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I’m just wondering in what kind of emergency cases an airplane would return to the airport?

I am a programmer and security enthusiast — what kind of security issue should I have to find that would make the pilots consider it is a good idea to land and fix the security issue?

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closed as too broad by DeltaLima, xxavier, David Richerby, Ralph J, fooot Dec 14 '18 at 20:17

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not quite sure what you mean by a security issue. Do you mean a software security issue? If so, why are you probing for vulnerabilities on an aircraft currently in the air? Beyond that, physical security issues would really be handled on a case-by-case basis: bomb threats, weapons, and unruly passengers could all prompt an urgent landing. $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Dec 14 '18 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ZachLipton Yes, I mean software security (since I am a programmer). In such cases, how would a finding have to be reported? $\endgroup$ – Ionică Bizău Dec 14 '18 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ Looking for security vulnerabilities on an airplane you're currently flying on as a passenger is always an extraordinarily bad idea, if not something that can land you in hot water with the authorities. There's no mechanism for this, and pilots are not knowledgeable about software security; if the plane does land because of this, it would be because they're suspicious of the strange passenger who keeps talking about a security issue. This work is done, on the ground, by researchers and vendors using systems they're authorized to access, not random passengers. $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Dec 14 '18 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ For example: United Airlines bug bounty program: "Attempting any of the following will result in permanent disqualification from the bug bounty program and possible criminal and/or legal investigation[...]Any testing on aircraft or aircraft systems such as inflight entertainment or inflight Wi-Fi" $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Dec 14 '18 at 11:16
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It would be impossible to list all the possible emergencies that would make a pilot choose to land rather than continue a flight; it may be easier to list the ones that wouldn't cause them to want to land immediately. Pilots are a pretty paranoid bunch on average because the ones that aren't tend to die.

Regarding the specific word "return" in your answer, though, they would usually only return to the origin if that was the best option available at the time, which depends primarily on distance and altitude but would also be affected by winds, runway lengths and the exact nature of the problem.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Pilots are a pretty paranoid bunch on average because the ones that aren't tend to die" or, at the very least, have a really difficult time explaining to their instructor or examiner why the action they took was the safest course of action available to them at the time. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Dec 14 '18 at 10:47
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Well that all depends on the nature of the need to return.

The short answer is: anytime where, in the judgment of the flight crew, returning to the departure airport and landing presents the safest outcome for termination of the flight.

The choice of returning to the departure airport is driven by the nature of the emergency and the viability of other alternatives in solving the crisis. It’s a pretty broad set of circumstances here. There never is one single answer in ADM; some answers are better than others.

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