You know what is scary? When politicians start making technical decisions involving the safety of aircraft, see some of their quotes below. They plan on replacing the air traffic control system with GPS. With GPS signals originating in space their signals they are low in signal strength. They are also easy to jam and easy to spoof with higher power signals.
Recently there has been discussions of both GPS jamming and spoofing potentials on the Time Nuts Mailing List. Time Nuts is where people with an interest in precision time/frequency standards and measurements hang out. These are the people that try to put Atomic Clocks on their back, and hike to the top of mountains to check Relativity. GPS is a daily topic.
Who will be the first Bad Guy to spoof a plane into the ground? We have covered in the past about automated systems in planes overriding the judgment of pilots.
Today, March 23rd 2010, Senate passed H.R. 1586, Tax on Bonuses Received from Certain TARP, as amended. The relevant amendment to us is: H.R.1586 - An act to modernize the air traffic control system, improve the safety, reliability, and availability of transportation by air in the United States, provide for modernization of the air traffic control system, reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, and for other purposes.
Some quotes from the Congressional Record pages S1790 to S1810:
"Rockefeller (for McCain) Modified Amendment No. 3527 (to Amendment No. 3452), to require the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a financing proposal for fully funding the development and implementation of technology for the Next Generation Air Transportation System. Pages S1790, S1805, S1807"
On the committee, we decided we were going to get into it in a very big way. The Next Generation Air Transportation System, called NextGen that is what we call it-will save our economy billions by creating additional capacity and more direct routes, allowing aircraft to move more efficiently. Why? Because it will be GPS, it will be digitalized, and it will be real-time streaming of where airplanes are. It will help the ground controllers. They will have to put equipage in the airlines themselves so the pilots and the ground-control people will know exactly where they are at all times. That means maybe they will be able to bring planes closer together and can land more often or fly a little closer together things that cause the whole system to purge itself of inefficiencies, but not unsafely but safely because you are using a digitalized system which the rest of the world is already using. --- March 22, 2010 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-SENATE page S1795.
The bill will also modernize our airtraffic control system. Our air traffic control system is using technology that is probably based back in the 1960s. It is time for us to have a satellite-based system. This is going to be expensive. Having the startup of this NextGen system is essential for our country to stay in the forefront of efficient use of our air traffic control system, and also eventually, hopefully, when it is all in place, we will also be able to open more airspace so we can better utilize our air traffic control system. --- CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—SENATE March 22, 2010 page S1796.
Finally, I want to say on the issue of modernization, this too is so important. It relates to safety, but it relates to other things. It relates to the reduced use of fuel, more direct routing, better timelines for trips for passengers, because they will get to their destination more quickly; less spacing between airplanes in the sky. That is because, rather than fly to the old ground-based radar system, where you know about where an airline is, you only know about where it is when the transponder flashes a dot on that screen in front of the air traffic controller, and the next 7 or so seconds that airplane is somewhere else. Well, using the GPS system which all of us, or at least some of us—I do not have, but many people use it in their car, use it on their cell phone. The common use of the GPS is all over the world these days, except we do not use it, by and large, for commercial airlines, and we should. --- March 22, 2010 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—SENATE Page S1809.
On the upside what kind of experiments can we corrupt into being "weather" related?:
AMENDMENT NO. 3525, AS MODIFIED At the end of title VII, add the following: SEC. 723. PLAN FOR FLYING SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS ON COMMERCIAL FLIGHTS. (a) PLAN DEVELOPMENT.—Not later than 270 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with interested representatives of the aviation industry and other relevant agencies, shall develop a plan and process to allow Federal agencies to fly scientific instruments on commercial flights with airlines who volunteer, for the purpose of taking measurements to improve weather forecasting. --- CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—SENATE March 22, 2010 page S1808.