Phase 2 Search For Black Box Ends

by Jonathan on August 20, 2009

That’s it. It’s over. French investigators have officially called off the second phase search for the black boxes from Air France flight 447.

AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1 while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, France. All 228 people on board were killed. The flight’s voice and data recorders are crucial to providing information on what caused flight 447 to crash.

The BEA, the French accident investigation agency, said in a statement that the research ship that is leading the search for the black boxes in the second phase of the search have left the site. The ship, the Pourquoi Pas, is scheduled to arrive in Dakar, Senegal on Thursday.

According to the statement, the second phase of the search efforts “has finished” and investigators and experts will gather, in the coming weeks, to determine if they are going to launch a third phase.

BEA spokeswoman Martine del Bono said “we have not found the wreckage, we have not found the recorders”. She also said that the BEA will gather a team of roughly 10 specialists from around the world, including Brazil, France, the United States, and Germany, to study the data that has been gathered from the second phase and to decide the requirements and cost of a possible third phase. No estimates were given as to when a possible third phase would commence.

Bono said that the investigation was far from finished and that the black boxes must be found, which leads me to believe that they will continue to look for the black boxes.

The first phase of the search recovered 50 bodies and over 600 pieces of debris that was scattered throughout the ocean.

The second phase of the search was operated jointly by the French Navy and the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea. It was led by the Pourquoi Pas, which contained a manned submarine, the Nautile, a remote-controlled robot, the Victor 6000, and special sonar.

Airbus has promised to help fund a third phase of the search area.

Source: AP

  • Dave

    I am disappointed the US Navy was not doing searches too. They have the most advanced underwater technology out there. I used to work with a pilot for covert CIA missions on submarine detection. He said we could see any sub at any depth with the technology we developed. You would think with the Navy being involved with finding the Titanic they might have something to offer BEA.

  • C.

    I just hope they really start a third phase.. with the help of the new US technology.. hopefully. It’s just too important to find what’s missing and figure out what really happened, to just give up now. AirFrance and Airbus have the moral responsability to do it, but it’s of everybody’s interest.

  • gregg

    Its about time some news came in on this horrific crash. they had better do a 3rd and fourth search until they find everything period. Its the responsibility of Air France and Air Bus ..or is it better that we do not find them so that they are not totally liable..hmmmsounds like payoff to me….we owe it to the victims and their families. We also owe it to the public who are still flying in these “state of the art” pieces of junk they call supreme aircraft. If it aint Boeing I aint going!!!

  • Sy Levine

    Air France Flight 447 Just Typified Why The Black Box Data Should Be Telemetered To The Ground

    For the last ten years there hasn’t been a technical reason why the digital flight recorder data isn’t securely sent in real-time to the ground for storage (see the BBC/Equinox video “The BOX”, 4/2000, A look at the shortcomings found in black box flight recorders). During this ten year interval both the US and Europe have had the capability of implementing remote aircraft flight recording if only they had the will to do so. Using a remote aircraft flight recorder, within a couple of seconds, you have the planes position/location, its attitude, velocity, etc. safely stored on the ground and used for flight safety, aviation security and cost reduction. The data used in real-time could have also prevented 9/11 (see

    On June 4, 2009 the Los Angeles Times put following information that I wrote into their LETTERS section: “There is no technical reason why digital flight recorder data are not sent in real-time to the ground. We have the technology to do this. Then, within a couple of seconds, we would have a plane’s position, altitude and velocity safely stored on the ground. This information could be used for flight safety, aviation security and cost reduction. We don’t know what went wrong on Air France Flight 447, but we would sure know where the plane went down, why it went down and possibly could have saved lives.” Getting to the crash site early may save lives, getting the DFDR can prevent recurring fatal crashes. It’s not just position that’s needed, it’s all of the data sent to the recorder that is critical to ascertaining the root cause of a crash and should be available to prevent some of the crashes from occurring.

    The real-time use of the data recorders will save a substantial amount of lives, make our country safer and reduce the cost of flying. Telemetering the already digitized flight data to the ground in real-time would assure that we have the data. In some crashes the flight data isn’t recovered (e.g. 9/11, et al) or has errors in it since no one is looking at it, or using it in real-time to find malfunctions. Yet, this valuable digital flight recorder data (DFDR) data has been essentially left to the autopsy mode for post mortem simulations and not utilized proactively in real-time to save lives on cargo and carrier aircraft. We got the astronauts back from the moon by ground personnel monitoring the data in real-time. It was the ground personnel that found the problem and relayed back to the capsule the safe solution that saved the astronauts lives. It is now time to utilize this proven methodology for the good of the public.

    A year prior to 9/11 at the International Aviation Safety Association meeting in New York, methods for preventing crashes like golfer Payne Stewart’s decompression crash were proposed. None of these methods were implemented by the aviation industry and we got 9/11 (hijacking is about ten percent of aviation fatalities) and the 2005, 100 fatality, Helios decompression crash. When a plane deviates from its approved flight plan, we now have the ability to securely take remote control of it and land it safely at a designated airfield. We presently have remote pilot vehicles (RPVs) flying over Afghanistan that are controlled/piloted from continental United States (CONUS). Currently we are utilizing secure high bandwidth communication networks (for our RPVs, submarines, AWACS planes, etc.) and there isn’t a logical reason for not making that technology available for cargo and carrier aircraft. The cost of 9/11 alone is ten times the cost of putting in a safe system and yet nothing has intentionally been done.
    When a plane decompresses there is a good possibility that if we remotely bring it down in altitude to a point where there is sufficient oxygen and fly it remotely for 15 minutes, the pilot and passengers may regain consciousness. At that time the control of the aircraft could be returned to the pilot or remotely landing it to save the lives of the people who are onboard. This would have saved the lives of those aboard Helios.

    Billions of dollars are wasted on unnecessary airport runway expansion and insufficient data programs to reduce fatal ground incursions. The lack of data has caused excessive verbal communication between the pilots and the controllers that is prone to errors. These ground incursions wouldn’t even occur if the flight data was shared so pilots and air traffic control had better visibility. But because the digital data isn’t shared automatically the pilot sees only a fraction of the information necessary to prevent a crash and the same holds true for the air traffic controllers (ATCs). Crashes such as Tenerife (583 fatalities), Comair (49 fatalities), etc. are directly caused by the lack of visibility due to not sharing the DFDR, ATC and airport runway data in real-time. Too many crashes are listed as pilot error when they are a direct result of a lack of visibility brought on by not sharing the digital flight data/Black Box in real-time to provide the necessary situation awareness. Many of the fatal in-air crashes fall into the same category. For example there was a crash where a plane ran out of fuel over JFK. The controller thought the pilot had more fuel left and the pilot who said his fuel was low didn’t use the correct emergency verbiage. Since the fuel supply is another black box input there is no reason why a red light, similar to the one on everyone’s car, doesn’t light up on the ATC display. The red low fuel light would reduce the controller’s work load and increase his situation awareness so that the people aboard a flight similar to the one that crashed would now live. Using the Black Box data decreases the work load of the pilot the air traffic controller as well as increases their situation awareness. By the lack of sharing the already digitized data in real-time we have egregiously curtailed the use of automation and expert systems technology for the prevention of crashes, increased the cost of flying and jeopardized our national security. The real-time use and sharing of the DFDR data to prevent crashes is more important then its present post mortem autopsy mode of operation.

    The already digitized data used in real-time allows the use of automated expert systems to check many of an aircraft’s sensors prior to, and during, a flight to assure that everything is functioning correctly without having a person in the loop. When a malfunction is detected it can automatically inform the pilot and ATC as to the best way to work a round a malfunction. Using cross checks and correlation most of the sensors can be checked and work a round’s provided to the flight deck crew for safe transportation. It will also automatically notify the ground operational center of expected malfunctions and the safest work a round’s using a history file that should be followed. By so doing, the pilot’s work load will be reduced and his performance enhanced.

    While pinpointing specific causes of a crash via the autopsy mode has merit it doesn’t address the broad generic systemic cause of most crashes namely not sharing the already digitized Black Box data in real-time for crash prevention. Piloting errors and mechanical failures will always occur but that is not a sufficient reason for the passengers to die. The fundamental reason for too many of the crashes is because the Black Box data has been denied from being utilized in real-time by the aviation industry out of fear for liability. We have operated commercial aviation in a dark age’s methodology. The aviation industry even fought against Black Boxes for many years. The Black Box technology came out of Australia and it was years later when it was embraced by the US aviation industry. Even when the US aviation industry embraced Black Box technology they severely limited the number of points that were allowed to be monitored. The net result we had recurring crashes such as the horrific USAIR, Flight 427, Aliquippa PA crash that was solved by using British QAR (Quick Access Recorder) data. QARs weren’t utilized by US carrier aircraft. We must eliminate this liability fear and enter into a new age of aviation enlightenment by utilizing the black box data in real-time to prevent crashes. The Black Box data should not be suppressed under the cover of industry private and parsed out begrudgingly. The Black Box data belongs to the public since it is necessary for their safety.

    The Air France flight 447 crash is just the latest example of horrific crashes that possibly could have been prevented or saved lives. Using the Black Box data safely stored on the ground we surely would be able to minimize the anguish of the passenger’s families and recurring crashes. Ground storage eliminates the cost, time and risks associated with recorder recovery. The flight data used in real-time: reduces the cost of flying; prevents recurring fatal crashes; prevents a host of fatal crashes that aren’t directly related to Air France Flight 447, and keeps nations safe and secure. For the good of nation and its citizens, not only the flying public, we must utilize the Black Box data in real time.

    Sy Levine

    (310) 559-2965
    Remote Aircraft Flight Recorder and Advisory System (RAFT) patent #5,890,079, 3/30/1999

  • Y Man

    Cant understand why the initial report said the aircraft did not break up in flight (you would assume hit the water fairly intact) and now they cannot find the main wreckage site.

    This blows my mind, I mean this aircraft is not exactly small.

    Also almost certainly it would have disintegrated upon contact with water, but even then the crash site would be fairly contained.

    I am no expert at marine salvage (and I know the serach area is huge) but I cant understand why nobody has been able to find the main crash site … let alone the FDR and CVR.

  • Claudio

    Y man, I know, it doesn’t make sense at all.It’s pretty clear it’s just a cover up.

  • Dave

    Yeah, its rather odd. In flight break-up or on impact, each wing would remain mostly intact – each one is over 27m long, assuming they separated from the center section. That one big piece of metal to not find bouncing back a sonar signature.

  • Chris

    Personally, I believe the plane flew into severe weather (either through bad instruments or by poor pilot judgement) and had a mid-flight upset resulting in the tail section becoming separated from the aircraft. I believe the plane “incident” happened in mid air flight and the plane tumbled to the sea in an uncontrolled dive.

    The explanation given (I believe) is to cover up suspected design flaws in the aircraft structure when dealing with severe weather flight.

    Common sense usually leads to the reasons why a flight fails and so far (to me) the evidence provided to this point does not support the story being portrayed – unless the pilots totally botched up a mid-flight upset by instruments and crashed the plane. Possible, but highly unlikely – to me anyway.

    Someday, the answers will be found and I am expecting a different story to result as to why the plane actually crashed, with no voice call or warning by the pilots.

  • Natalie

    With all of the conflicting information from day 1, I can’t help but not believe that they haven’t found the black box – especially with all of the technology available to those performing the searches!
    Furthermore, something that I can’t forget is one of the earlier reports (from the first attempt at locating the black box) that indicated the “pinging” sound had been detected – only to later advise that it wasn’t the black box! This left me extremely confused – and all this time later I am still extremely confused – how can the “pinging” sound be anything but the black box? Honestly, it is the middle of the ocean – what else is below the surface of the water that is going to give off the same sound as a black box does?
    Obviously nothing will bring back the victims to the family and friends who so desperately miss them; however, it is my prayer that the family and friends will one day find some level of comfort and peace.
    God Bless

  • Joanna

    Hi Natalie,
    While I definitely agree that Air France would have something to do with it, and there is definitely some covering up of some sort going on, the pinging sound that they claimed they found could have been anything. There have been airlines that have gone done before, years ago, into the ocean that the subs may have been picking up on, as well as other devices (they may have a similar sound to a black box pinging sound).
    What confuses me is that hitting the ocean intact or not, the wing of the plane , being almost 30 metres long, wouldnt’ have broken up into too many small pieces, there would be huge chunks, and they haven’t found this??! Clearly not enough is being done-more disturbingly, I think Air France knows this.

  • Level Headed

    SafeLander, the product Sy advertised above, with the ability to securely control an airplane from the ground, with US patent, sounds wonderful at first read, but I wish to point readers to a weakness in this type of solution. Such a product might seem to be able to have prevented (theoretically, on paper) the 9/11 attacks, I don’t think in reality it would have (practical, real world). I bring up 9/11 because this is how SafeLander is advertised on it’s website, and I’ll speak about how it would have affected AF447 as well.

    In a 9/11 situation there’s no guarantee that such a product would be effective. The pilot would always have a way of disabling such a feature because no airline would realistically allow it to be installed without a big red “SafeLander disable” button in the cockpit. ?Without a disable button, terrorist attacks could happen from the ground with the wrong people in control! I must stress that this product would NOT have helped the Air France 447 crash.

    In an AF447 situation, such a product would likely have been ineffective as well, because it relies on instruments to feed it information such as air speed. That air speed data, in an AF447 situation, would have been relayed (incorrect air speed and all) to the ground, and the operators on the ground would have had the same incorrect air speed as the pilot flying the airplane. In other words, the people on the ground would have had no better information to help them diagnose the problem occurring in the Airbus at the very moment of crisis — if anything, they would have been at a disadvantage, having wrong information, not being present on the airplane itself.

    Let me explain how ground operators would have had LESS information than the pilots.

    There are NO MORE CAPABLE PEOPLE TO FLY AN AIRPLANE than a PILOT and his FIRST OFFICER, as only they can diagnose problems IMMEDIATELY. Their cockpit is designed to provide information at their fingertips AND they have their eyes, ears, smell/taste, and touch as ultimate “reality checks” on the aircraft. THEY ARE THE BEST PEOPLE to make decisions and diagnose any problem AS IT HAPPENS, and a product/service like SafeLander would have added no additional security or disaster prevention in an AF447 type situation. Such a product would not have solved AF447 going down.

    We have been talking about disaster prevention thus far, and that is important to talk about. I believe it is also important to talk about _disaster recovery_ and in an AF447 situation, recovery was not possible. Prevention is best left to the professionals who are looking at an Airbus mechanical failure and maybe pilot error, but recovery focuses on the black box, and without the black box, it’s hard to have a correct picture of everything that happened in the disaster. So here’s my point — we need a better black box — and one already exists, but why is it not being implemented by the big airlines?

    A product named FLYHT is made by AeroMechanical Services out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The product website and especially the company website explains decades of research, design, testing, and implementation. It has already been installed on very prominent aircraft including Boeing 737, 757, 767, Airbus A319, A320, A321, and one A330 at the moment, as well as others such as Lockheed Martin and de Havilland. It is FAA/TC/EASA/VSTC approved (USA/Canada/Europe/China respectively).

    It’s only a matter of time until the major airlines realize that this product exists. It is time for change — it’s the new black box, it’s true disaster recovery and air-to-ground communication, and although it maybe wouldn’t have prevented AF447, it would have made for a better black box. It would have allowed for data recovery, and possibly allowed the investigators to know the true cause of AF447 going down.

    God bless all of you who lost family to AF447.

  • Graham

    “If it ain’t Boeing, I’m not going”….
    Well what about the Boeing 737 with the notorious rudder lock problem… how many people lost their lives due to that?… will we ever know for sure due to the investigating agency (with the help from the Americans) concluding “pilot suicide” as the likely cause in one crash of a 737 which had uncanny similarities to known rudder lock crashes.

  • sylevine

    I wish to disagree with all that was said by Levelhead making a comment about RAFT and SAFELANDER.

    I was the Chief Engineer of Northrop and worked on the B2 and am very familiar with aircraft. I also invented the first commercial inertial navigator system (INS) put on all cargo and carrier commercial aircraft (this drastically changed flying economics by removing the person called the navigator from carrier aircraft and increased the precision and safety of these aircraft). Automation made flying safer and more economical.

    First I’ll comment on the Remote Aircraft Flight Recorder (RAFT) of which I hold the patent (the Canadian firm mentioned Amscanada references and uses the RAFT patent . Amscanada has a follow on patent that utilizes the basic RAFT patent and as such infringes on the basic patent. A paper was presented on RAFT at the First International Conference on Recorders in Washington sponsored by the NTSB in 1999 (way prior to the formation of the Levelheads company). RAFT transmits the information going to the flight recorders to the ground for safe storage. One parameter going to the recorder is the aircraft position. This is derived from the INS or INS & GPS. With RAFT not only would you know where the plane went down within a couple of seconds but there is a good chance that the passengers could have been saved. By examining the sensors from the beginning of the flight potential malfunctions can be found and work a round’s recommended. Many times the pilot is seeing a problem for the first time and is ill equipped to handle the situation in the safest way. The data sent back could automatically go to an expert system’s computerized data bank and the information relayed to the pilot verbally and/or visually as to how to best handle the dyer situation. Even if the pitot tubes malfunction there are checks and balance techniques that will permit the plane to fly safely. In this day and age there is no reason that the best advise as to h;ow to handle a situation isn’t transmitted to the pilot. Pilot error is traditionally been listed as the the cause of 30% of the fatal crashes. In most instances a pilot experiences a life threatening situation for the first time. By having a computer generated history file greatly sent to the pilot automatically without, turning pages, expands the flight manual (which is difficult, if not impossible, for the pilot to use during an emergency. That is how we got the astronaughts back from the moon and it also how sometimes the airline flight operations center aids the pilots. The problem is that the data presently has to be transmitted peace meal manually/vebally and that is the sin since the data has already been digitized on the plane. Once that data gets to the ground via RAFT and a computerized expert system is installed the pilot will be given the safest way to handle the life threatening emergency.

    Lastly SAFELANDER would have prevented 9/11 this has been proven over and over again at Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and at major Aerospace conferences. Papers have been presented and the system has won numerous awards. RAFT gets the data to the ground and SAFELANDER provides the up link to control the aircraft. Planes will be equipped with codes like we do for our nuclear systems that will allow the ground to take control if the aircraft is travelling in such a trajectory it will kill people. The decompression Helios crash is a good example the pilots were unable to control the plane due to lack of oxygen and passengers tried to take control and failed. Those passengers should have lived. In 9/11 the planes were going into buildings and the people on the ground couldn’t change their direction and were thinking of shooting them out of the skey. We fly many remote piloted vehicles safely and that technology should be available to the public for their safety. Two of the hijacked planes in 9/11 even were allowed to take off while two of the other planes were known to be hijacked. With SAFELANDER the planes on the ground would have been prevented from taking off. This also appears in the papers and engineering meetings where Levelhead never appeared.

    This topic is far too complex to answer in a blog but we all know the crashes and the disasters. It is our time to prevent these fatal crashes and we owe this to the victims families that they did not die in vain. Most fatal crashes can be readily prevented.


    PS: My work in this area is a direct result of losing my friend David Garber who died in the USAir Flight 427 crash. It was a recurring crash that shouldn’t have occured.

  • Dave

    Hi Sy,

    Thank you for your insight. It is very informative.

    There are a few points of clarification – in the case of 447, when the pitot tubes stopped sending the IAS information to the flight management system, both the primary and secondary (3 each, 2 each) all went off line as they got so confused. Please explain how some systems expert on the ground could have kept the blinded pilots “balanced on the football” as we call the balance at altitude of stall/over speed – they are so close together???

    And second, I’d like to see the proof that Safelander could have prevented 9/11 as only with United 93 did the authorities know for certain it was hi-jacked. Both of the New York crashes completely blind sided the authorities so it would be interested to learn how… For the Pentagon, they had an idea, but though many many planes were hi-jacked. I think there was on the order of 5,000 planes in the air over the US, so the infrastructure of that many qualified remote pilots would seem impossible. On Predator drone requires a crew to deploy and fly the bird.

    Lastly, as a pilot, such completely automated systems that have priority over the pilot reminds me of the early Airbus fly by wire that flew into the ground with the crew trying desperately to over ride the computer and pull up the nose. :-)

  • sylevine

    First we’ll discuss 9/11. It was known that both UAL flt 93 and AAL flt 73 had deviated substantially from their flight plans and were way off course. All attempts to communicate with them and get them back on course failed. AAL flt 111 and UAL flt 175 were still on the ground. They sent fighter planes up to investigate and the President of the US was asked for permission to shoot them out of the sky. At that point SAFELANDER could have taken control of the autopilot and put them on different courses that would have prevented them from going into the world trade center. Since only a few planes are rogue each plane could be put on a trajectory that kept them safe. The remote pilot then could take control of one plane at a time to land it safely at a secure designated airport. Possibly one controlled by the navy or airforce.

    Once it was known that planes in the air were being hijacked a single computer command or a series of commands could be automatically sent to shut/stop airplanes from taking off (note: the ground message was sent out to planes verbally and late and that is why the other two planes got hijacked). To get a better idea of this, not just in a blog, go to the SAFELANDER patent. This system was discussed at the International Aviation Safety meeting in NY on Nov. 2000 (almost a year prior to 9/11. Also around that time a blog was on that discussed the damage to the world trade center if it got hit by a plane and compared it with the empire state building – which planes had already crashed into without too much damage).

    Since there are 8000 aircraft in the sky at any given time and each files a computerized flight plan it is relatively easy for present day computers to keep track of which planes have substantially deviated from their flight plan. Also air traffic controllers using radar over CONUS know which are rogue aircraft (compare 8000 aircraft with millions of bank and internet transactions).

    Only a handful of aircraft deviate in such a way as to put the nation at risk. Thus, these planes can be easily handled by one remote pilot who will put them on a safe trajectory and land each sequentially one at a time.

    This could have also prevented the 100+ fatality Helios decompression fatal crash where once again the plane was way off course flying autopilot with the pilots unconscious. They sent F-16 up and saw the pilots unconscious but could do nothing. Some passengers got into the cockpit but they were in bad shape and couldn’t fly the plane safely either. Thus, they all died, not from hijacking or decompression but from a system that didn’t use a remote pilot capability.

    Lastly we don’t use expert systems and a good portion of the air crashes are pilot error – not because the pilot is bad but he is seeing the problem for the first time. Swiss Air Flt 111 that crashed in Halifax and Alaskan Air Flt 261 fall into that category. Swiss Air had a fire aboard and in many flight manuals had the instructions are to land it at the nearest airport (this is now mandated -but too late- for the people aboard that aircraft). The pilots flight manual didn’t have this and they flew past Halifax an it crashed as he turned the aircraft around. Alaskan Air should have landed at the Navy Pt. Mague air station where he was close to. He decided to bring the plane back to LAX and it also crashed on the turn around (bringing a plane back to a heavily populated area is wrong when their is an airport that is right next to you that is big enough to handle the aircraft safely and is in an unpopulated area is wrong). Both planes had their problems known long before the crash and if air craft flight centers (which are now separate for each airlines) had emergencies procedures based on the past experience and consensus of situations than these planes would have probably crash landed at the close airports and there is a good probability that some if not all of the people would have survived.

    Lastly, and I don’t have time to answer everything in detail. The plane has redundant inertial systems that were working. There are also back up gyros that can keep the plane’s attitude level. When air speed indicators go bad there are techniques for flying and aircraft providing you keep the speed sufficently above air speed. These planes can fly at 500 knots and the air speed even in huricane is less than 150 knots therefore with the altimeter and proper procedures you can fly it. Many pilots have successfully landed planes with malfunctioning air speed indicators – it is difficult but it can be done. One problem is that airlines all have different complex flight manuals that make it almost impossible to use in an emergency. With present computer technology this can be changed. Suffice to say that taking control away from the pilot and putting it into the remote pilot’s hand is not done without a lot of checks and cross-checks. We can do it in a way using complex secure ciphered codes that have been developed by the military for nuclear safety. The airbus was an early error that now days can be overcome. Too many flights crash because of pilot error. Many of the trains now go without a conductor between airport termindals etc. This was vehemently opposed by conductors who said that they wouldn’t be safe. The same hold for elevators with their elevator operators. The record now show that they are safer. With the pilot and proper engineering effort we can make a remote pilot who doesn’t experience decompression or disorientation safer than the present two on-board pilots. An on-board pilot and a remote pilot should be safer than two on-board pilots.

    Anyway Dave, you had good comments and I hope that I partially answered your questions. It is just nuts that the pilot and air carrier associations have prevented the Black Box data from being telemetered to the ground. They almost prevented GPS from being developed (but that is a separate story). It was done by the Air Force over their objections. The whole task of making a remote pilot system is far simpler than the task of making a B2 Stealth Bomber: on which I was fortunate to work on.

    Thank you for your comments.


  • Level Headed

    Great information Sy, but you still have one major problem, and I find it unfortunate that you ignore it. Also, you have attempted to step past this problem by giving valid examples like the Helios incident, and that’s great — your product would have helped there — but in a 9/11 scenario it still would have either 1) created a second problem that is untested, and 2) taken control away from the pilot(s).

    You are saying your system will work in legitimate situations — that’s great, I don’t disagree with you. If the pilot is dead, or if the flight scenario is too complicated for a human to manage safely (and a computer would do a better job), or if the human is not specifically trained for a specific risky scenario — I don’t disagree with you, your product would do wonderful things.

    But that’s not my complaint — my complaint is that, to prevent 9/11, you would effectively have to design your system such that you (with appropriate codes, permission etc.) could forcefully take control away from the pilot(s) of any airplane. This, in many of your scenarios, would not have been a bad thing, but rather a life saving thing — I do not disagree. But, you are ignoring that you are first of all creating a situation where a ground person (yes I know it’s encrypted, army/navy security and all — I’m not disagreeing yet) can forcefully take control of any aircraft. That’s a fact of your system.

    So far, given these assumptions, yes your system would be able to have prevented 9/11. But, you have one weak link in the chain — you’ve created a new dependency/risk, and that is that anyone who can compromise the communications system for controlling the aircraft can now control any airplane in the air WITHOUT the pilot(s) being able to prevent it from happening.

    I work in IT and internet security. I have heard engineers/companies MANY times claim that a system is 100% unbreakable/uncrackable/uncompromisable. The reality is, however, that computer systems ALWAYS have a weakness, and it’s only a matter of time before it is found out.

    Do you know the most common way of overcoming a mainframe computer system? Is it some Einstein specializing in complex decoding of multi-encrypted messages being super smart and learning how to crack the systems multiple passwords (sometimes sensitive to the time window of 30 seconds or less)? No.

    No… the majority of IT computer mainframes are compromised in a very simple way…. time and time again, it is by someone gaining physical access to the mainframe room, because physical compromising of mainframe is much much easier than network attacks. Over and over again, it’s people ON THE INSIDE who cause or help enable an attack.

    I don’t disagree with your statement, “We can do it in a way using complex secure ciphered codes that have been developed by the military for nuclear safety.” That’s great! But guess what — that is NOT the weakest link.

    Time and time again I’ve learned that usually an amazing solution is marketed based on it’s strongest links in the chain, but once it is implemented and reality shows it’s weakest links, it is the weakest links that attackers compromise, and it’s usually the weakest links that are either ignored or played-down at the beginning of the life cycle of a new idea such as yours.

    This is to prove my point — even though your system is “military safe” so to speak, do NOT think for a SECOND that someone will find it’s weakest link and exploit it, and I am suggesting to you that although you may have prevented 9/11, you are actually creating a BIGGER problem in the future. One day, someone could compromise your system, and they wouldn’t have control of just 4 airplanes who could kill a few thousand people, they would potentially have control of THOUSANDS of airplanes who could kill MILLIONS of people…

    But wait, WAIT, Sy’s system is rock-solid, right? If someone compromised the system on the ground, and the airplanes were heading for disaster, the pilot(s) still would have a last resort, right? They could push a putton, or enter a code, or pull a wire, or do SOMETHING to prevent their jumbo jet from hitting a densely populated area, right?

    NO, not in Sy’s system. Sy’s system was designed in such a way that it would have prevented 9/11 — a system that not even the pilot(s) can disengage. So now you can send an F16 up to watch the pilot(s) cry and weep their tears, because their HUD and SAFELANDER system is showing they’re going to crash, but not the F16 nor anyone can do anything, because there is no way to disengage the system… remember, it was designed to prevent 9/11 type situations.

    Be very careful Sy. Sometimes, the reaction to an initial action can be more dangerous than the original action. In life, sometimes it’s better to create small improvements to things that were 99% perfect, rather than create a whole brand new system that will prove, over time, to have it’s own (possibly far more dangerious) weaknesses.

    I wish you well, please think about it. And I’m sorry for your loss. It’s not easy losing anyone, friend or family, or anyone close to you.

  • sylevine

    Dave I disagree with you. If terrorist wanted to do damage they can take control of our AWACS planes, ballistic missiles, submarines, etc. These can do much more damage than what occurred on 9/11 and that has never been done. Thus a system can be designed where it is secure.

    There have been times where a rogue pilot flew a plane loaded with bombs. An example is the A10 that was eventually found, months later, that crashed into a mountain in Colorado. The two high explosive bombs have never been found, even after extensive searches.

    There also pilots who have intentionally crashed the plane.

    If you felt that the pilot should have the option of controlling the plane, and there is a risk in that also which is far greater than the remote pilot, then you could have a pilot ID system in place but I feel that when you examine the crashes and realize that over 30% of all aviation crashes are pilot error what I propose is far safer since it reduces the pilot error fatal crashes, the crashes such as decompression etc. that aren’t related to pilot error and terrorists.

    Remember that we are flying RPV all over the world and the terrorist have never taken control of any of them. If they could, they would do it and could do substantial damage to our soldiers and to the population at large. This proves the advantage of the system. Anyway I appreciate what your saying but I disagree with it and that disagreement comes from managing a large number of black programs.


  • sylevine


    One other thing the SAFELANDER control portion is only one part of the up-link of the communication system. Flight manuals and expert system advisories can be sent on the up-link even if we never introduced remote piloting. The down-link of the Remote Aircraft Flight Recorder and Advisory System (RAFT) is the data going to the black box and that should be done first. There is no reason why the black box data is remotely sent to the ground so that you instantly have the location of a downed plane or have the data to prevent a recurring crash, etc. The up-link uses less than 10% of the bandwidth since only a few planes are in trouble.

    Dave I really appreciate your concern but I think this is about it for on a blog since I’m working on something with the Dutch and English presently.

    Take care and you have a major concern that must be addressed better than Airbus initially did.


  • Level Headed

    Sorry Sy, I still disagree that your system would offer the world serious value to justify the risk, when compared to a system that allows the pilot to disengage it.

    Back to my original point, one that you dismissed, and that is the recovery of flight data would have been solved in the Air France 447 scenario if the Aeromechanical Services product had been standard instead of (or in addition to) the black box.

    The FLYHT product line is made by AeroMechanical Services, the product website is and the company website is . It has already been installed on very prominent aircraft including Boeing 737, 757, 767, Airbus A319, A320, A321, and one A330 at the moment, as well as others such as Lockheed Martin and de Havilland. It is FAA/TC/EASA/VSTC approved (USA/Canada/Europe/China respectively). It is ready for commercial installation, and is not just a patent awaiting money to fund the idea — the idea is already being used in the real world and is proving itself effective in many ways, including fuel savings.

    I personally believe that computers can always help a pilot, but should be treated as a tool and should never replace him. I’m sorry, but I am believer in the human brain, that when it is trained, it can always (and will always) outperform a computer with respect to making intelligent, informed decisions, while maintaining an eye on the horizon for the unexpected.

    Sy, I wish you all the best with your product, but I encourage you to always be on the lookout for unexpected consequences and miscalculated engineering conclusions. If engineering were perfect, bridges collapsing due to faulty design would never have occurred in our history, and yet history is littered with them… as a result, people lost their lives, and of course engineers got smarter and bridges got safer… but that took centuries, and they’re still not perfect, but they are better. Nobody ever stopped and said, “hey, bridges are unsafe, we need a new idea… let’s get people across water some other way, not with bridges anymore”, but rather people focused their efforts more intently on improving the bridge idea and we have gained safety and amazing improvements thanks to their efforts over the centuries.

    Rather than adding yet another bulky technological system full of new procedures to follow (thereby filling the pilots head with even more useless information), we should focus on simplification of tasks, making the pilot more focused on the most important task: flying the plane. Sure there need to be failsafes, and I really really like your SAFELANDER system if only the pilot could disengage it at his own discretion. Without that critical ability, your idea classifies not as an improvement, but a risk, and I criticize you on this alone.

    It’s an age old problem: complication leads to destruction. The beautiful things in life are simple, and the simple things in this life are complicated. We’re only human, we have a history of making mistakes. So we need to be careful of ourselves and not put all our eggs in one basket, by not creating a solution that can make-or-break due to one weakest link in the chain. Preventing a pilot from being able to disengage a system is creating a link weaker than all the rest, and is asking for trouble, no matter how ‘perfect’ that system may be.

    And my name is not Dave, so please stop calling me Dave.

    Thank you, sincerely,
    Level Headed

  • sylevine

    Level Head:

    If you are attempting to do what you say then your company is doing then you are infringing on the RAFT patent. The RAFT patent is for sending the flight data information to the ground via telemetry. You should decease from your infringement.

    The SAFELANDER patent is for remote piloting.


  • Level Headed

    The SAFELANDER system puts people’s lives at risk, both in the air and on ground, and is unsafe.

    If any company infringes on your RAFT patent, then sue them for patent infringement, as you must know that you are free to do so.

    Folks, a system that can forcefully remotely control an airplane without the pilot’s consent (SAFELANDER) is a disaster waiting to happen.

  • sylevine

    Level Head:

    I think you should not hide your head but pick it up. Put your name and your affiliation out so people can see from where you come.

    SAfelander is safe but what head in the sand wants is to repeat the aviation fatal disasters over and over again. If you continue to do the same things that you have done you can expect the same problems.
    It is time to prevent most crashes and not do listen to someone who instead of being level headed puts his head in the sand and see nothing. 9/11 just like Helios and a host of fatal crashes will continue to occur unless we change our system to prevent them. Aviation accidents are rear but they tend to repeat. That repeation is called recurring crashes. It is far too high. The purpose of the black box is to prevent fatal crashes but unfortuneatly too many fatal crashes aren’t prevented by just looking at the black box data.
    We must use the data proactively to prevent crashes such as 9/11 and Helios. Both of these fatal crashes are recurring crashes that could have been prevented if a system like safelander was available.

    What head in the sand wants to do is to keep these crashes occuring and I feel that isn’t the right thing to do. We owe it to the families of the people that died and to future generations to prevent these types of crashes and a host of others from occuring again.



    Stop Flying Airbus and Air France until they both come clean.
    Two possibilities:
    - Airbus structural failure
    - Air France pilot error
    In both cases, both entities are equally responsible, there should be no compromise in getting the right answers and quickly. Until then stop flying Airbus and Air France.

  • Steve

    Why isnt the French government doing more to find the black boxes? are they unwilling or incapable? I wonder if airbus and air france have any real interest in finding the boxes based upon the potential liability.

  • sylevine

    This is not an Airbus only problem. It has and will continue to occur with Boeing also and all the air lines that use both manufacturers aircraft. It is the industries and government regulatory willingness to accept this level of fatalities.

    In the Air France Flight 447 they may cry about sensors or other problems but the arlines and pilot associations fear of litgation far out ways passenger safety or even the flight crew safety. Their lobby organizations with their large political contributions have effectively blocked the real-time use of the flight data. The litigation fear has effectively killed thousands of innocent passengers. The public doesn’t have the lobby organizations to stop this industrial-government money driven partnership and thus they have born the brunt of these unnecessary fatal crashes. The aviation industry, through their effective lobby organizations, have large influence on who is selected to head the government monitoring agencies (i.e.: FAA, NTSB, etc.). Thus passenger safety is lower on the list of priorities.

    The public doesn’t have effective lobby organizations and thus they are left with these senseless deaths. The newspapers have to just stop just reporting about the crashes but they must add the effective solutions. The commercial world would not have GPS satellite navigaion system if the FAA had its initial way. The Air Force built the satellite system for precision bombing without any support from the FAA (they initially would not support GPS and said it wasn’t necessary in the 21st century for commercial aviation – they had Omega). If France and the US decided to stop these crashes they could build the communication and monitoring infrastructure. Then make it regulatory that the airlines use that structure (just like the airlines don’t build airports but governments do). When that occurs the number of fatal crashes will drop dramatically. It would also make flying more economical.

  • Shojib Ashrafi Na Ashrafi

    Well, If you believe in what you write here, lets agree for an IMPARTIAL INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION as a sane person rather than BIASED BASHING on the Freedom Fighters Tamil Tigers wothout blaming the racist Srilanka who did the Genocide and deny access to any Independent media let alone an independent investigation.

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