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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Preventing false 9/11 alarms

There's been a lot of discussion in the last six years over what to do if God forbid another 9/11 happens. Shooting down a civilian airliner to prevent it from killing even more people on the ground might be an easy decision if you know the plane's been hijacked but becomes a Hobbesian dilemma when you're uncertain. Israel has developed a relatively simple solution to the problem and is providing it for free to - and requiring it for - all airlines that fly into Tel Aviv beginning in January 2008.

Hat Tip: Nathan in Teaneck, New Jersey
According to a recent Associated Press story, as of 2008, all airlines flying into Israel will be required to equip their pilots with this system that lets ground controllers know if a plane has been commandeered by terrorists.

Code Positive, which Israel will distribute free, consists of a personalized card with which pilots relay a predetermined code upon approaching Tel Aviv.

If hijackers kill or remove the cockpit crew as was done in the Sept. 11 attacks, their failure to send the code will alert Israel that something’s wrong. If a pilot is forced to activate Code Positive, he or she can enter false data, which will serve as a discreet mayday message.

The system is said to be bluff-proof.

And pity the poor terrorist stupid enough to enter Israeli air space.

The Jewish state improved its aviation counter-measures following a 1973 tragedy in which warplanes shot down a Libyan airliner that strayed into the Israeli-controlled Sinai, suspecting it planned to ram a ground target. Scores of crew and passengers were killed.

Now Israel relies on advance notice of potential hijackings from its intelligence services, and its foreign allies, and should the worst happen, fighter jets can be scrambled within minutes to implement a series of tactical counter-measures.

The strategy is reportedly to divert planes to uninhabited areas by unnerving the hijackers by first buzzing the plane. If that doesn’t work, cannons are fired near its cockpit. And as a last resort, there are shoot-down orders.
The article also has an update on the Flight Guard system, which was installed on all El Al aircraft nearly two years ago, and which is now being sold to other countries' airlines. A more detailed technical update about the Flight Guard system was posted by George Smiley last week.

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