122 votes
Accepted

Can a fighter jet be stolen?

Military aircraft rarely have any sort of keys or any sort of authentication systems, they rely on physical security measures to prevent people from getting to the airplanes in the first place, like ...
  • 50.6k
117 votes
Accepted

How do civilian pilots and ATC verify that other people on the radio are who they claim to be?

This is a reasonable question, and to an outside the simple answer of We don't / can't might seem a little bit jarring. After-all, we live in a time of hacking, terrorism and so on and I can ...
  • 8,860
111 votes
Accepted

Would a random passenger be allowed to fix a problem with a commercial aircraft?

I happen to have personal knowledge of this particular case. I was in that airplane, too, seated two rows away from him. I'm also a former pilot and was naturally very interested in what happened, so ...
  • 1,156
84 votes

Can a fighter jet be stolen?

I was a pilot attached to Attack Squadron 86 flying A7-E's during the mid-1980's and here is a case where one of our jets was nearly stolen. It is not what you might guess, and as GdD pointed out ...
  • 4,248
72 votes

Locked out of private jet - how do you get in?

It depends on the exact model. Bobby pins or any key that physically fits will get you into some, you'll need real picks for others, and some custom jobs may require a police snap gun or a locksmith's ...
  • 17.8k
59 votes
Accepted

What precautions prevent 'insiders' from stealing a large aircraft, as in the Horizon Air Q400 incident?

As an aircraft mechanic at a major airline, I think I can answer this pretty well. It wouldn’t be hard at all. All I have to do is wait for an aircraft move. This could be to bring a plane into the ...
  • 2,313
59 votes
Accepted

Why are commercial flights not (publicly) trackable in some locations?

The reason is that there is no member of the general public in those areas with an ADS-B receiver sharing live data with the public tracking sites. Websites like Flight Radar 24 rely largely on ...
  • 75.4k
55 votes

Can a few random interaction with cockpit controls result in a crash?

There's a real-life example that seems very similar: Aeroflot 593. The pilots let two children sit in the cockpit while the aircraft was on autopilot. One of the children pushed the control column for ...
  • 70.6k
51 votes

Do airplanes really expose their internal wires and electronics like this on the wings when braking?

You will have both hydraulic system plumbing lines, the metal pipes, and wiring harnesses running along the rear spar, serving hydraulic actuators and electrical components like sensors and servos, ...
  • 110k
39 votes
Accepted

What stops planes from being stolen?

There are a several theft-deterrent mechanisms in place. On small airplanes, most commonly, the door to the airplane itself is usually locked with a key. (Notice the key cylinder in this picture ...
  • 8,175
38 votes

Can a civilian aircraft pilot see a missile coming?

Visual detection To take one example, a vehicle-launched ground to air missile system (e.g. the SA-11) that can reach the cruising altitude of airliners travels at several thousand miles per hour and ...
36 votes

What stops planes from being stolen?

The difficulty of first hiding and then legalizing the aircraft. So the thief got into the plane. But what's he going to do with it? A car can be repainted in any remote garage and nobody will notice ...
  • 54.6k
31 votes

How are credit cards processed during flight?

Presumably, they use an off-line transaction. The reason your credit card has raised numbers is that, in the old days, before ubiquitous data connections, a card transactions used a machine like this ...
31 votes
Accepted

How does security and baggage checking work in regards to a private jet?

Here in the US (you didn't specify where, and this is different in other countries), traveling domestically in your own private aircraft is much like traveling in your own private car. Except in very ...
  • 57.8k
29 votes
Accepted

What are the details of opening a cockpit door from the outside?

I'm going to explain this for the Airbus (also known as the Cockpit Door Locking System or CDLS): How exactly does the person on the inside "cancel the unlock process" (Press a button, flip a ...
27 votes

Can a fighter jet be stolen?

Can a fighter jet be stolen? Absolutely, no key required. There was the case of a lance corporal who took a USMC A-4 Skyhawk for a joyride in 1986. See: Marine Mechanic Stole An A-4M-Skyhawk. 21-year-...
  • 279
27 votes

Can diplomats be allowed on the flight deck of a commercial European airline?

Generally, airlines are required to have content in their ops manual clearly stating who is entitled to flight deck access from the point the engines are started until shutdown. In some countries, ...
  • 11.9k
26 votes
Accepted

Are air marshals on every flight?

The exact number of air marshals is not public information, and they certainly don't disclose what flights they fly on or other operational details. However, the number has been reported to be on the ...
  • 8,258
25 votes
Accepted

How are credit cards processed during flight?

It will either go through the airline's existing air-to-ground system (like the seat-back phones you pay $5/min for) or they've got a store-and-process-later arrangement with the card companies. (...
  • 14.6k
25 votes
Accepted

Can a few random interaction with cockpit controls result in a crash?

Random? Probably not. Deliberate? It's hard to say, but the pilots will certainly have a hard time landing. There are many switches in a cockpit, and some are more important than others. If you don't ...
  • 39.3k
25 votes
Accepted

Is it possible to drive into Gibraltar Airport's runway?

There are no physical restraints to entering the runway when the road is open. You can see from this video of the crossing that Gibraltar police and the base for the Royal Air Force are present. The ...
  • 483
24 votes

Would a random passenger be allowed to fix a problem with a commercial aircraft?

The airline Primera Air is a Danish business that was originally based in Iceland. They have a fleet of 8 Boeing 737s. The passenger Davíð Aron Guðnason is an Icelandic air mechanic. He is reported ...
23 votes

How are credit cards processed during flight?

What is it called? Buying stuff on an airplane during flight is know is in-flight commerce (IFC). How it works? Credit cards are swiped via wireless handhelds on aircraft but the transactions are ...
  • 29.2k
23 votes

What prevents a passenger from hijacking a private jet?

The same thing that prevents the passengers in your car from hijacking it and using it to run people down or drive it through a mall: It's your private car and you generally know the people that you ...
  • 57.8k
22 votes

Why don't airliners carry radar jamming technology or missile counter measures?

Surface-to-air missile attacks on airliners at cruising altitude are vanishingly rare: there have only been three known attacks in the past half-century (MH-17, IR-655, and probably S7-1812). Any ...
  • 4,674
22 votes
Accepted

Are there any accident reports that mention hacked/compromised avionics as a factor?

Searching the NTSB Accident Database which also covers some international commercial flights for the key words "hack", "hacked" do not provide any results related to hacked avionics. Likewise using ...
  • 35.3k
22 votes

Locked out of private jet - how do you get in?

The only key lock you might encounter on a corporate jet will be a pin/tumbler lock securing the outside operating handle of the main entry door. You won't find anything exotic unless the owner has ...
  • 110k
21 votes
Accepted

Why don't airliners carry radar jamming technology or missile counter measures?

El Al (and other Israeli) aircraft are equipped with infra-red countermeasures since fire at Arkira B757 in Mombasa in 2002. Infra-red counter-measures are relatively simple (it has a small radar to ...
  • 54.6k
20 votes
Accepted

How does aviation deal with satellite and Moon laser ranging, and other scientific lasers in the sky?

Is there a NOTAM or a temporary flight restriction associated with laser ranging activity? Apparently yes: The lasers on the telescopes are in the range of 15-40 watts. The FAA calls a no-fly zone ...
  • 31.6k
20 votes

What security regulations apply to US private airstrips?

Private airports have very little security and light aircraft flying within a country typically aren't required to file a flightplan and aren't required to have transponders for secondary radar. You ...
  • 1,613

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