Remote control of hijacked planes?

OK, this may be a dumb question, because the site I got the info from is a conspiracy-theory one, but is there any truth at all in this paragraph?

>> In the mid-seventies America faced a new and escalating crisis, with US commercial jets being hijacked for geopolitical purposes. Determined to gain the upper hand in this new form of aerial warfare, two American multinationals collaborated with the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) on a project designed to facilitate the remote recovery of hijacked American aircraft. Brilliant both in concept and operation, “Home Run” [not its real code name] allowed specialist ground controllers to listen in to cockpit conversations on the target aircraft, then take absolute control of its computerized flight control system by remote means.
From that point onwards, regardless of the wishes of the hijackers or flight deck crew, the hijacked aircraft could be recovered and landed automatically at an airport of choice, with no more difficulty than flying a radio-controlled model plane. <<

Sorry to have to post again, but I cant get in to the edit facility for some reason. If the above is not true, and the authorities did not have this option open to them on 911, isnt it technically feasible? Agreed, it may be extremely difficult for a ground-based pilot to fly a plane in this way, but, however dangerous for the passengers, any shot is better than no shot at all.

If it were feasible, which I doubt, it would just create a whole new terrorist risk. Which worries you more: the possibility that one aircraft is hijacked by trained pilots, or the possibility that hackers/crackers (to keep both sides of that semantic debate happy) manage to gain control of hundreds of aircraft in one stroke?

I think this is an absurd notion coming from the seventies. While DARPA is an agency that’d think about something like this, the physical structure inside the cockpit (i.e., the autopilot being connected to some transmit/receive data link) didn’t exist back then, and I’m not so sure it exists now. I don’t see any other possible way to remotely take over an aircraft. I also don’t see any way to “listen in” on conversations up there. The only way to get conversations off the aircraft is to transmit them. Aside from planting bugs on every single commercial aircraft capable of transmitting to an overhead satellite, I don’t think it’s possible.

Well, I just read half the junk in the link provided. That’s all I could handle. He’s saying the system uses the Transponder to send and receive the necessary signals from the ground. Ridiculous.

And his “hard evidence” for this system being used on 9/11 is that the hijacked planes were not squawking 7500 (the code for hijack). (All it takes is a hijacker with some knowledge of aviation, which these guys apparently had, to tell the pilots to keep away from the transponder) His second piece of hard evidence is this:

You see, the system takes over the cockpit voice recorder to collect the conversations which are then sent, I suppose, to the Transponder for transmission off the aircraft. Aside from the sheer lunacy of all this, didn’t the vicitm’s families of the Pittsburgh crash get to hear the CVR of the final moments before the crash? I seem to recall hearing something about that.

So, of course this system was used. The pilots weren’t either killed/removed from the cockpit/warned to stay away from the instruments before they could get a warning off via the transponder. And the CVR’s were blank not because the crash conditions exceeded the design limitations of the black boxes. But wait a minute… the CVR’s from flight 93 did have dialogue on them. No matter. This is obviously a ploy by the Government to make us believe there were terrorists.

I think what gets me is that this is an overly-complicated explanation for events.

Personally, I am quite convinced that a small group of men armed with box-cutters could overpower unarmed pilots behind a flimsy door, but let’s look at this fellow’s theory more closely:

This gentleman probably hasn’t done much RC plane flying. This is not as easy at it looks, and some of the larger RC planes require more than one operator to fly safely. I have serious reservations that a 757 could be remotely operated in this fashion. I would like him to provide proof of this - perhaps location and dates/times of test flights of this system, which surely would have taken place IF such a system existed.

The Pentagon has used remote-controlled airplanes in combat conditions for some time, but only unmanned planes. I have no doubt they’ve experimented with the concept, but “experiment” is not the same as “implement”

Nitpick - airplanes in fact CAN fly without engine thrust - it’s called “gliding” and predated powered flight by a couple decades. There have been several instances of airliners successfully landing with no injuries after complete engine failure, the most famous of which was the Gimli glider. Either this guy doesn’t know as much about flying as he claims, or he’s “dumbing down” for the general public. Of the two, the latter irks me more - there is no reason to simplify to inaccuracy. Engine thrust allows take-off and maintains altitude, which are both important. Without thrust in an airliner, you are descending, but this is quite possible in a controlled manner. See, that wasn’t hard to say, now was it?

Another nit-pick - unless you’re in a spin, the ailerons are what turn the plane. (I am not going to discuss spins and airliners. And yes, the rudder will turn the plane - so will running the two (or more) engines at different speeds. But it’s not the normal way to do it and it’s very inefficient) Even at low speeds, ailerons turn the plane. This is basic basic stuff, you learn it in your first hour of flight instruction. Already I am questioning just how qualified this guy is to discuss these matters.

Have to question the “mid-seventies” timing of this. The mid-seventies were still pre-PC (as in computers) and computers still room-filling monsters. I think they had “pocket” calculators at that time - 3 lb lumps that wouldn’t fit in anyone’s pocket that ate batteries like a bulumic sucking down Haagen-Daaz. But yes, boys and girls, there are airliners equipped with “autoland” systems that can land in zero-zero conditions without human assistance. They are also hellaciously expensive, require constant maintance (both the airplane’s and the groud system) and require special training on the part of the pilots to use and to monitor for malfunctions - and the pilots can override the machine if something goes awry. To my mind, his confidence in this system is yet another instance of over-confidence in technology, the tendency to think our tech is more advanced than it actually is. If this system was truly in place and so reliable, why would the airlines bother with human pilots at all?

This doesn’t make sense - first of all, prior to September 11, the aim of hijackers was not mass destruction but to get to Cuba or Shangri-La or wherever, or some simillar goal that did not have death as a primary feature (although certainly people had been killed in hijackings). The “cooperate and negotiate” tactics used through 2001 with hijackings were adopted with the goal of preserving life, and it probably worked as well as anything else. Eventually, most of the hostages were set free. So why have this elaborate “RC airliner” system when patience and talk and a few concessions will likely bring everyone home (or the vast majority) in the end?

Second - there HAD been hijackings with shooting hijackers - but this “remote control” system had never been activated. If the purpose was to take over from a homicidal maniac why wasn’t it used when there were shooters in control of an airliner prior to September 2001? Because it doesn’t exist, that’s why.

Only if you remember to turn it on! (yes, I’ve done that oops)

Transponders have this switch. It typically has several positions, one of them marked “OFF”. Reach over, turn it off. No more signal. It’s a MUCH SIMPLER explanation.

It is true, the hijacked craft did not send the “hijack” code. This may surprise some people, but ATC does not rely solely on that code to determine if a plane has been hijacked.

The September 11 hijackers were pilots. They would be able to identify the transponders and turn them off quickly, quite likely before any emergency signal could be sent. If this “home run” thing “piggybacks” on the transponder then by turning OFF the transponder it would seem to circumvent that system entirely, wouldn’t it?

Boxcutters. They used boxcutters. There’s a considerable difference between penknives and boxcutters, and is just one more inaccuracy to nitpick in this essay.

WRONG! Flight 93 CVR survived, there have been multiple witnesses (including family members of descended) to that.

The others did not survive for the simple reason that they were NOT designed to survive a crash AND a fire AND a building collapse. Maybe any one of the above, but not all three in quick succession. Again, over-confidence in technology - CVRs and FDRs are good, but they are NOT indestructible. There have been other crashes where they didn’t survive. This is not a mysterious occurance.

Flight 93’s CVR survived because it had “only” a crash to survive.

911 tapes of a couple of these calls have since been released. There were messages left on home answering machines. There IS evidence of these calls. The 911 operator who talked to the Flight 93 group has appeared publically (although this guy would probably dismiss her as in on the conspiracy - yes, the FBI planted this person in a 911 call center years ago just for this occassion, and somehow made sure the call would be routed to her. Riiiiight)

As for the 3rd party cellphone relays - does this guy writing this stuff own a cellphone? Perhaps the man tried to call direct and couldn’t get through to his wife (a common occurance with cellphones), so then called this other person. Or maybe it’s all part of an elaborate plot.

No, it doesn’t. Severl of my co-workers have gotten on airplanes using their work ID’s - which are just a phone and a name, nothing more, issued by my workplace using machinery that could be purcahsed by anyone. That was on September 10 and earlier, of course, but that’s the point - these guys could have used fake IDs. Why not? If 16 year olds can get fake IDs to get into bars I’m sure the hijackers could have gotten some, too.

Anyhow, that’s enough for now - this guy’s conspiracy theory is full of holes. I am puzzled as to why people are more ready to believe the US government killed 3000+ people and caused massive destruction than a bunch of bloodthirsty religious fanatics with backing by a Saudi millionaire. Both are pretty wild theories, but ask yourself, what’s to be gained? Al-Quaeda wants our destruction - well, yeah, a lot of damage and death happened. The US government wants… what? To destroy the country? Well, that doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Sorry - the work ID’s are photo and a name, not phone. My oops.

Beautifully demolished, guys. Thank you!