Modern Fly-By-Wire Aircraft Could Be Die-By-Wire Death Traps: News Release
Today’s modern, fly-by-aircraft could become die-by-wire death traps, needing nothing more than a clever computer hack to make it drop out of the sky.
“Anyone who’s tempted to dismiss the idea of digitally hijacking flight control computers need only look at the fly-by-wire hack of America’s most advanced stealth drone by the Iranians, probably with the help of China or Russia,” said Die By Wireauthor Lewis Perdue, a technology entrepreneur and former investigative journalist who began programming computers on mainframes in the late 1960s. “Don’t forget that the videofeeds from our mainstay Predator drones were previously hacked with a handful of electronics you could buy at Radio Shack or your local computer recycler.
“Given the will, the resources — and a slightly different method from that used to snatch the drone — the successful hacking of a modern wide-body airliner is all but inevitable,” Perdue added. “With our most advanced aircraft totally dependent upon computers, cyber-warfare is no longer just digital clashes and crashes on a screen. They can have direct, immediate, real-world consequences.”
THE PLOT BEGINS IN AMSTERDAM
In Die By Wire, guardian sniper Mira Longbow arrives in Amsterdam to take out the head of a global child-smuggling ring, but quickly stumbles across a plot to make two dozen modern, wide-body aircraft simply disappear over the Atlantic with no warning and no known cause.
The villain of Die By Wire, Khan Nasiri, is an international cargo shipping tycoon who noted that the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in south-east Iceland in April 2010 caused the worst disruption to international air travel since 9/11 and wreaked billions of dollars worth of damage on the world economy in just one week. Airlines alone lost $200 million per day.
But Nasiri and his radical Islamist allies are in the game for more than the perversity of killing more people than 9/11. Their advance planning for the global economic disaster will allow them to reap vast profits with which to further their own personal and ideological goals.
And unlike the adolescent boasting that follows terror attacks, there will be no egotistical gloating, no footprints, no one to claim blame. The causes of the crashes will remain unknown even after the (unlikely) recovery of the black boxes. And the resulting fear and uncertainty will cripple the global economy by paralyzing international air transport. Finally, the lack of a responsible party thwarts any attempt at retaliation or psychological closure.
HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE?
All you need to think about is the highly advanced American RQ-170 stealth drone the Iranians just snatched in flight.
“The modern fly-by-wire cockpit is just a massive version of Flight Simulator with an airplane attached,” said Perdue. “No cables, no hydraulics — nothing physical connects the cockpit wheel and pedals to the aircraft control surfaces. Just low voltage signals from the aircraft’s computers traveling along wires to servos and motors that operate the rudder, flaps and other moving parts.
“Using wires saves a lot of weight over traditional cables and hydraulics,” Perdue said. “That translates to fuel savings which connects very well to the bottom line.
“In fact, aircraft manufacturers are currently experimenting with eliminating even more weight by using WiFi instead of wires,” said Perdue. “That offers even more opportunities to hack the system from a distance.
“And don’t forget, today’s most modern airliners can land themselves without a pilot, thanks to the computers and signals from the ground,” Perdue said. “Insinuate yourself into that system and you have control of the aircraft. Or enough influence to create a disaster. You don’t have to fly it to crash it.”
Aircraft manufacturers have tried to prevent computer malfunctions by using as many as three different types of computers running different operating systems in order to keep a virus or failure in one system from spreading to another. But the flight control computers and their other connected systems are massively complex, and that opens them to chaotic unpredictability.
“A more familiar example of a chaotic failure cascade happened in 1996,” Perdue said. “In that case, a tree branch in Oregon brushed against a power line, that shorted out a transformer that brought down another transformer. Then an unexpected swing in the electrical frequency provoked a chain reaction that blacked out much of the West Coast.
“The American electrical grid is far less complex than a modern aircraft’s fly-by-wire system, but it’s still too complicated for the best minds to predict every possible failure mode.”
“You can test and test and test, simulate and simulate, but you can never say a complex system won’t fail,” Perdue said. “You can often reduce the mean time between failures to a very small number, but it is never, ever zero.”
AND THE CLOCK STARTS TICKING DOWN
Shortly after Mira receives her assignment to take out Nasiri for the child bride smuggling operation, she unexpectedly crosses paths with Jackson Day, an unwanted visitor, and would-be lover from her turbulent past in Iraq. He’s there to enlist Mira’s gift for languages in order to decipher a tangle of voices he has recorded of a high-level terror meeting at a remote Iranian safe house
Mira wants nothing to do with him, but, after the heat of their first encounter, they put aside their simmering differences when it’s clear that Khan Nasiri is behind both evil enterprises.
And they are the only two people on the planet who can stop it in time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times best-selling author Lewis Perdue’s twenty published books have sold more than 4 million copies and have been translated into every major language in the world.
Perdue studied physics and biology in college and usually works those into his books. He received his B.S. (1972) with distinction from Cornell University and an A.S. in Math & Science (1970) summa cum laude from Corning Community College.
He has served on the faculties at UCLA and Cornell University, founded four companies including two technology firms, a wine company and a magazine, and has been a top aide to a U.S. Senator and a state governor.
He has also run political races for Congress, worked as a Washington (D.C) correspondent (Ottaway/Dow-Jones, States News Service, Winston-Salem(NC) Sentinel), a columnist for Gannett, The Wall Street Journal Online, CBS Marketwatch and TheStreet.Com. More information is available about Lew here.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Die By Wire, A Thriller
By Lewis Perdue
Published by Sudden Pacific Publishing
Quality trade softcover
List Price: $14.99
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
BISAC: Fiction / Thrillers
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- Buy Kindle .mobi
- Buy LRF (for Sony Reader)
- Epub (open industry format, Stanza reader, others)
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