European experience in Fly-by-Wire (FBW) application is now some 30 years old. With the entry into service of the A320, a new standard of FBW was defined in the flight controls and system integration.
Boeing Phantom Works Patent designed to prohibit hacker access to the flight controls of Fly By Wire Aircraft.
The United States was lagging in these achievements. The Boeing Company embarked in an unprecedented journey to build a totally FBW controlled aircraft, completely designed and integrated by computer.
The Boeing 777 is the first commercial aircraft manufactured by Boeing which employees a FBW Primary Flight Control System. Here we will provide an overview of the flight control characteristics and constraints for the Boeing 777 FBW aircraft.
Conventional primary flight controls systems employ hydraulic actuators and control valves actuated by cables that are driven by the pilot controls. The cable-controlled system is heavy and requires periodic maintenance.
In a Flight by Wire (FBW) flight control system, the cable control of the primary flight control surfaces has been removed. Rather, the actuators are controlled electrically. At the heart of the FBW system are electronic computers sending signals to the control surfaces.
Fly-By-Wire (FBW) Primary Flight Controls have been used in military applications such as fighter jets for a number of years. It has been a rather recent development to employ them in a commercial transport application. The 777 is the first commercial transport manufactured by Boeing which employs a (FBW) Primary Flight Control System. The Airbus A320 and predecessors are examples of earlier systems developed in Europe. Many other aircraft were fully electronic with an electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic backup.
Invention Secrecy Act Invoked
Someone discovered that there just may be a problem with this system of flight control. Boeing filed for a Patent to protect technology that they hope will keep any hijacking or jamming of the control systems in their 777 airliner protected. The Government immediately attached the Invention Secrecy Act to the Patent. It disappeared from the patent office online archives here.
The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 (Pub.L. 82–256, 66 Stat. 3, enacted February 1, 1952, codified at 35 U.S.C. §§ 181–188) is a body of United States federal law designed to prevent disclosure of new inventions and technologies that, in the opinion of selected federal agencies, present a possible threat to the national security of the United States.
The U.S. government has long sought to control the release of new technologies that might threaten the national defense and economic stability of the country. During World War I, Congress authorized the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to classify certain defense-related patents.
This initial effort lasted only for the duration of that war but was reimposed in October 1941 in anticipation of the U.S. entry into World War II. Patent secrecy orders were initially intended to remain effective for two years, beginning on July 1, 1940, but were later extended for the duration of the war.
The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 made such patent secrecy permanent, though the order to suppress any invention must be renewed each year (except during periods of declared war or national emergency). Under this Act, defense agencies provide the PTO with a classified list of sensitive technologies in the form of the "Patent Security Category Review List" (PSCRL).
The decision to classify new inventions under this act is made by "defense agencies" as defined by the President. Generally, these agencies include the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Energy, and NASA, but even the Justice Department has played this role.
A secrecy order bars the award of a patent, orders that the invention be kept secret, restricts the filing of foreign patents, and specifies procedures to prevent disclosure of ideas contained in the application. The only way an inventor can avoid the risk of such imposed secrecy is to forgo patent protection.
By the end of fiscal year 1991, the number of patent secrecy orders stood at 6,193. Many such orders were imposed on individuals and organizations working without government support. This number shrank for each fiscal year thereafter, until 2002. Since 2002, the number of secrecy orders has grown, with 5,002 secrecy orders in effect at the end of fiscal year 2007.
The types of inventions classified under this Act are themselves secret, but most of the inventions which are now no longer secret (but once were) have been in areas with high military significance, such as cryptography and weapons development.
Fortunately, I was able to retrieve the Patent for you to preview. Can you handle the truth? I believe so.
The full 16 pages may be downloaded here: Probabilistic mitigation of control channel jamming via random key distribution in wireless communications networks. The Boeing Company March 5, 2013
Following the review of the both the patent and the timeline, we have come to the conclusion that the technology needed to protect the flight control systems from being taken over remotely or jammed remotely were not yet implemented, thus leaving any Boeing 777 or later aircraft utilizing Fly By Wire Technology vulnerable to a hacker.
Copyright 2013 Gene "Chip" Tatum and The WiKi Army
Boeing's Secret Patent