Missile defenses on airliners?


Saw this on AVweb today. Seems that a Senator is pushing for missile defenses on airliners. Apparently the airlines don’t want them because of cost.

So what do you think? Are the airlines in effect saying there is not a significant enough threat to justify the cost of the systems, or are they waiting for the taxpayers to buy the systems for them?

As a taxpayer, I say that if the airlines don’t see the need, then I certainly don’t want my tax money paying for them.

From AVweb:
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is calling on her colleagues to reignite programs to equip airliners with anti-missile systems. Boxer told The Associated Press in an interview that the Bush administration’s apparent abandonment of the initiative is a mistake. “We are being irresponsible by not moving forward on this today,” said Boxer. Congress has appropriated more than $200 million for development of suitable systems (that, for instance, don’t drop white-hot magnesium on suburbs) and at least two companies say they have systems that work, according to the AP report. However, the Bush administration asked for only $4.9 million for the program in its latest budget, a signal to some that it’s been shot down politically. Earlier estimates have pegged the cost of the systems, which use infrared energy or lasers as the decoy to fool the heat-seeking guidance systems on the missiles, at about $1 million per airliner. The cash-strapped airlines have, of course, balked at the expenditure, claiming it’s too expensive and unnecessary. Boxer wonders if they’re calculating the impact of a missile attack into their equations. “We have a product here that works, and I would just say to the airline industry, they would sing a different tune if one of these missiles were fired, and it hit – even if it didn’t hit – who is going to go in an airplane?” Boxer said.


Realize who it is coming from, Miss “Spend all the money I can” Barbara Boxer. I am anxiously awaiting the day her and Frankenstein, I mean Feinstein are booted. Sad thing is, it probably won’t happen anytime soon.


Pike1000 beat me to the punch. You have to consider the source. Boxer has no clue has to what she is speaking about. After not being in the real world for many years, she has no idea of what really goes on in the business world in general and the airline industry specifically.


I try to always get my shots in on Boxer and Frankenstien. I guess it comes naturally when I am a product of the “Bill Thomas Machine”


This issue was on the news a few nights ago. Apparently a U.S. airliner saw what they believed was a surface to air missile of some type. The Captain said it did not look like a flare. **EL AL Israel Airlines **is implementing this missile defense system in all the planes in their fleet. As to here in the U.S. the Airlines are crying foul at the cost. It was also pointed out in the report that $1 Million dollars pays for the sound system on each commercial airliner…Priorities, priorities!!!


The difference between El Al and the American carriers is that El Al has less than 100 planes. American, United, Southwest, FedEx, and other carriers all have over 300 planes each. And not all of these (especially Southwest and FedEx) are equipped with entertainment sound systems (as opposed to required public address sound systems).


US (Part 121) Air Carriers are allowed to use a megaphone-style handheld announcement device in lieu of an operable aircraft public address system although I won’t “name names” about why I know that. :slight_smile:


Do it!! Do it!! Name names!!!


Megaphones are a required item on the Minimum Equipment List per FAR 121.309:

(f) Megaphones. Each passenger-carrying airplane must have a portable battery-powered megaphone or megaphones readily accessible to the crewmembers assigned to direct emergency evacuation, installed as follows:

(1) One megaphone on each airplane with a seating capacity of more than 60 and less than 100 passengers, at the most rearward location in the passenger cabin where it would be readily accessible to a normal flight attendant seat. However, the Administrator may grant a deviation from the requirements of this subparagraph if he finds that a different location would be more useful for evacuation of persons during an emergency.

(2) Two megaphones in the passenger cabin on each airplane with a seating capacity of more than 99 passengers, one installed at the forward end and the other at the most rearward location where it would be readily accessible to a normal flight attendant seat.


Next I’m going to hear that the Minimum Equipment List for communication between the flight deck and the galley is 2 empty campbell soup cans and a string! :laughing:
Hi Damiross, Yes, I’m aware EL AL has a much smaller fleet, and for the most part although considered commercial, for various reasons they treat flying almost paramilitary… do to middle east unrest and all. I realize it’s different here in our situation even with 9/11. Just wish none of this discussion of missile defense was even necessary in todays world.
Side note to Daniel…you can’t leave us in the lurch, cough up names!!


El Al has also said they will not be flying any of their countermeasures equipped aircraft into the US largely because the FAA has not yet decided what systems are safe. There is testing going on of a few different types of systems (flares, infrared, etc) and from that may come an approved system.
There is also a camp arguing that instead of countermeasures there should be increased security around airports to detect any missile firings but I doubt that will gain much support.


A lot of good that would do. Once they detect it, the missle is already fired! I guess they could get some great footage of the plane blowing up! Then that would make the argument that the defense system should have been on the aircraft.


I don’t want to turn this into a political argument, but we all know why Sen. Boxer is coming out with this now. She KNOWS this will never happen: the money’s simply not there, certainly not in the airlines’ pockets, and not even in the government’s coffers. This is political grandstanding at its finest (or worst, depending on how you look at it) to appear to be tough on terrorism. This from a woman whose record on being “tough on terror” speaks for itself. This will never happen, especially since our security measures never seem to be implemented until AFTER something bad happens. Remember: Even after 9/11, we didn’t have to remove our shoes at the security gate until AFTER Richard (i.e. DICK)Reed tried to blow up his sneakers aboard that AA flight over the Atlantic. To this date (TWA 800 & UAL 93 conspiracy theorists excluded), there is no record of an American airliner being shot down by a missile. Would such a system have saved Korean Airlines 007? Pretty doubtful, if you ask me. Besides, flares and chaff are only half of what it takes to evade a missile…You need a maneuverable aircraft, and airliners just aren’t designed to handle those kind of G forces, even if they COULD perform such actions.


The big threat to airliners is the possibility of shoulder fired heat seeking missles - but they are designed to fly up the tailpipe of a jet and blow up. Several authorities say they are much less likely to bring down a multi-engine airliner. The DHL cargo aircraft leaving Bagdad was damaged but managed to get back to the airport.

The countermeasure is to carry and release flares to confuse the heat seeking missle. This adds another set of risk to the aircraft. Imagine accidently releasing these flares on the ground or them going off in the air do to a malfunction. The current risk to benefit ratio is not clear.

Radar or wire guided missles require an entirely different kind of defensive measure and much more complicated - chaff and electronic countermeasures.

The situation needs careful analysis. I think the people who want to act now have a very simplistic and uneducated opinion. They are the same people who clamoured for army tanks and guards at every civilian airport in the USA (estimated number of airports 19,000).