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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taking Over the Plane!

Is this possible?
We have all heard snippets of the individual who claims he took control of aircraft systems. Did he? Or did he not?  A friend sent me addition news from his part of the world...

"More news, on the recently mid air hack of a United Airlines flight, as reported an individual "Chris Roberts " was, escorted off the flight, into airport police hands/ f.b.i after his list of tweets, causing the pilots to divert.

Appearing ,on our news channels today, reports that appeared in the Canadian press late Friday, of the said incident, where security advisor " Chris Roberts " , hacked into the on board oxygen system via his p.d.a., the Canadian press were told more of his activities from an f.b.I. report.

The, report, into "Chris Roberts" actions on the flight, were far more serious than originally stated, in the f.b.I. investigation, "Chris Roberts," said that, the oxygen system was not the only a.c system he had hacked into, that he, also got into others and on one separate flight, the "engine management system" taking over control of one engine and putting it into " climb mode".

In, the same report, " Chris Roberts" and of the investigation into, actions aboard the United flight, he said it was not the only, airline or aircraft model , he had hacked, he told f.b.I. investigators he had successfully hacked the following between 15 to 20 times.

Boeing 737/ 757 and Airbus 320

The report, also tells of how he would, squeeze wiggle the "seat electronic box" under his seat, and connect to the said aircraft's in - flight entertainment system, he would then connect a cable to this and his p.d.a.. Via this means, Roberts , was able to hack into other operating systems using default / passwords, Roberts said also, that when he had gained entry to a said system, that he overwrote the original pass code.

In , one incident, "Roberts" told investigators, how he gained entry to the planes " thrust management computer", which allowed him to take control any input, and that through this, "Roberts" ordered one engine into " climb mode" and send a.c. sideways as it flew, and he also gained access to monitor inputs by the flight crew in cockpit.

The, f.b.i. report, goes on to say, that an agent was sent to, Philadelphia, to meet the United flight in question from Chicago, and on inspection of seats 2a/2b, that, both seats " electronic box " had been partially damaged tampered with.

To date, Roberts, has not been charged by authorities."

What do you think? 

We need to assure our pilots know how to fly their planes in the event something breaks... or if they have to take back control! Brussels is a step in the process. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. I don't know if that report is accurate or a complete fabrication. What I do know is that any electronic device is subject to reprogramming. Those who say electronic flight control systems are totally secure are feeding us a line. Nothing is hack proof, just as no ships are unsinkable.

    1. The report is accurate, but the truth behind the accomplishment of what he said is the question. Honestly, there is no way to touch the engines access the entertainment system. I'm the believer of never say never. But the scary part is his messing with the electronics and potentially shorting things out and starting a fire. He should be placed in jail!
      And an official report should be stated. The question is why hasn't there been a report other than media? Same facts were shared in Seattle on local news. Not sure, but I feel comfortable nobody will access my engines from their seat.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Karlene, thanks for posting this from our good friend Mark. You beat me to it!
    As planes become more tech-dependent, and onboard passengers systems more tech-heavy, I agree that we need to be aware of this potential in FUTURE design. But I believe we are a LONG way from a simple onboard entertainment system connecting to the engines and/or flight controls.

    The term "fly by wire" tends to elicit fears of—to borrow Einstein's phrase about quantum entanglement—"Spooky action at a distance." People fear what they don't know.

    But, as you know, fly by wire is still a hard-wire connection from joystick to flight controls; it's simply a "smaller wire" than traditional cables or hydraulic lines.

    IF the onboard wifi is connected to the ACARS system pilots and mechanics use to monitor parameters and communicate, then perhaps its plausible one could muck with those readings. But scrambling ACARS data is a long way from actually connecting with an engine and causing it to "surge" and "fly sideways." (Where do these media goofballs get this stuff, anyway?!"

    I agree, Robert's biggest crime was endangering a potential onboard fire, and should be charged. Leave the field testing to the pros, and not some whacker hacker.

    1. Thanks for your comment Eric, I could not agree more! I think we fill in the blanks when we don't know and fly by wire does sound just that. The other misnomer about our plane is that we don't have control because of the laws.
      I'll have to check with maintenance to see about the ACARS and the ability to mess with that system. I don't think they do. But, some heads need to roll (behind bars) to keep people from playing with our planes.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I recently researched this topic for a class assignment. As we transition to more interconnected systems and services, there are always vulnerabilities that someone is bound to exploit. Here are a few interesting links on the topic:

    1. Thank you for the links!! These are great!!


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