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Comment: Re:Protected relationships (Score 1) 370

by michelcolman (#49360307) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

The real reason for the secrecy of confessions is much cleverer.

If you tell people they should confess their sins, and their secrets are safe with the priest, the end result is that the priest knows all the secrets of the village. Need I say more? The local priest used to be the most powerful person in the village, subtly using his knowledge to play the people and instill fear in them. Brilliant idea.

Comment: Re:Ummmm ... duh? (Score 1) 370

by michelcolman (#49360285) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

In the US there is no true doctor-patient confidentiality when it comes to pilots. The medical certificate application requires a pilot to list all visits to a doctor in the last three years and the reason (item 19). Item 18 asks if you have ever in your life been diagnosed as having a plethora of conditions, including "(m) mental disorders of any sort; depression, anxiety, etc."

And it's obviously completely impossible to give false answers to those questions. No, never seen a doctor. No depression, nothing, perfectly fine.

Comment: Re:Ummmm ... duh? (Score 1) 370

by michelcolman (#49360255) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

What a wonderful idea, armed pilots in the cockpit :-(

But anyway, even with two unarmed pilots in the cockpit, one of the pilots can still crash the plane if he wants to. It won't be quite as clean as a nice long descent straight into a mountain, but if you just unexpectedly yank the controls down and to one side during approach, the other pilot probably won't have time to do anything about it. Especially on an airbus where they can fight over the controls with the override button (the last to press the override button has controls, so controls could go back and forth indefinitely, making recovery impossible).

And then there's always the crash axe or fire extinguisher. Hey, look at that plane over there... wham.

Of course this kind of action would be much more agressive and less likely to be performed by an introvert depressed person. Locking the door and starting a descent is psychologically easier than physically attacking someone or fighting over the controls. But no safety measure can ever be completely fool proof. People with power can do powerful things, not just in airplanes.

Comment: Re:Ummmm ... duh? (Score 1) 370

by michelcolman (#49360229) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

How long do the pilots hold out when the hijackers slaughter the passengers one by one outside their door, on their camera?

I would immediately make an announcement for everyone to fasten their seatbelts, wait 5 seconds, then create massive "turbulence". We can do -1g and +2.5g, so we can throw the hijackers against the ceiling and back onto the ground hard a few times. Then we can give the signal for the other crew members or passengers to overpower the attackers.

But in no case would we open the cockpit door. If they take over and crash the plane, everyone is dead anyway. So no matter how many people they slaughter in the cabin, that death toll can never be higher than what we'd get if we let them in.

Comment: Re:Ummmm ... duh? (Score 2) 370

by michelcolman (#49360213) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

Fast forward a few years. Depressed cabin crew member, alone with one pilot in the cockpit, hits him in the head with the crash axe which is stored behind the first officer's seat. Or with one of the fire extinguishers.

There's no winning this. If you can't trust the crew members, all bets are off.

Comment: Re:it could have been an accident (Score 1) 730

by michelcolman (#49352575) Attached to: Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident

That's a different story. They were thoroughly confused by the contradictory warnings and indications they were getting. Overspeed and stall at the same time, stall warning that disappeared but came back when they momentarily did the right thing by pushing the nose down (making them reverse the very action that could have saved them), etc.

It's easy to see afterwards what went wrong, but a lot harder when you're actually in there and get bombarded with contradictory indications.

Comment: Re:it could have been an accident (Score 1) 730

by michelcolman (#49352529) Attached to: Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident

If there's one thing simulators can very accurately simulate, it's the programming of the computers. In fact, they often use the same computers as the airplane, or only slightly modified ones, and just feed simulated sensor data into them. If the simulator does something different than the airplane, that's a bug.

And anyway, the flight control laws are clearly explained in the training courses. So yes, you can go into alternate or even direct law, and at that point the protections are disabled and you can turn the plane upside down if you want. Any Airbus pilot knows this.

Comment: Re:what will be more interesting (Score 1) 637

by michelcolman (#49349537) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

A friend of mine saw them record one of their "races" in the alps. Some big trucks arrived with supercars on them, they were carefully offloaded, they drove them up a few hundred meters, then they loaded them all back onto the trucks for the next shoot. On air, that was a neck and neck race between the three of them.

Comment: Re:it could have been an accident (Score 1) 730

by michelcolman (#49349295) Attached to: Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident

I wouldn't exactly try to do barrel rolls in the air (although this should be possible without problems), but we do have a relatively new procedure to go into alternate law in a very specific situation where the flight control computers erroneously detect a stall due to frozen angle of attack probes. In that situation, the plane pitches down uncontrollably, and the only way to override it is by turning off certain computers so you go into alternate law.

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

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