In February 2014 a co-pilot hijacked Ethopian Airlines flight 702 and took it to Switzerland.

Now in March there is some speculation that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 may have been hijacked and destroyed by the pilots - maybe they took a nose dive into the Andaman Sea?

So my question is this: is there an automatic or say anti-pilot warning system on commercial airliners?

In other words, a system that is non-maskable (can't be disabled by the pilot) and which will automatically warn ATC about unexpected conditions (like a sudden decrease in altitude)?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure 'anti-pilot' is the phrase you're looking for here, but I don't know what else to suggest. $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


The system you're asking about is called radar: ATC should monitor it to see what the plane is doing and ask what is going on when something unexpected happens.

It's hard to "automate" these kinds of alerts. For example, a sudden dive can also be cause by an uncontrolled control-surface hard-over (like the boeing 737 rudder problems that brought down 2 planes), or a loss of cabin pressurization (which requires a rapid descent to an altitude where your passengers can breathe).

The other option is having a second person in the cockpit who can wrest control away from the disobedient pilot (or let people in the cockpit to help).

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @AdityaPatil Yes, secondary radar shows altitude. But the radar transponder can be switched of by the pilot and then there is no altitude visible. Also, over sea / ocean there is often no radar coverage. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A dive can also be because of a depressurization. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:06
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @AdityaPatil; there's not such thing as "can't be disabled" as soon as it's aboard the aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:19
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @AdityaPatil and what would it do anyway? Utterly useless, unless you're hoping for some system where you can remotely take control over the aircraft at any time. And a hacker/terrorist would just love that capability. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 13:47
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @AdityaPatil - I think you're missing a more major point. We don't want to put a pilot in a situation where a computer forces control away from them. Computers can't be programmed for every contingency and they can't think creatively, so it could be dangerous. Rather, airlines do their best to screen pilots. A pilot of a 777 has to have several thousand hours of flight time before they are allowed to fly that plane, they are screened throughout the process of gaining hours. That's how this issue is dealt with, not by letting the computer steal control. $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 14:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .