad it must be
for commercial vendors? Back when I worked for Boeing, we couldn't
prevent the guys responsible for uploading avionics s/w to aircraft from
using the same (Windows) laptops for surfing suspect web sites
(unauthorized Pamela Anderson wallpaper on ATE equipment was one example
of this).

J

#### Joel Koltner

Jan 1, 1970
0
Paul Hovnanian P.E. said:
Back when I worked for Boeing, we couldn't
prevent the guys responsible for uploading avionics s/w to aircraft from
using the same (Windows) laptops for surfing suspect web sites

You had pretty poor IT guys, then -- you can lock down any modern Windows
machine to be *very* tight, only letting specific applications run and nothing
else, etc. You can also enable auditing such that it's clear if anyone's been
trying to tinker around with the configuration and react accordingly.

Often this sort of problem is indicative of no one communicating that there
really are important reasons not to "mess with" the ATE boxes and getting
employees to buy into that. It helps if they have their own "regular" PCs
where you do let them mess around and customize things, including downloading
Pamela Anderson wallpaper if they feel like it.

P

#### Paul Hovnanian P.E.

Jan 1, 1970
0
Joel said:
You had pretty poor IT guys, then -- you can lock down any modern Windows
machine to be *very* tight, only letting specific applications run and nothing
else, etc. You can also enable auditing such that it's clear if anyone's been
trying to tinker around with the configuration and react accordingly.

We had Microsoft people come in and try. Perhaps they should hire the
mechanic that they caught* reinstalling it after they came in and locked
Windows 2000 down.
Often this sort of problem is indicative of no one communicating that there
really are important reasons not to "mess with" the ATE boxes and getting
employees to buy into that.

That'll never happen. That's why an OS needs security. The above bozo
was just goofing around, but if you depend upon goodwill, you'll never
prevent malicious attacks. (Memo to Osama bin Laden: It is against
company policy to tamper with critical avionics software. Your
compliance is kindly requested.)
It helps if they have their own "regular" PCs
where you do let them mess around and customize things, including downloading
Pamela Anderson wallpaper if they feel like it.

*This guy wasn't too bright. The ATE equipment in question is a big rack
mounted unit sitting in the middle of the shop floor. The monitor is
sitting at eye level standing up (All right, no 'short' jokes!).
Eventually, someone spotted what he was doing from 50 or 100 feet away,
called management and had his ass canned.

J

#### Joel Koltner

Jan 1, 1970
0
Paul Hovnanian P.E. said:
We had Microsoft people come in and try.

"Microsoft people" come in all ranges of skill levels?

Somewhere there's a registry key that points to the wallpaper that the desktop
loads. If that key's permissions are changes so that only, e.g., Admins can
write to it (or even read it!), I think you'd be set. I do acknowledge that
Microsoft often makes this thing harder than it should be, though -- they have
a "prevent changing wallpaper" key in the registry that isn't always
respected, for instance! (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/327998)

Or was the problem that your ATE box had crappy software that required admin
rights to operate? :-(

J

#### Jim Stewart

Jan 1, 1970
0
Paul said:
We had Microsoft people come in and try. Perhaps they should hire the
mechanic that they caught* reinstalling it after they came in and locked
Windows 2000 down.

I'm a little unclear on how this could
have happened. Most PC BIOS let you
limit booting to the hard drive and then
allow you to password protect the BIOS
from changes. Been there, done that
years ago at a McDonald/Douglas plant.

M

#### [email protected]

Jan 1, 1970
0
Did you ever do a landing ?
The tower tells you which track, perhaps it is the 09,
perhaps the 27, depending on local winds. When the
track(s) are busy, the tower tells you to stand by
at Echo at 2500 feet, the tower also warns you about
an approaching aircraft from the west at possibly
2000 feet. On the same airport, there also are gliding
planes operating. Watch them too. These guys are allowed
to radio in the local language, and they gladly do that.
The gliders have the right of way, by the way. They
cannot start through, nor take another round.

An automatic approach would be challenging, and
possibly be successful if all involved were cooperating.
In case of an accident, the insurances are known not
to be cooperating.

Rene

Never flown an aircraft, actually.

In an emergency, the onboard computer could send a message to the
nearest airport, requesting permission to land; if no response came
from that airport, or if permission were denied, the computer would
send a message to the next closest airport, continuing the process
until the computer decides that a field landing would be wisest before
fuel runs out.

Granted, the plane would probably need to know the local geology, so
that it doesn't plow into a mountain while trying to land.

If permission were granted, the airport would pretty much have to
close the runways to all other traffic, while the plane tried to
land. (Unless the firmware were really sophisticated, and could play
nicely with other pilots.)

Alternatively, if the onboard computer decided pilots were
incapacitated (no one responds to a voice warning for 15 minutes, for
instance) the computer could request the nearest control tower to
"land" the plane wirelessly via joystick. This would require the
necessary hardware be installed at each tower, though.

Michael

P

#### Paul Hovnanian P.E.

Jan 1, 1970
0
Jim said:
I'm a little unclear on how this could
have happened. Most PC BIOS let you
limit booting to the hard drive and then
allow you to password protect the BIOS
from changes. Been there, done that
years ago at a McDonald/Douglas plant.

You can't stop people from hacking Windows. From what I've been told,
acquiring root privileges is pretty simple. I don't know personally. I
wouldn't allow Windows on my property.

J

#### JosephKK

Jan 1, 1970
0
[email protected] [email protected] posted to
sci.electronics.design:
I was reading up on several air disasters, among them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_522

and I was wondering, with today's hardware, would it be possible for
an autopilot computer system to land the airplane at the nearest
airport (or in the nearest flat area) in the event that the pilot
was incapacitated, or in the event that cabin depressurization was
detected at high altitude?

Michael

The fundamental technology is not so much the issue, the US Navy had
carrier controlled landing in the early 1970's. While it worked,
only pilots commanded to use it would. It tended to be rather scary
for anyone conscious on-board.

J

#### JosephKK

Jan 1, 1970
0
[email protected] [email protected] posted to
sci.electronics.design:
Never flown an aircraft, actually.

In an emergency, the onboard computer could send a message to the
nearest airport, requesting permission to land; if no response came
from that airport, or if permission were denied, the computer would
send a message to the next closest airport, continuing the process
until the computer decides that a field landing would be wisest
before fuel runs out.

Granted, the plane would probably need to know the local geology, so
that it doesn't plow into a mountain while trying to land.

If permission were granted, the airport would pretty much have to
close the runways to all other traffic, while the plane tried to
land. (Unless the firmware were really sophisticated, and could
play nicely with other pilots.)

Alternatively, if the onboard computer decided pilots were
incapacitated (no one responds to a voice warning for 15 minutes,
for instance) the computer could request the nearest control tower
to
"land" the plane wirelessly via joystick. This would require the
necessary hardware be installed at each tower, though.

Michael

As initiated by another the range of available runway length, air
traffic control think LAX and Hawthorne Municipal airport which is
within the LAX control envelope. Think about no tower VFR fields,
competing traffic (sometimes unpowered) and very local geography. A
truly general solution that is acceptable may be very difficult.

There usually would not be any joysticks at each local tower, air
traffic controllers may not be pilots. The computers would have to
handle that, and the required databases would be immense.

J

#### JosephKK

Jan 1, 1970
0
RST Engineering (jw) [email protected] posted to
sci.electronics.design:
The aircraft of the future will have three entities on the flight
deck. A computer to fly the airplane, a pilot to fly the airplane
in the event of the apparent malfunction of the computer, and a dog
to bite the pilot if (s)he attempts to fly the airplane.

Having said that, it would be relatively trivial to design such a
system, but to get everybody on board for the one-off instance of
that one lone incapacitation in the last googol of years isn't going
to happen.

Jim

Very funny. Too bad you have not been reading the stuff i usually get
about various aircraft crashes that i get. You could not have made
that joke then.

And absolutely nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong...

M

#### [email protected]

Jan 1, 1970
0
[email protected] [email protected] posted to
sci.electronics.design:

The fundamental technology is not so much the issue, the US Navy had
carrier controlled landing in the early 1970's. While it worked,
only pilots commanded to use it would. It tended to be rather scary
for anyone conscious on-board.

Wow. Did it engage if a pilot blacked out from pulling too many Gs?

Is this feature still available in modern fighter aircraft?

N

#### Nobody

Jan 1, 1970
0
Very funny. Too bad you have not been reading the stuff i usually get
about various aircraft crashes that i get. You could not have made
that joke then.

And absolutely nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong...

The issue isn't that such a system would never come in useful. The issue
is that the number of cases is too small to be worth either the additional
cost or the risks introduced by the additional complexity.

J

#### JosephKK

Jan 1, 1970
0
Paul Hovnanian P.E. [email protected] posted to
sci.electronics.design:
You can't stop people from hacking Windows. From what I've been
told, acquiring root privileges is pretty simple. I don't know
personally. I wouldn't allow Windows on my property.

Yes, if Sony had no problem installing root kits on millions of PC's
it can't be very hard. Admitted, they were probably not protected
worth a tinkers damn though.

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