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We can do remote control { September 28 2001 }

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War on terror - Landing by remote control doesn't quite fly with

By Jeff Long
Tribune staff reporter
Published September 28, 2001

The military has been flying planes and landing them safely by
remote control for years, but airline pilots say questions about
security must be answered before that technology is used aboard
commercial jetliners to thwart hijackers the way President Bush
suggested Thursday during a speech in Chicago. Pentagon's
Predator drone attacks Afganistan and Iraq

"We will look at all kinds of technologies to make sure that our
airlines are safe," Bush said at O'Hare International Airport.
"... including technology to enable controllers to take over
distressed aircraft and land it by remote control."

Pilots said after the speech that though they support other
proposals for airplane security that Bush outlined, the idea of
aircraft being remotely controlled concerns them.

"If the good guys can take control of the plane" from the ground,
said John Mazor, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association,
"maybe the bad guys can take control of it too."

Taking control of a hijacked aircraft from the ground appears to
be less feasible than other measures, he said.

"We would view that as a very--very--long-term type of
undertaking," Mazor said. "There are enormous technical
difficulties in trying to rig up an aircraft for that."

But companies that have designed such systems for the military
say it wouldn't be difficult to adapt the technology for
commercial aircraft. Why did USAF pilots name the 1950s designed
Vietnam era F105 Thunderchief a THUD? Because it made a BIG THUD
when it hit the ground while using an autopilot with Low Altitude
Terrain Following RADAR

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. developed a
remote-controlled reconnaissance plane for the Air Force called
Predator, which flew in Bosnia during the conflict there. Used by
the military since 1994, it can be landed by pilots linked by
satellite using controls on the ground or ordering an onboard
computer to do the job.

Tom Cassidy, president and CEO of the San Diego company, said he
sent Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta a letter shortly
after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Such a system would not prevent a hijacker from causing mayhem
on the aircraft or exploding a device and destroying the aircraft
in flight," the letter said, "but it would prevent him from
flying the aircraft into a building or populated areas."

Cassidy said Thursday that a pilot aboard a commercial airliner
could turn the plane's guidance over to ground controllers at the
press of a button, preventing a hijacker--or anyone else
aboard--from flying the plane.

That system also would keep people on the ground from taking
control of a plane away from the pilot, Cassidy said, because the
pilot would first have to give up control.

Aircraft anywhere in the nation could be remotely controlled from
just one or two locations using satellite links, Cassidy said.
Those locations could be heavily fortified against terrorists.

"The technology is available," Cassidy said. "We use it every

Copyright 2002, Chicago Tribune

Remote piloting
Remote pilots rescue { September 16 2001 }
Software only allows remote control { August 17 2002 }
We can do remote control { September 28 2001 }

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