Soft Walls. or Who's flying the airplane?

CK

Well-Known Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

I guess they're assuming the terriorist have never heard of circut breakers.....
 

aloft

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

Eh, I'm not ready to render judgment on this just yet; I saw an application of this on TV in the last week or so where it seemed useful for avoiding CFIT sorts of accidents. In a King Air, it operated as a function of the autopilot--which, as we all know, can be overridden by the pilot--but Soft Walls is designed to function as a limitation within the fly-by-wire flight control paradigm of all future large aircraft (and possibly small ones too).

Be sure to read the Soft Walls FAQ, it addresses pretty much every question that occurred to me, save one. A key premise of the Soft Walls justification is that "no on-board emergency is severe enough to justify endangering large numbers of people on ground." To my thinking, this begs the question: are key things on the ground really to be protected at all--and I mean ALL--costs? I just can't see a jet with a serious emergency being steered into a densely-populated area simply to protect the White House or Camp David, for example. Succession of authority is already established in this country, and we can always elect another president. It'd still have been tragic, but I don't think the psychological effect would have been as great on the country (or for that matter, the world) if the White House had been leveled instead of the World Trade Center. Certainly, fewer people would have been killed.

I think we do have to concede that something has to change; the status quo simply isn't acceptable to the public. To this end, the FAQ makes a good argument here:

[ QUOTE ]
Why is Soft Walls the best option available for pilots?

Clearly, restricted control is better than being shot down. If Soft Walls does no more than reduce the likelihood of an accidental shooting, then we have accomplished a lot. But there are several other competing approaches that have gotten a lot of traction and are far worse from the pilot's perspective. Forced automatic landing systems, control from the ground, and fully automated flight clearly require the pilot to cede more authority than Soft Walls does. The principle in Soft Walls is maximally generous to the concept of pilot authority. The pilot has as much control over the aircraft as is possible, subject to the constraint that the aircraft does not enter the no-fly zones.

[/ QUOTE ]
I for one am interested in an actual discussion on this subject, rather than a bunch of "grr, that sucks!" posts.
 

Scoles

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

Here's one for an actual discussion - Why not have "Soft Floors" instead of Walls. Something that would restrict an aircraft from decending lower than 400 feet or whatever the optimal hieght would be. If the big problem is dealing with important things on the ground, why not restrict a plane from flying too low in certain area's. This would seem to be a lot less controversial than restricting where aircraft can fly... wouldn't it? Some recreational pilots thrive on the freedom a plane can bring; a sort of, "Go anywhere" type of spirit, and it would be unfortunate to restrict that. By having Soft Floors, pilots could still "Go anywhere". Or am I not realizing an obvious flaw in something like that.
 

Flugmaschine

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

Well, count me as one of the skeert when it comes to things like this. I'm all for reasonable security measures, but come on...this kind of stuff really will start us down the path to obsolescence. I realize that as academics and non-aviators they're exploring all avenues and possibilities, but that makes it even scarier to me.

In particular, the pilotless cockpit is my ugliest bugaboo. Naturally. We like/want to think that no one would fly in an airplane without a pilot on board, but is that really the case? I'm just starting on my path in aviation right now, and I have about 30 years until retirement, should I get on with a 121. I wonder how far these developments will go in that period of time. Is the writing on the wall?
 

aloft

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

The guys behind the Soft Walls concept aren't suggesting pilotless vehicles at all.

One other thought I had...for the heavy iron, at least, doesn't an impenetrable cockpit door pretty much accomplish the same thing?
 

SteveC

Really?
Staff member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

Except the scenario of a rogue pilot.
 

Flugmaschine

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

[ QUOTE ]
The guys behind the Soft Walls concept aren't suggesting pilotless vehicles at all.


[/ QUOTE ]

This is from the FAQ. No, they aren't suggesting it as a practical solution RIGHT NOW, but they are hinting at the future. That said, I was talking generally about pilotless aircraft as a problem or worry independent of the SoftWalls thing. My problem with Soft Walls is the removal/restriction of PIC authority, among other things.


"14. Wouldn’t fully automatic control be preferable?
It is technically possible for an airplane to fly without any human intervention at all. It could
be programmed with a sequence of waypoints to follow. Fully automatic landing systems are
already available in many aircraft, although they are rarely used.
An extreme proposal is to dispense with the pilot altogether and have all passenger aircraft
completely controlled by computer. However, the technology is not sufficiently advanced for
such systems to be adequately adaptable, for example to changing weather conditions. This
proposal is not a near term solution."
 

tonyw

Well-Known Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

Well, if you've got a rogue pilot, don't you think he could disable the system and go ahead and do his nasty deed?
 

SteveC

Really?
Staff member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

[ QUOTE ]
Well, if you've got a rogue pilot, don't you think he could disable the system and go ahead and do his nasty deed?

[/ QUOTE ]
On a fly-by-wire plane? I don't know.
I'll leave that to the more techie responders.
 

BoeingDrew

Well-Known Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

[ QUOTE ]
Here's one for an actual discussion - Why not have "Soft Floors" instead of Walls. Something that would restrict an aircraft from decending lower than 400 feet or whatever the optimal hieght would be. If the big problem is dealing with important things on the ground, why not restrict a plane from flying too low in certain area's. This would seem to be a lot less controversial than restricting where aircraft can fly... wouldn't it? Some recreational pilots thrive on the freedom a plane can bring; a sort of, "Go anywhere" type of spirit, and it would be unfortunate to restrict that. By having Soft Floors, pilots could still "Go anywhere". Or am I not realizing an obvious flaw in something like that.

[/ QUOTE ]

That sounds like a good idea to me. But, here is a senerio, what if a a terrorist is at say 10,000 ft., then desends erradically towards the target on the ground. It might not be possible for the plane to pull out of that dive safetly. Also, the "Soft Floor" really cannot be extended any higher than 3,500 ft. in some areas.
 

Grumpy01

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

I don't think there is any way to fully impliment a program such as this. That being said, perhaps a system based on GPS that would give an aural type of warning when about to enter restricted airspace.

The main problem as with any "advance" in technology is the cost. How can joe weekend pilot afford anything like this.

Are we to stop all "non commercial flying"

Seams to me that with just a few more restrictions, that is what will happen anyway.

The bad guys are winning.
 

davetheflyer

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

The major problem that I see with this is that the terrorists don't really lose if they can't crash into a high profile target. If they can't crash into the White House, for example, they can crash into a residential area. If we draw soft wall around all residential areas, where are we going to fly? Even if we answer that question, they could just crash the airplane into the barren desert and that would still be enough to kill off some of the weaker airlines and wreak economic havoc.

The better plan is to keep the bad guys off the airplanes in the first place or, failing that, to keep them from taking control.
 

Flugmaschine

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

[ QUOTE ]
The major problem that I see with this is that the terrorists don't really lose if they can't crash into a high profile target. If they can't crash into the White House, for example, they can crash into a residential area. If we draw soft wall around all residential areas, where are we going to fly? Even if we answer that question, they could just crash the airplane into the barren desert and that would still be enough to kill off some of the weaker airlines and wreak economic havoc.

The better plan is to keep the bad guys off the airplanes in the first place or, failing that, to keep them from taking control.

[/ QUOTE ]

Well said. If they can get this implemented for just TFRs and other prohibited areas, what's to stop community advocacy groups or certain mayors from eventually getting their own little area put off limits?
 

RiddlePilot

New Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

[ QUOTE ]
The major problem that I see with this is that the terrorists don't really lose if they can't crash into a high profile target. If they can't crash into the White House, for example, they can crash into a residential area. If we draw soft wall around all residential areas, where are we going to fly? Even if we answer that question, they could just crash the airplane into the barren desert and that would still be enough to kill off some of the weaker airlines and wreak economic havoc.

[/ QUOTE ]

I'm in complete agreement with that. The main issue I see is the fact that this "soft wall" programming may interfere with the pilot's ability to handle an emergency situation. The FAQ does state that "No on-board emergency is severe enough to justify endangering large numbers of people on ground," however, I think this reasoning is flawed. Emergency situations are not black and white situations, as the FAQ seems to imply (see FAQ #3, paragraph after NY Times excerpt). If I'm faced with a microburst as in the NY Times article, I'm going to respond by using any and every means necessary to remove the aircraft from this situation safely. If that means flying into restricted airspace to save the lives of my crew, passengers, or people on the ground, so be it.

The FARs give the PIC authority to break any regulation in the book during an emergency situation (91.3(b)), and I intend to use that authority to its fullest if needed.
 

tonyw

Well-Known Member
Re: Soft Walls. or Who\'s flying the airplane?

[ QUOTE ]
The better plan is to keep the bad guys off the airplanes in the first place or, failing that, to keep them from taking control.

[/ QUOTE ]

Amen to that! And we have got to have better intelligence than the kind of stuff that's getting Air France flights grounded because of a kid we suspect of being a terrorist! I am not making this up.
 
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