Well aviation has suffered a huge loss and I believe something should be done aobut it. Now having read everyone's posts, I do see some rather credible ideas, I also happen to know about the El Al "Flight Marshalls".
not long ago there was, to the best of my knowledge, a possibility of inflight agents, sort of an air police, to be aboard every U.S. flight.
However the idea did not fly due to the cost of supplying the agents themselves, and the costly wages that would have to be given to those who applied for the job.
Now that a distaster of this magnitude has happened, however, I think the U.S., or the world for that matter, would be greatly justified in putting perhaps two agents aboard every U.S. domestic and international flight.
If a hijacker were to take control of the aircraft, the agent, who would look like nothing more than an average passenger, would take action, parhaps with the use of a weapon.
This is a very good idea and I think it might save thousands of lives if implemented. The agents should also be knowledgeable in the field of aviation, i.e., they should be able to fly the aircraft if the crew is unable.
There is one other major risk to this, however. And that is the exchange of internal cabin gunfire. Firing any waepon in an aircraft poses the serious threat of decompression. A panicked and/or enraged terrorist, suddenly confronted with an armed agent, may open fire. Depending on the altitude, this might cause a decompression which might blow the aircraft apart or send the pax hurling through space.
That is not a good outcome. Therefore I think agents SHOULD be put on aircraft, but with some other form of weapon, yet just as effective.
On another note, I also believe the panic button is a great, fantasic idea, and probably even better than the inflight agent (police officer) idea. First off, some here complain that if they automate a "panic buttong" they might as well eliminate pilots altogether, which isn't a good idea since aviation isn't aviation without pilots.
However, current technology allows us to plan waypoints into a GPS, program the autopilot to fly each leg and turn at waypoints. A turn of the ILS nagivation know and you can hit "autoland" and the plane lands by itself.
IF we've come that far surely we can rpogram the plane to pick up the ILS signal from the aiport without pilot aid in a terrorist situation.
I am almost completely certain that an automated panic button would not replace the pilots is regularly scheduled commercial flights. And if ti did, only for a short while. Why? Because a human being has the ability to reason and that in itself can saved lives. A terrorist situation is different and I will get to that in a moment. When aircraft systems fail, the human mind can bring an aircraft in safely. Not along ago I think four pilots were awarded for heroism in the cockpit, for saving lives when aircraft malfunctioned.
The pilot is a valuable tool and will not be disposed of. Likewise, the pilots are not allowed to use the panic button in any situation other than a terrorist attack or any situation the prevents the use of normal and backup flight insturments and controls. automated flight should be treated as a last resort, to be used in the most serious of situations.
Someone said that people on the ground would be complaining about automated "Aircraft in panic" landing at their airport.
Actually I disagree. See I highly doubt that the panic button will be used often, but when it is needed it should be there. If an aircraft in an otherwise doomed situation lands safely because a terroritst was unable to use the flight controls, people on the ground will be glad that the pax made it back alive instead of in a heap at the bottom of the World Trade Center.
I don't think there will be as many complaints about it as one might think.
Expensive, yes. Worth it, you bet. Even one life saved makes it worth it.
On another note, someone suggested that autoland not be used, and the aircraft simply fly in a circle over the airport.
This is not a logical idea. There are anumber of reasons:
First, how are you going to get the pax out and to safety? An override switch? Well who's to say then when you override it, the terrorist takes control?
Second, if the terrorist is disabled by the pax, how are you going to land the plane? What if the flight crew is dead or injured? Are you going to play Airport 75 and drop someone into the plane on a tether?
Third, if the terrorist is not disabled, what will you do when the aircraft runs out of fuel. It will drop to the ground and kill hundreds of people, or at least destroy much property, also ending the lives of those aboard.
Options: People on the outside, say the tower, could remote control the aircraft.
No, too expensive and too difficult, it'd require extesive training to do that and the odds are against them anyway.
Option#2- aircraft could cirle above airport, and tower would send detailed autoland informations, such as ILS signal, to advanced panic autoland, which the plane's computer would compute, feed into the autopilot, and ladn the aircraft.
I like this idea.
I think the panic button should bring the plane over the airport, upon which time the computer controlling the autopilot would recieve digitally encoded information from the tower which would rpgram the autopilot to land on a specific runway and utilize an ILS.
I believe that is our best option.
Now I really hope I didn't offend anyone here by pointing out flaws in ideas, but if a solution is to be found, it should be the best.
The panic button is the best idea. A computer failure could and should be rare. As said earlier, the internal computer which controls all the panic button flight movements should be hidden, away from the flight deck, perhaps in the tail. Yes, the tail is a good idea.
This makes it impossible for the hijackers or even crew to access the main computer unless accessed from the outside, on the ground.