Remote-control Jet Idea Gets Cool Reception

 - October 4, 2007, 9:50 AM

In the aftermath of September’s terrorist attacks a number of federal agencies, private companies and pilots have suggested exploring ways of allowing civil aircraft to land themselves in the event the pilots become incapacitated. According to aerospace engineers, the technology for such an airborne system already exists, and would require only modifications to an aircraft’s avionics and flight controls to implement. However, the suggestion is getting a cool response from industry leaders and pilot groups, who fear the plan is a prescription for disaster. “There are some pretty overt national security concerns, I would think,” said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, to the Associated Press. “The devil is in the details. Is this something we would put on all aircraft? Because I’m sure you can imagine if someone can control all aircraft, you would create a new target.” Other officials, while conceding the idea for remote-controlled jets has some merit, said the certification hurdles, especially where safety, reliability and redundancy are concerned, could be too much to overcome. Honeywell chairman and CEO Lawrence Bossidy last month said his company will lead an initiative to help improve air travel safety, but explained the company’s plans are focused only on ways to enhance airport security, prevent unauthorized entry into the aircraft or cockpit, alert authorities in the event of an attempted takeover and, in the worst case, aid a post-incident investigation.