Le Journal du Dimanche – US Patent 6676078 – ACARS LAV Maint Msg


Starting on Sunday, June 21, 2009, I expect more news coming out of Paris and the le Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses (BEA).  The “big tent” for the “le cirque” came down on the Paris Air Show Saturday night and the French press/media restrictions on Air France Flight 447 will be most likely be lifted by the Euro/French government.

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Navy have been doing a great recovery operation under difficult sea conditions.  I don’t expect the additional recovery of any significant wreckage or remains.  Brazilian families of Flight 447 are sequestered in the Guanabara Hotel in Rio and their public and media access is being controlled  by Air France management.  It is my understanding that as of this date, the Brazilian medical examiners have not given full access to the French authorities to these medical examinations.

From the FAB photos yesterday, Row 42 was the only visible seating that I was able to identify from the wreckage.  Additional clues are starting to trickle out with the evening article from Le Journal du Dimanche quoting an informed source saying:

“one of the avenues explored by the BEA is a leak in a waste water circuit of the device, reported shortly after take-off by a first automated message warning”

Now this is were the “leakage” problem starts to become very interesting after takeoff.  Obviously, Air France, BEA, and the French Government have looked over the history string of warning/maintenance messages from ACARS for this aircraft. Note 2245 first reported problem with toilet:

22 10/06 WRN WN0906010210 221002006AUTO FLT AP OFF 09-06-01 AF 447

38 31/06 FLR FR0905312245 38310006VSC X2 ,,,,,,, LAV CONF 09-05-31 AF 447

From my previous post:

I found it curious this door was not in any of the pictures when the wreckage was arranged inside the hangar for the press last week.  As I noted here on June 9th, and also here, this door was getting special attention by investigators.  As suspected, now we know that BEA has known the reason for the aircraft loss since the first night.

The below reference requires an ACARS expert verification, however some researchers believe the ACARS messages for the leaking toilet was first reported May 9, 2009.  From the ACARS Database (ACARS Mechanics Code Listing / Fault Codes), I show A332 (F-GZCP) report for May 12, 2009:

ACARS mode: 2 Aircraft reg: F-GZCP [Airbus A332] ACARS mode: 2 Aircraft reg: F-GZCP [Airbus A332] Message label: B0 Block id: 2 Msg no: J29A Flight id: AF0031 [IAH-CDG] [Air France] Flight id: AF0031 [IAH-CDG] [Air France] Message content: – /KZWY.AFN/FMHAFR031 F-GZCP 045907/FPON38124W078339, 1/FCOADS,01/FCOATC, 01E36F / —-[ 12/05/2009 06:59 ]- —


Blue_Ice_090618010641896150

Blue Ice?



Situation “extreme” in the manual Airbus (English Translation)(Emphasis mine)

20 Juin 2009 By Yann PHILIPPIN and Michel Delean

Leak Suspect


The JDD procured manual A 330/340 for the training of pilots (Flight Crew Training Manual “). At the reading, the first automatic alert message sent by the device via the ACARS system corresponds to a sensor failure (code 34-11-15). The manual also provides, in this case, the inconsistency of indications of speed, specifying that it “may result” Pitot “blocked or frozen. Another Acars message indicates a failure of two of the three ADIRU these computers which calculate particular, thanks to information provided by sensors, speed and altitude. The manual describes the alarms that are triggered when “the data produced by two ADIRU are wrong but different.” However, many of these alarms correspond to seven Acars messages sent by plane the night of the crash (disconnect the autopilot and pushing the regulator, etc.)..

Finally, the manual states that “in extreme situations in which two or three ADR [computers] give false information”, it becomes more difficult “for the computer to identify which ADIRU also provides reliable information and disconnect others. In this case, the system may display on the control screens of information “that appear to be reliable but are in fact false.” A sort of bug in the manual provided … Pilots must “rely on their basic skills in piloting and perform corrective actions required, specifies the same document

According to one informed source, one of the avenues explored by the BEA is a leak in a waste water circuit of the device, reported shortly after take-off by a first automated message warning of the Airbus A 330. The hypothesis examined is whether the leak, undetectable to the crew, causing a prolonged flow of water, then when the device crosses temperatures – 50 ° C, a significant gel composite membrane (half metal , half-composite carbon-type) that is located inside the fuselage in the rear of the unit. This gel, according to the same source, which could cause a sudden rupture of the structure of the device in flight.

blue_ice1_090608052935254498

Blue Ice?


US Patent 6676078 – System and method for alerting a cockpit crew of terrorist activity

US Patent Issued on January 13, 2004

Estimated Patent Expiration Date: December 14, 2021

Inventors

Assignee

Application

No. 10/017547 filed on 12/14/2001

US Classes:

244/118.5, Passenger or crew accommodation340/541, Intrusion detection340/945AIRCRAFT ALARM OR INDICATING SYSTEMS

Field of Search

244/118.5, Passenger or crew accommodation244/1RMISCELLANEOUS

Examiners

Primary: Eldred, J. Woodrow

Attorney, Agent or Firm

US Patent References

3704845, 4112818, Surveillance and weapon system
Issued on: 09/12/1978
Inventor: Garehime, Jr.4630035, Alarm system having alarm transmitter indentification codes and acoustic ranging
Issued on: 12/16/1986
Inventor: Stahl ,   et al.5798458, Acoustic catastrophic event detection and data capture and retrieval system for aircraft
Issued on: 08/25/1998
Inventor: Monroe6009365, Vehicle drive system controller and control method
Issued on: 12/28/1999
Inventor: Takahara, et al.6198390, Self-locating remote monitoring systems
Issued on: 03/06/2001
Inventor: Schlager, et al.6246320, Ground link with on-board security surveillance system for aircraft and other commercial vehicles
Issued on: 06/12/2001
Inventor: Monroe6385513, Satellite emergency voice/data downlink
Issued on: 05/07/2002
Inventor: Murray, et al.6392692Network communication techniques for security surveillance and safety system
Issued on: 05/21/2002
Inventor: Monroe

International Class

B64D 45/00 (20060101)


Abstract

A method and system for alerting a cockpit crew of terrorist activity in a cabin of an aircraft. The system includes a plurality of fobs worn by flight attendants. The system also includes an antenna sending unit (ASU) located within the cabin and a cockpit display unit (CDU) located in the cockpit of the aircraft. When a terrorist situation is detected by a flight attendant, the flight attendant sends an alerting signal to the cockpit by sending a coded signal via the ASU to the CDU. The CDU provides an indicator to the cockpit crew. The CDU may also optionally send a transponder code and an ACARS message to ground-based units.


What is claimed is:

1. A system for alerting a cockpit crew of a dangerous situation created by a passenger within a cabin area of an aircraft, the system comprising: a plurality of fobs, each fob being carried by an authorized person located on the aircraft, the fob capable of transmitting a plurality of selectable signals, each selectable signal providing specific information on the dangerous situation within the cabin area; and a cockpit display unit (CDU) for receiving signals sent from the transmitting fob, said CDU located within a cockpit of the aircraft, wherein said CDU includes means for detecting an attempt to jam a frequency used by the transmitting fob to send the signal to the CDU; whereby one of the authorized persons carrying the fob detects a dangerous situation created by a passenger within the cabin area, selects a selectable signal from the plurality of selectable signals and sends the selected signal from the fob to said CDU, said CDU providing an indicator to the cockpit crew of the dangerous situation.

2. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 1 further comprising an antenna sending unit (ASU) located within a cabin of the aircraft, said ASU capable of communicating with each fob, said ASU forwarding any transmitted signals to the CDU.

3. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 2 wherein said ASU is connected to said CDU through a wire connection.

4. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 2 wherein said ASU communicates with said CDU via a radio communications link.

5. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 1 wherein each fob is capable of transmitting a plurality of specific codes, each code correlating to a specific type of dangerous situation occurring on the aircraft.
6. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 5 wherein the specific codes transmitted by each fob include a numeric code to identify the specific type of dangerous situation.

7. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 1 further comprising means for relaying the signal sent from the transmitting fob to ground-based personnel.

8. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 7 wherein said means for relaying the signal includes emitting a transponder code from a transponder installed on the aircraft.

9. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 7 wherein said means for relaying the signal includes sending an ACARS message from an ACARS unit installed on the aircraft to ground-based personnel.

10. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 1 wherein said CDU includes: means for storing a plurality of signals sent from different fobs; and means for the cockpit crew to select an indicator for a specific stored signal.

11. A system for alerting a cockpit crew of a dangerous situation created by a passenger within a cabin area of an aircraft, the system comprising: a plurality of fobs, each fob being carried by an authorized person located on the aircraft, the fob capable of transmitting a plurality of selectable signals, each selectable signal providing specific information on the dangerous situation within the cabin area, wherein each fob includes a staging means providing multiple retransmission of the signal in a randomly timed spacing pattern; and a cockpit display unit (CDU) for receiving signals sent from the transmitting fob, said CDU located within a cockpit of the aircraft;

whereby one of the authorized persons carrying the fob detects a dangerous situation created by a passenger within the cabin area, selects a selectable signal from the plurality of selectable signals and sends the selected signal from the fob to said CDU, said CDU providing an indicator to the cockpit crew of the dangerous situation.

12. The system for alerting a cockpit crew of claim 11 further comprising means for initializing each fob used on the aircraft, said initializing means allowing said CDU to recognize only initialized fob signals.

13. A method of alerting a cockpit crew located in an aircraft of a dangerous activity created by a passenger within a cabin area on the aircraft, said method comprising the steps of: initializing a plurality of fobs to allow a cockpit display unit (CDU) located within a cockpit of the aircraft to recognize any signals transmitted by each initialized fob; carrying at least one fob by a flight crew member during flight of the aircraft, said fob capable of transmitting a plurality of selectable signals, each selectable signal providing specific information on the dangerous situation within the cabin area; selecting a selectable signal from the plurality of selectable signals by the flight crew member; transmitting a signal from the fob to the CDU, said signal being sent by the flight crew member when detecting a dangerous activity created by a passenger occurring within the cabin area of the aircraft, said signal providing specific information on the dangerous situation within the cabin area; determining if the sent signal originated from an initialized fob; providing an indication to the cockpit crew on the CDU that the signal originated from an uninitiated fob if the signal is determined to originate from an uninitiated fob; and displaying an indication on the CDU to the cockpit crew that a signal was sent from the fob.

14. The method of alerting a cockpit crew of claim 13 wherein the step of transmitting a signal to the CDU includes transmitting a coded signal associated with a specific condition occurring during the detected dangerous activity.

15. The method of alerting a cockpit crew of claim 13 wherein the step of transmitting a signal to the CDU includes the steps of: transmitting a signal from the fob to an antenna sending unit (ASU) located on the aircraft; and
relaying, by the ASU, the signal to the CDU.

16. The method of alerting a cockpit crew of claim 13 further comprising the step of sending through a transponder located on the aircraft a transponder code indicating that a terrorist activity has been detected on the aircraft.

17. The method of alerting a cockpit crew of claim 13 further comprising the step of sending through an ACARS unit installed on the aircraft to ground-based personnel an ACARS message indicating that terrorist activity has been detected aboard the aircraft.


BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field of the Invention

This invention relates to alerting systems and, more particularly, to a system and method for alerting a cockpit crew of terrorist activities occurring in a cabin of an aircraft.

2. Description of Related Art

The terrorist acts of Sep. 11, 2001 have changed commercial aviation. One of the primary reasons the hijackers of Sep. 11, 2001 were successful in overcoming the cockpit crew of four commercial airliners was the cockpit crew were caught off guard. During each of the incidents, the hijackers overcame some of the flight attendants without the cockpit crew being made aware of the situation. With a closed door dividing the aircraft cabin from the cockpit, most activity taking place within the cabin goes unmonitored by the cockpit crew. In most hijacks, such as those that occurred on Sep. 11, 2001, the hijackers easily overcame some of the flight attendants located in the aircrafts’ cabins, allowing the hijackers to direct their efforts in overcoming the cockpit crew through surprise. Currently, the only means the flight attendants have with communicating any information to the cockpit crews is through fixed intercom devices located at flight attendant stations through the aircraft. However, if a flight attendant is not located near the flight attendant station, a flight attendant is unable to communicate with the cockpit crew. In addition, even if a flight attendant is located near a flight attendant station, the flight attendant may be unable to quickly and covertly communicate with the cockpit crew. Existing intercom systems only allow the flight attendants to chime the cockpit crew to alert the cockpit crew that the flight attendants desire to speak with them. The cockpit crew must then select the internal intercom on their headsets and respond to the flight attendants. Obviously, this process can be time consuming and useless during a hijacking.

In addition, even with access to the flight attendant station’s intercom system, the flight attendant cannot covertly communicate with the cockpit crew. The flight attendant’s actions in attempting to communicate with the cockpit crew cannot currently be concealed, causing many flight attendants to be reluctant in attempting to communicate with the cockpit crew during terrorist encounters. A system and method are needed which provides a simple, quick, and covert process for alerting the cockpit crew of any terrorist activities occurring within an aircraft’s cabin.

Although there are no known prior art teachings of a solution to the aforementioned deficiency and shortcoming such as that disclosed herein, a prior art reference that discuss subject matter that bears some relation to matters discussed herein is U.S. Pat. No. 4,630,035 to Stahl et al. (Stahl).

Stahl discloses an alarm system for sensing an alarm condition within a relevant alarm area. The system includes one or more alarm units utilized for sensing an alarm condition. Each alarm unit includes a radio frequency transmitter for identifying the alarm unit and a secondary audio transmitter for defining the relevant alarm area. The system also includes a plurality of transponders. Each transponder includes a primary receiver for receiving a radio message sent from an alarm unit and a secondary receiver for receiving an audio signal from the alarm unit. A real-time clock is used to provide elapsed time between receipt of a primary and a secondary alarm signal by each transponder. The alerted transponder then transmits to a control unit a transponder address code, an alarm unit identification code and an elapsed time indicator. Based on the address code and the elapsed times detected by the control unit, the relevant alarm area can be determined. Although Stahl discloses an alerting system, Stahl does not teach or suggest a method of covertly informing a central area (i.e., cockpit deck) of a warning. Additionally, Stahl does not disclose utilizing such a warning system within an aircraft. Stahl also does not provide for transmitting several coded messages to indicate various types of situations to the control unit. Stahl merely provides a singular signal to the control unit.

Thus, it would be a distinct advantage to have a system and method which provide a plurality of distinct covert coded signals for alerting the cockpit crew of terrorist activities occurring within the cabin. In addition, it would be advantageous to have a system and method which also automatically informs ground-based controllers of any attempted terrorist activities. It is an object of the present invention to provide such a system and method.


SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the present invention is a system for alerting a cockpit crew of a dangerous situation occurring on an aircraft. The system includes a plurality of fobs. Each fob is carried by an authorized person located on the aircraft. The fob is a portable transmitter capable of sending a coded signal. A cockpit display unit (CDU) is provided for receiving signals sent from the transmitting fob. The CDU is located within a cockpit of the aircraft. When one of the authorized persons carrying the fob detects a dangerous situation, he may send a signal from the fob to the CDU. The CDU provides an indicator informing the cockpit crew of the dangerous situation.

In another aspect, the present invention is a method of alerting a cockpit crew located in an aircraft of a dangerous activity on the aircraft. The method begins with initializing a plurality of fobs to allow a cockpit display unit (CDU) located within a cockpit of the aircraft to recognize any signals transmitted by each initialized fob. Next, each initialized fob is carried by a flight crew member during the flight of the aircraft. A signal is transmitted from the fob to the CDU when a flight crew member detects a dangerous activity occurring aboard the aircraft. The CDU then displays an indication to the cockpit crew that a signal was sent from the fob.

In still another aspect, the present invention is a system for alerting a cockpit crew of a dangerous situation occurring on an aircraft. The system includes a plurality of fobs carried by a plurality of authorized personnel located on the aircraft. Each fob is capable of transmitting a plurality of codes correlating to specific conditions occurring on the aircraft as a signal. The system also includes a cockpit display unit (CDU) for receiving signals sent from a transmitting fob. The CDU is located within a cockpit of the aircraft. An antenna sending unit (ASU) located within a cabin of the aircraft relays any transmitted signals to the CDU. The system also relays the signal sent from the transmitting fob to ground-based personnel. When one of the authorized personnel detects a dangerous situation, a signal is sent through the fob to the CDU. The CDU then provides an indicator to the cockpit crew of the dangerous situation.


BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood and its numerous objects and advantages will become more apparent to those skilled in the art by reference to the following drawings, in conjunction with the accompanying specification, in which:

FIG. 1 is a simplified block diagram illustrating the components of an alert system in a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the CDU of FIG. 1 in the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the fob of FIG. 1 in the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of a fob worn by a flight attendant in the preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 5A-5C are flow charts outlining the steps for alerting the cockpit crew of any terrorist activities on the aircraft according to the teachings of the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a simplified block diagram illustrating the components of an alert system in an alternate embodiment of the present invention.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is a system and method for alerting a cockpit crew of terrorist activities.

FIG. 1 is a simplified block diagram illustrating the components of an alert system 20 in a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The alert system is installed on an aircraft 22 and includes a cockpit display unit (CDU) 24, at least one remote antenna sending unit (ASU) 26, and a plurality of fobs 28.

The plurality of fobs are devices carried by flight attendants within a passenger cabin area 30 and communicate with the ASU via a radio communications link 32. The ASU forwards any signals sent from any fob to the CDU via a radio communications link 34 located within a cockpit 36 where pilots control the aircraft 22. The CDU then provides a visual and aural warning to the cockpit for each received signal. The pilots may then take appropriate action to counteract any terrorist/hijacking attempt occurring on the aircraft.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the CDU 24 of FIG. 1 in the preferred embodiment of the present invention. The CDU is a display unit having a receiver (not shown) for receiving any signals relayed from the ASU 26. Alternatively, the CDU may receive signals transmitted directly from a fob. The CDU is mounted within the cockpit 36 in such a position where the pilots may readily see any visual displays, such as the overhead panel of the cockpit. The CDU includes a visual display 38, a speaker 40, and a test/reset button 42.

The visual display may provide any symbology which may be used by the cockpit crew to indicate potential or actual dangerous situations occurring within the cabin area 30. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the visual display is a large, easily readable, backlit LCD having automatic dimming features common in many cockpit instruments. Preferably, the visual display will indicate a textual message for any received signal from the fobs or relayed through the ASU. For example, if an attempted hijacking is occurring, the visual display may indicate the specific fob sending the signal (e.g, “I.D. 03,” the code sent (e.g, “911”), and the interpretation of the code (e.g., “single terrorist with weapon”). Additionally, the visual display may incorporate a “message-in-cue” feature which enables the pilot to view multiple messages sequentially by depressing the test/reset button 42.

The CDU 24 also may provide an optional audible alert emitted through the speaker 40. Any signal received from the CDU may actuate the audible alert to inform the pilots that a message is displayed on the visual display 38.

The CDU 24 may also provide a visual or aural display when any signals are detected by the ASU or CDU indicating that jamming or interference is being encountered. Any transmission received over a range near the frequency used by a transmitting fob may be detected through a receiver incorporated within the CDU. The CDU may also provide indications of a fob sending any erroneous unrecognized coded message, such as a nonsensical coded signal, such as may be transmitted by a malfunctioning fob.

The CDU may be installed anywhere within the cockpit, preferably through a cannon plug configuration well known in cockpit instrumentation. This configuration allows the simple removal and installation of the CDU, thus decreasing the on-site maintenance required within the cockpit. The CDU is preferably powered directly from the aircraft 22 through an auxiliary electric bus (AUX bus) installed on most aircraft, which remains powered in most situations. The CDU may also include an optional on/off switch (not shown), or automatically powered through the AUX bus.

The CDU 24 may also be wired to the aircraft’s transponder system. The transponder provides a code to the air traffic control (ATC) system and its controllers and is used to identify and locate aircraft. A code may be selected in the transponder to indicate other emergency conditions, such as when an emergency occurs or when an aircraft has lost the use of its radios. However, if a signal from a fob is received by the CDU, the signal may be relayed to the transponder, which may transmit an appropriate emergency code automatically to ATC.

Additionally, the aircraft routinely communicates with ground-based operations centers (such as those established by individual airlines) through a system called ACARS. ACARS provides relevant information to the ground-based units, such as aircraft location, engine parameters, and manually selected messages sent between the pilots and the ground-based units. The CDU may also be linked with the ACARS to forward the same signals received by the CDU to the operations centers. The flight data recorder may also be connected to the CDU. The flight data recorder is normally used to store relevant aircraft parameters. The signals received by the CDU may also be stored within the memory of the flight data recorder.

The ASU is preferably located within a passenger cabin area 30, however, in alternate embodiments, the ASU may be located anywhere on the aircraft which allows communication with the plurality of fobs and the CDU.

The remote ASU 26 is preferably positioned within the cabin area 30, in such locations as allows reception of any fob’s signals. In longer aircraft, such as the Boeing 777, a plurality of ASUs may be required to provide proper coverage of the entire cabin area. The ASU is preferably mounted at the ceiling within the cabin area. However, the ASU may be located anywhere which allows reception of the fobs. The ASU includes a receiver and a transmitter (not shown in FIG. 1). The receiver receives any transmitted signals from any fobs. The transmitter located within the ASU relays the received signals to the CDU 24 via the radio communications link 34……….


USPTO Related Links

US Patent 6676078 (pdf) (View Here)

US Patent 6676078 (pdf) (Download pdf Here)

Wiki References/Links

  1. Another mysterious chunk of blue ice hits“. “The Living in Everyday Earth Web site reports there have been at least 27 documented blue-ice incidents nationally in the past 24 years.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, by Jondi Gumz,  (February 12, 2003).
  2. Toilet ice rips hole in couple’s roof“. San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press (October 21, 2006)
  3. “April 30, 1974 Incident”. NTSB.
  4. “April 16, 1985 Incident”. NTSB
  5. “January 04, 1990 Incident”. NTSB
  6. “Blue Ice Review”. Variety,  Derek Elley (October 14, 1992)

Wiki Links

  1. The sky is falling? Uh, not exactly“. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Mark Belko (November 21, 2002).
  2. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a block of ice?“. Bay News 9.com, January 28, 2007.
  3. Frozen Jetliner Waste Smashes Into Home“. United Press International, April 14, 2008.


End


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