Honeywell Targets Transponder, Data Recorder Modifications

Honeywell Targets Transponder, Data Recorder Modifications

Aerospace giant Honeywell has laid out an extensive slate of security improvements that it will address. Honeywell President for Air Transport Frank Daly said that the company will “look across the breadth of [its] technology portfolio” to identify security solutions.

Honeywell has estimated that security enhancements represents a US$500- 700 million market over the next five years. The company has released a list of near-term security improvements that it can introduce within the next three-to- 12 months, and longer-term technology that will take more than a year to research and develop .

As a primary supplier of transponders and flight data recorders, improvements to this technology will obviously be a high priority for Honeywell, according to company official Ron Crotty. “A lot of companies can build a [cockpit] door, but not a lot can look at [avionics equipment],” said Crotty.

Aircraft transponders need to be improved so that they cannot be deactivated, as they were during the Sept. 11 hijackings, to ensure that traffic controllers are aware of the location of a hijacked aircraft at all times.

Transponders could be programmed so that if a pilot dials in an emergency code or activates an emergency code, then the transponder would ignore all subsequent commands. Even if it was switched off, and the lights went out in its control panel, it would still be transmitting.

Airlines will not need new transponders – existing units can be modified to meet these new requirements, Crotty said. The new software required will be written in a matter of weeks, then testing and certification must be completed. The FAA has indicated that it will fast-track this certification process.

The new software can be installed in such a manner as to avoid disruption to airline operations, said Crotty. Honeywell will probably create a small “loaner” pool of updated transponder units. This would mean that a transponder with the software upgrade could be installed during an overnight maintenance stop, while the original transponder is upgraded.

In the longer-term, Honeywell will be looking at what other requirements transponders could fulfil. For example, transponders could be asked to bring more flight data to controllers on the ground, such as GPS positional information and live cockpit audio. This would mean that in the event of an aircraft loss, flight data would be more quickly available.

Open Mike Needed In Emergencies

As with the transponders, Honeywell is also investigating how it can make cockpit microphones more difficult to deactivate in a hijacking situation. Even if a headset is unplugged, or a push-to-talk button not activated, controllers should still be able to listen to cockpit conversation in an emergency situation, Crotty said. This is also an immediate priority for Honeywell.

Honeywell engineers are considering using an area, voice-activated microphone discreetly mounted in a cockpit control panel. The microphone that currently feeds the cockpit voice recorder could be used for this purpose. Another option could be a system to switch one of two existing microphones to “open mike” in an emergency.

Flight data recorders themselves will be improved under the Honeywell plan. New dual flight-data and voice recorders could double the probability of recovery, and the recorders could be jettisoned from an aircraft that was about to crash.

Crotty said Honeywell is also involved in research to strengthen cockpit doors. The company has developed a new material called Spectra fiber that it claims has a superior strength/weight ratio than Kevlar, making it ideal for use in aircraft.

Honeywell is in preliminary discussions with companies that manufacture cockpit doors with a view to marketing Spectra fiber doors, Crotty said. In addition, Honeywell plans to incorporate the material in explosion-resistant cargo compartments.

Summary Of Honeywell’s Plans For Security Technology Development

Near-term (over the next three-to-12 months) security improvements include:

* a new airborne video/audio system to alert flight crew members to a situation in the cabin

* hardened cockpit doors using the company’s Spectra fiber products;

* cabin and flight deck systems to alert ground authorities of an emergency;

* an override to prevent unauthorized shutdown of critical aircraft systems such as transponders, radios and flight recorders;

* an uninterruptible data-link to send flight data and cockpit audio to air-traffic controllers in an emergency;

* transponders for all aircraft that would transmit aircraft identification, speed, differential GPS position and other information to ground authorities;

* dual, combination flight data/cockpit voice recorders that would double the probability for recovery of investigative data;

* advanced fire detection and smoke control technology;

* real-time asset locating solutions that can track the location of key security personnel and identify duress or other situations that constitute a security risk; and

* video-based aircraft docking and ramp surveillance system.

Longer-term technology (12 months or more) Honeywell is currently researching includes:

* fingerprint readers and iris scanners for the airport and aircraft to provide positive identification of flight crew, ground crew, airport staff, passengers, etc;

* facial recognition systems added to airport video to identify known suspicious persons;

* aircraft wiring tamper monitors;

* encryption of transmissions from communications equipment;

* explosion-resistant cargo holds incorporating Spectra fiber;

* “deployable” flight data and cockpit voice recorders that would be jettisoned from the aircraft on impact, offering further protection;

* crash-survivable video recorders, providing pictures from inside the aircraft to further aid accident investigators;

* airport environmental systems that can detect and remove chemical or biological agents; and

* real-time locator systems to track mobile airside assets and prevent them from being operated by unauthorized personnel.

Source: Honeywell. >TK


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