Maybe we should look at what failed already ... (4.50 / 4) (#12)
by nogardnep on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 05:31:32 PM EST
This "negative feedback" idea of the emergency code having to be entered only when something is going wrong is ridiculous.
It assumes that the qualified personel will be there to send the "mayday".
Instead it should be part of the standard procedures to send a "NO-mayday" from the transponder every, say, 15 minutes.
Not only will that keep at least one of the pilots awake at all times, it will prevent any hijacker from even guessing what is about to happen:
1. If no "NO-mayday" is received after, say, 20 minutes then Air-Traffic-Control can be on alert (perhaps subtly contacting and asking in the standard way what the status of the airplane is).
2. If after, say, 30 minutes (despite answers to any verbal query) the "No-mayday" is still not entered by the correct person then ATC can assume a suicidal "situation" is in progress, or a extreme/unresolved air-rage.
3. If before the 30 minutes one of the pilots enters their own code for the "No-mayday", and did not mention the initial procedural error to the ATC, we have only an apparent non-suicidal hijacking, or resolved air-rage incident.
4. If at any time, after the 20 minutes, one of the other flight-crew enters their own code for the "No-mayday" we have a suicidal hijacker (who somewhat understands this system and forces the crew member to enter/divulge their code), or a "down" pilot-crew. Alternately if any of the other members enter their codes 2 times in a row (even if there are no previous indication of trouble) then the same assumptions will be made by ATC.
How do you achieve the above?
a) You tell the pilots that one or the other of them must enter their code every 15 minutes. If they do not but remember sufficiently soon then they can cancel out by entering the code and contacting/answering ATC with an apology.
b) They are advised to re-enter their code ASAP if the schedule has gone past the 30 minute point, but only if they feel that the hijacker is not about to use the plane as a weapon. If the hijacker asks what is being done (if they notice) then the pilot can be honest and state that every few minutes the code must be entered in order to not set off "alarms" (the exact result of which should not be known to the pilot either).
c) The pilot and co-pilot should enter their codes alternately. This sequence not being maintained should also ring an alert. If the sequence ends up being 4 times in a row by one pilot/co-pilot then this should also be an indication that the relatively-peaceable demeanor of the hijacker has deterorated, or if this is the first indication that anything is going wrong, that a hijack is started but cannot be evaluated yet. In that case if the one-person pattern continues for another "hour" then we are back to the suicidal hijacker situation.
d) The pilot-level crew each must know one of the cabin crews' codes (but not each other's, nor tell theirs to any of the cabin crew): Just in case they feel they can send out an immediate "mayday".
e)The cabin crew members must just be given their own codes, be told to give it out to either, or both, of the pilot-level crew and feel free to use it if forced.
The above may sound complicated but if the procedure is followed by the crew (usually they are very good at this type of check-list thinking) then it could deter incidents like those that occurred yesterday.
The only way the above could fail is if the hijacker knows the exact procedures, forces both codes out of the pilots, and knows the exact timings (even though they might be different, subtly, for each flight).
Of course, organizations like the one that planned this most recent series of incidents would know all of this, BUT imagine how complicated it would have been to ensure that this "active" procedure was kept going while trying to steer a plane hundreds of miles off course, controlling any living passengers an hitting a pin-point target?
It would be like doing twice as much Mission-Impossible-like work at the same time. It might have required 2 more hijackers per plane!