Boeing last week received a US patent for a system that, once activated, removes all controls from pilots to automatically return a commercial airliner to a predetermined landing location.
The "uninterruptible" autopilot would be activated - either by pilots, by onboard sensors or even remotely via radio or satellite links by government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, if terrorists attempt to gain control of a flight deck.
Boeing says: "We are constantly studying ways we can enhance the safety, security and efficiency of the world's airline fleet."
“Just a quick update with what I know about the Malaysia 777 disappearance. The Boeing 777 is the airplane that I fly. It is a great, safe airplane to fly. It has, for the most part, triple redundancy in most of its systems, so if one complete system breaks (not just parts of a system), there are usually 2 more to carry the load. It’s also designed to be easy to employ so 3rd world pilots can successfully fly it. Sometimes, even that doesn’t work…
There’s many ways to fly the 777 and there are safety layers and redundancies built into the airplane now to Malaysia. There are so many communication systems on the airplane: 3 VHF radios, 2 SatCom systems, 2 HF radio systems, plus Transponders and active, ‘real time’ monitoring through CPDLC (Controller to Pilot Data Link Clearance) and ADS B(Air Data Service) through the SatCom systems and ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) thru the VHF, HF and SatCom systems. The air traffic controllers can tell where we are, speed, altitude, etc. as well as what our computers and flight guidance system has set into our control panels. Big Brother for sure! However, most of these things can be turned off.
But, there are a few systems that can’t be turned off and one is the engine monitoring systems. The Malaysia airplane, like our 777-200’s, uses Rolls Royce Trent Engines (as a piece of trivia….Rolls Royce names their motors after rivers….because they always keep on running!) Rolls Royce leases these motors to us and they monitor them all the time they are running. In fact, a few years back, one of our 777’s developed a slow oil leak due and partial equipment failure. It wasn’t bad enough to set off the airplane’s alerting system, but RR was looking at it on their computers. They are in England, they contact our dispatch in (REDACTED), Dispatch sends a message to the crew via SatCom in the North Pacific, telling them that RR wants them to closely monitor oil pressure and temp on the left engine.
The crew did all of that and landed uneventfully, but after landing and during the taxi in, the left engine shut itself down using it’s redundant, computerized operating system that has a logic tree that will not allow it to be shut down if the airplane is in the air…only on the ground. Pretty good tech. Anyway, the point was that RR monitors those engines 100% of the time they are operating. And don’t EVER get in an Airbus!!”