Were airlines negligent in 11/9 attack?

My thinking is this Broomstick Hijacker at cockpit door, pilot puts plane into climb say 5-10 degrees more than what is done during a short field take off. A stall would be not an issuse as I am assuming that the plane is at cruise. If hijacker is hanging on tight, he/they will roll down the aisle. if that does not work try a couple of tight banks, banked say 50 degrees or so. Try standing up when that happens. Neither of these moves should cause undue stess of the airframe. But both woujld be a stone bitch to ride out in the back unbelted.
As far as the structural strength of the large airplanes goes, have you ever been in an airliner during really severe weather? I have been a pax on a couple of trips that put any rollercoaster I have ever been on to shame. I agree that airliners are not rated for full areobatics, but they for the most part are strong as hell (Scarebuses excepted)
FTR Tex Johnston never exceeded 1G during his roll. Think of what would have happened to a hijacker if he had stopped the roll inverted for a moment…

It’s not airspeed that matters in a stall, it’s the angle of attack of the wing. You can stall an airplane at cruise speed. Just wanted to clear that up.

I don’t know if you can get a steep enough/abrupt enough climb out of an airliner to make someone slide backward like that. What we need is for one of the big iron pilots around here to drop in, but maybe they’re all at work these last couple days.

A 50 degree bank gives you less than 2g’s (you get 2g’s at 60 degrees) - carnival rides routinely subject people to 3 or 4g’s. Uncomfortable? Yes. But I would expect a healthy, athletic person would be able to stand and walk under those circumstances. It would slow the Bad Guys down, yes - and slow down everyone else, too. Maybe that’s what you want?

I think the conflict between the body’s up-and-down through the semi-circular canals and the visual up-and-down in this situation would be more likely to be disorienting or disabling and the g force. But that would only work if the person in question had a good view of the outside - which is usually not the case in an airliner.

Other choices might be a rapid yaw (swinging the plane left and right without banking) or roll (rocking the wings up and down). But don’t do the rapid yaws in an Airbus - there is a specific caution to NOT subject it to that sort of movement.

Another possible factor to consider is fly-by-wire airplanes, where there is a computer between the pilot at the controls and the actual moving parts that steer the airplane. Such a system, in the name of safety, could be programmed to simply not do certain things - such as extreme manuvers, or uncoordinated turns of sufficient force to knock people off their feet. I don’t know if these airliners have esuch programming or not - but if they do the airplane simply won’t do these manuvers even when told to.

As I said, we really need an airline pilot to get answers to some of this, since that isn’t my area of aviation and some of the answers require knowledge of the particular planes involved.

Yes, I have ridden out storms in an airliner. It’s exciting. But the motions are usually not as extreme as people riding in the back think (occassional multi-thousand foot drops excepted). But even when the motion IS extreme, it doesn’t mean you’re subjecting the airplane to particularly strong forces. The ideal in rough weather situations is to fly at what’s called “manuvering speed” or “rough air penetration speed”, which is in a range where the airplane will stalll (that’s the wing, not the engine we’re talking about stalling) before any structural damage can occur. That’s little different from a sudden yank-and-bank to dislodge a hijacker from his feet.

That’s because ol’ Tex knew what he was doing. An inexperienced in stunt flying airliner pilot might screw up the manuver. Some stunts may be “1g” manuvers when done properly, but recovery from a botched attempt might be quite stressful to both man and machine.

That result may be obvious - but I wonder about the airplane. Some airplanes don’t fly well upside-down. I mean, sure, the wings work fine but items like the fuel system may not function while inverted. Since airliners are not expected to fly upside down during their normal duties it would unsafe to assume they will continue to function in inverted flight without more information.

Sorry to join the party late, but I just got back from a trip (imagine that - a junior guy having to fly over Super Bowl Sunday!)

It seems like the discussion here has gotten down to whether abrupt maneuvering is a viable option in a hijacking attempt. The answer is “not really”, but let’s back up a bit first.

We all know how 9/11 changed the thinking about hijackings. Never before had the hijackers eliminated the flight crew. The old “cooperate” thinking changed to “prevent access to the cockpit”.

To refresh everyone’s memory on how they got into the cockpit on 9/11:

They brought aboard legal (at the time) edged weapons.
They used these weapons to kill flight attendants and take their cockpit keys from them.
They then used the cockpit key to open the door, surprising the pilots and then killing them.

Since 9/11 edged weapons are no longer allowed (how effective they are at catching them is another debate. Prior to 9/11 they were LEGAL to carry, so you could ALWAYS get one on board).
Flight attendants no longer carry keys to the cockpit door.
Cockpit doors have been reinforced and cannot be opened from the cabin without the permission of the pilots.
The FFDO (Federal Flight Deck Officer) program was started, and there are pilots right now flying with a gun in the cockpit as a last line of defense.
Passenger attitudes have changed. The days of the meek sheep passenger are over.
With these and other operational changes (that cannot be discussed in a public forum), the chance of anyone ever getting into a cockpit again is extremely remote. If they do somehow manage to hack their way through the door it will NOT be a surprise to the pilots.

So, where does abrupt maneuvering fit into all of this? It was discussed thoroughly after 9/11, as was depressurization of the cabin (yes, it can be done quickly). The conclusion was that the risks involved outweighed the benefits. Placing yourself into an unusual attitude, the potential for overstressing the airframe, the potential harm to people on your side (flight attendants and passengers) all add up to significant risk. The potential upside is that you slow down the hijacker while you are maneuvering or get lucky and have a service cart break his leg. If you don’t incapacitate the hijackers, as soon as you stop maneuvering they will be back at the door.

Yawing the airplane will do almost nothing except place extreme stress on the airframe. The forces generated inside the cabin will be relatively small, but the stress on the vertical stab is enormous. As for abrupt pitching up or down, on older airplanes there is the possibility of overstressing the airframe if you get really ham-fisted with it. Newer airplanes (particularly the Airbus types) have parameters that the flight computers will not let you exceed: you can pull all you want to on that sidestick controller, but you will get to the software limit and no further. I’ve never flown a 'Bus so I don’t know how much G you could get, but I’m fairly certain that the airplane won’t let itself be damaged. Bottom line is this technique will be airframe specific as to having ANY sort of viability.

As for doing a barrel-roll and stopping the roll while inverted: that’s not a viable option either. Most airliners have gravity-fed fuel systems with boost pumps and sumps to help out, but the pumps are on the bottom of the tanks. Invert the airplane for a length of time (it will vary by airframe), and eventually you will flame out the engines. The engines may also get damaged because of a lack of oil - the oil system is pressurized but on many engines the oil sump is not pressurized. Once again, it’s just a matter of time before the engines are starved of oil. In addition this maneuver will be VERY uncomfortable for everyone, including the flight crew. Sustaining -1G is not very pleasant, and you will have mass chaos in the airplane as everything that isn’t strapped down comes crashing around. In the cockpit you would have kit bags, maps, papers, pens, jackets, drinks and years of accumulated crumbs and dirt suddenly banging around. Take a 30-pound kit-bag to the face and you’ll be thinking about a lot of things, but flying inverted will be low on that list.

The defense of the cockpit after 9/11 is multi-layered and much more robust than it was prior to the hijackings. Abrupt maneuvering and depressurization are not part of the formal defense measures. Can I say that it will never be used as a defense? No. Flying is a dynamic environment, and each flight is unique. The Pilot In Command still has emergency deviation authority to do whatever he/she thinks is necessary to bring the flight to a safe landing. There might be a combination of circumstances someday where a quick G-onset will disable a hijacker just long enough for someone to disarm him, but then again there might not.

The real question here, Antechinus, is why didn’t you start this thread before 9/11?

These things being so obvious and negligently ignored and what not…

What would be the problem with a “knock out” type gas system?

I was under the assumption that the Moscow theater incident was botched because they were dealing with a large room, limited resources, and a lack of time.

Couldn’t there be a covered switch in the cockpit that wouldn’t open without fingerprint verification, releasing a measured (and tested) amount of non-lethal gas into the known volume of the passenger area?

And yes, there could be malfunctions, but couldn’t they be rigorously tested (maybe even have it government standardized/tested)?

Impossible. Non-lethal yet incapacitating for a 20 stone guy would kill a baby.

Because, like most people, I assumed the cockpit was a well secured area.

A whole bunch of problems:

  • it takes time for this to work. It would be obvious what was happening (as people start to fall unconcious) and a suicide bomber could trigger the bomb they have in their shoes, backpack, etc.
  • or they could pull out the mask & disguised oxygen bottle from their backpack and put that on. And then do their terroristic work at ease, with all the flight attendents & passengers unconcious.
  • what kind of “knock out” gas would this be? I can’t think of any that would knock out everyone on the plane in a reasonable amount of time, given the amount of clean air on the plane. In an operation, the doctor covers your face with a mask so that they can ensure you breath in a controlled dose of the anesthetic, not operating room air. Just releasing it into the plane’s air would be very unreliable.
  • anesthetic gases are notoriously variable in their effects on different people. The dose needed to put a healthy young man under may be near lethal for an elderly lady with asthma. Plus people with heart conditions, etc. What percentage of the passengers are you willing to kill to ensure that everyone on the plane is unconcious?
  • Also, it’s well known that air circulation systems in planes have some problems. Counting on these systems to distribute your “knock out” gas evenly throughout the plane seems rather unreliable.
  • And not even going to go into the cost of installing such a system in all the planes in use today, plus the inevitable accidental triggering of it, plus the maintenance needs to keep it working effectively.

These are just the problems that occur to me off the top of my head. People more knowledgable about anesthetics & airplanes can probably come up with more.

Well, for one, the gas would make it’s way into the cockpit via the airconditioning system.

“So what?” you say, “pilots would just don their emergency oxygen.”

Sure, but people make mistakes and systems fail. It would be inevitable that the magic gas would be turned on inadvertently sometime taking out the pilots and the rest of the aircraft. You could put numerous safety devices onto it, but it would be as inevitable as an airliner running out of fuel (it has happened more than once).

Here’s an idea.

We use remotely controlled aircraft that can only be controlled from the ground or by pre-flight programming. The aircraft takes a full load of passengers from a to b including flight attendants but it is physically impossible for any of them to take control. In fact we could do away with pilots all together and just use the air traffic controllers. Rather than giving instructions to airborne pilots, they’d have direct control of the aircraft autopilot.

You can’t be serious about the “remote control” airplanes.

Since you’ve pointed out the flaws of the “knockout gas” system I’ll let you also point out the flaws of a “remote control” system.

There are many, trust me.

Let’s start with this:

If you can see the problems with one system, you can see the problems with another. I know that you wouldn’t post something like that in a thread with a bunch of pilots just to get a reaction.

Please tell me 1920’s Style Death Ray forgot the sarcasm smilely when he posted about remote control airliners…

And what happens when one of these ground control units, or some replacement parts for one, get sold on the black market? Terrorists could re-create the 9/11 attacks from the safety and comfort of their living room.

Spot on Broomstick :). I don’t normally do smileys and thought that it wouldn’t be taken seriously, but I should know by now that people can come up with some bizarre ideas in all seriousness.

I put my idea into the same category as having a pilotless passenger jet fly in very close formation with a piloted jet in interests of fuel economy (something I read in a flying magazine):eek:.

Ok there’s my smiley quota used up for this year.

pilot141, yes the flaws in such a system would be many. Even if you managed to make the system completely and utterly fail-safe (which no system can be IMO), I don’t believe you’d ever get your average passengers to step aboard a pilotless aircraft.

diceman, yeah I didn’t really think of that, it’d probably make it easier to hijack rather than harder.

1920s Style Death Ray thank you - my faith in people (at least the ones who populate this board) is redeemed.

In my time here I’ve learned that you can never predict what people will think or post. I usually limit my GQ posts to things I know about (i.e. flying), and I’m still continually amazed at the ignorance out there.

Thanks for the follow-up, but I must make one suggestion: you’ll find that us pilot types are very literal people, and unless you give us a good reason to think your post is sarcastic we’ll assume it’s not.

But we’re also pretty nice! After posting an idea to eliminate our entire existence you got three mild replies. Imagine doing that with a bunch of doctors or lawyers!!

That is all…have a nice night!