Even though air travel has gotten marginally safer since the tragedies of 9/11 -- thanks in part to fortified cockpits, increased air marshal presence, and a ban on toenail clippers -- it still doesn't seem impossible for a group of determined individuals to hijack a plane and turn it into a deadly missile. And should such a suicide-style attack happen again, the only surefire way of protecting targets on the ground would seem to be shooting the plane out of the air -- a nightmare scenario that no one wants to see. Well, soon airlines may have another, much safer option at their disposal in the form of a software platform being developed by a consortium of 30-odd European businesses and research institutes that would make an aircraft's systems completely unusable in the event of a cockpit breach -- control of the plane would be passed to officials on the ground -- even if one of the hijackers was among the 1337est of hackers. The $45 million program is being spearheaded by Airbus (already big fans of auto-pilot
), Siemens, and the Technical University of Munich, with the first results of the collaboration scheduled to be revealed at an October conference in the UK. Here's to hoping that the group comes up with a working solution sooner rather than later, because this is one technology that just can't be deployed quickly enough.