"Dead Man's Switch" for aircraft?

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
The thread about the unresponsive TBM (and the Payne Stewart crash) got me thinking....

Has anyone ever thought of a system where, if there wasn't some kind of active intervention from the pilot (either hitting a button or even transmitting on a radio) the auto-pilot would automatically descend to something like 8000 feet to prevent prolonged exposure/hypoxia at high altitude?

Or developed some kind of failsafe system that automatically descends the airplane and warms it up if it detects adverse environmental conditions when the A/P is engaged?

These accidents are understandable, but they seem like one of those things where technology could really solve a problem here.
 

jtrain609

Antisocial Monster
The thread about the unresponsive TBM (and the Payne Stewart crash) got me thinking....

Has anyone ever thought of a system where, if there wasn't some kind of active intervention from the pilot (either hitting a button or even transmitting on a radio) the auto-pilot would automatically descend to something like 8000 feet to prevent prolonged exposure/hypoxia at high altitude?

Or developed some kind of failsafe system that automatically descends the airplane and warms it up if it detects adverse environmental conditions when the A/P is engaged?

These accidents are understandable, but they seem like one of those things where technology could really solve a problem here.
This would likely end very poorly over parts of Colorado and Utah.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
This would likely end very poorly over parts of Colorado and Utah.
Yeah, I thought about the issue of MSA, so maybe it goes down to MSA, squawks an emergency of some kind and, if no intervention, tries to orbit somewhere? Maybe flies to the destination MAP and then circles trying to revive the pilot? I dunno. Lots of decisions there. Not sure what would be a good idea.

Just seems like such a preventable accident.
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
If I recall from NJC several years back when we got to tour the MGM flight department, they mentioned their G4 or 5 (cant recall) would do just that. The AP would descend the a/c t a much lower distance and enter a holding pattern or sorts. I dont remember the exact details. Can @Stone Cold or other G- drivers respond?
 

PositionAndHold

Well-Known Member
Gulfstream has been using a system for a while now that does exactly that. Once the cabin pressure controller senses a certain max altitude limit, (and there isn't any intervention by the crew) it will initiate an emergency descent and descend to 10k or MEA. I also want to say it'll enter a hold as well. I don't have any Gulfstream time, I'm just going by what I remeber reading a few years back.
 

NewYorkophile

Fly Casual
It'd be a lot easier to install easy-to-see/hear cabin altitude warnings. Should be just as prominent as a fire handle, and easy to install in any aircraft (pressurized or not).

It's not the altitude- it's the extended time at altitude that gets you. A quick notification of the cabin above 12k or so. I'm also unfamiliar with the O2 systems on the TBM.

Yeah, I thought about the issue of MSA, so maybe it goes down to MSA, squawks an emergency of some kind and, if no intervention, tries to orbit somewhere? Maybe flies to the destination MAP and then circles trying to revive the pilot? I dunno. Lots of decisions there. Not sure what would be a good idea.

Just seems like such a preventable accident.
 

jtrain609

Antisocial Monster
Yeah, I thought about the issue of MSA, so maybe it goes down to MSA, squawks an emergency of some kind and, if no intervention, tries to orbit somewhere? Maybe flies to the destination MAP and then circles trying to revive the pilot? I dunno. Lots of decisions there. Not sure what would be a good idea.

Just seems like such a preventable accident.
It IS a preventable accident; put on the damned O2 mask before doing anything else.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
It IS a preventable accident; put on the damned O2 mask before doing anything else.
I get what you're saying. But in a pressurized airplane, are you going to wear a mask anyway, just in case the pressurization system decides to pack up on you that day?

Or are you saying put the mask on as soon as you suspect a problem?
 

jtrain609

Antisocial Monster
I get what you're saying. But in a pressurized airplane, are you going to wear a mask anyway, just in case the pressurization system decides to pack up on you that day?

Or are you saying put the mask on as soon as you suspect a problem?
It's a memory item in most pressurized aircraft. The first thing you do before anything else is to put the mask on and THEN evaluate the situation.

Anything less demonstrates a lack of discipline on the part of the pilot. Few things will kill you faster than passing out when you're supposed to be flying the airplane.
 

Joshwa

Well-Known Member
You could install an unmistakeable attention grabbing alarm or cabin altitude warning...

...or you could make it identical to the takeoff config horn (which can also sound in flight in certain circumstances). Well played, Boeing.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
It's a memory item in most pressurized aircraft. The first thing you do before anything else is to put the mask on and THEN evaluate the situation.

Anything less demonstrates a lack of discipline on the part of the pilot. Few things will kill you faster than passing out when you're supposed to be flying the airplane.
Cool - thanks for the info. Never flown anything pressurized before and don't have a clue as to how the systems work in that sense.

Speculation is useless I know, but maybe he knew he had a problem but didn't get the mask on in time and the efforts were too little, too late...
 

Cessnaflyer

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
I've read about autopilots that will descend down to 14,000' which keeps them out of the hills and should give enough pressure to bring the crew back.
 

Cessnaflyer

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
I should also add we just did a phase in the King Air and the cabin altitude alarm didn't work and the masks in the back didn't drop. Kind of an eye opener on a malfunction that could silently kill you.
 

jtrain609

Antisocial Monster
You could install an unmistakeable attention grabbing alarm or cabin altitude warning...

...or you could make it identical to the takeoff config horn (which can also sound in flight in certain circumstances). Well played, Boeing.
EMB products give you a *DINGDINGDING* CABIN.
 

gliderboy

Well-Known Member
Is the time/fuel saved by flying that high really worth the added risk? For relatively short legs, or when flying single pilot or non-professional crew, why not just fly at 12 or so and eliminate the risk?
 

Cessnaflyer

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Is the time/fuel saved by flying that high really worth the added risk? For relatively short legs, or when flying single pilot or non-professional crew, why not just fly at 12 or so and eliminate the risk?
Even in our little thing the fuel burn is almost double down at 12 then what it is at 330. Going to be a lot of fuel stops if we stayed down there.
 
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