Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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letter to the editor:

When planes go missing

After seeing the time and pain the world has gone through to locate the missing 777, I have two suggestions:

Eliminate the black box flight/cockpit voice recorders and transmit that data either constantly or in regular bursts to a server on the ground. The engines on Flight 370 did that for maintenance purposes, so the technology and the equipment are already built into modern aircraft. The benefits are obvious — no lengthy and costly searches for the recorders (two years in the case of Air France 447 from Brazil), and mechanical problems with an aircraft or a hijacking would be realized the minute it happened.

Next, if we can pilot a drone over Afghanistan from Las Vegas, why can’t we fly a commercial jet from a land-based control center? Current aircraft can be landed by a trained pilot while he’s on the ground, so why can’t a ground controller access a plane’s computer to reprogram directional coordinates should the pilots become incapacitated or a hijacking occurs? In the case of the latter, if the ground controller had override capabilities over input from the cockpit, then they could land the plane where police are waiting.

There may be some costs to do this, but they would be minimal compared to the search costs for these two flights alone, the recovery of the aircraft and the saving of many souls.

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