Post-September 11 air travel security concerns have spurred Boeing
to develop and test a tamper-proof, remote-controlled autopilot system. They've already patented the project, which sounds similar to a European effort
announced last year. The idea goes like this: If anyone attempts to force their way into the cockpit, autopilot can be activated manually or by pressure sensors that are installed in the cockpit door. This would eliminate any possibility of terrorists using the aircraft as a deadly missile, although it doesn't mean other terrible things couldn't happen en route to the nearest military base or commercial airport. Once the "uninterruptible autopilot system" is activated, it cannot be reversed. Ground controllers can then guide the plane to its destination via remote digital control using radio waves, satellite GPS, and existing landing aids known as "autoland function." Boeing insiders claim the anti-hijacking autopilot kits will be ready in three years and can be fitted to airliners throughout the world.