UnNews:Scientists to present airliner for blind pilots next year

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8 July 2010

File:Cpt swallow.jpg
Pilots like this one motivated the scientists to equip a new Boeing 797 with non-visual aids

BLACKSBURG, Virginia--U.S. Scientists and the National Federation of the Blind are developing an airliner for the blind and will present a prototype next year. The airliner will be fitted with technology that lets a blind person fly independently, the NFB and Virginia Tech University said. Non-visual aids include sensors indicating obstacles via vibrating pants. Puffs of compressed air on the crotch will alert the pilot to obstacles. Other aids to be fitted include a vibrating lollipop to give feedback on speed and a blindfold with audio cues and spoken commands indicating the aircraft’s direction and altitude.

Last year, Virginia Tech turned a B2 Stealth bomber into an experimental aircraft for blind pilots. They used lasers and cameras as the eyes of the airplane. The model to be presented next year will be a brand new Boeing 797, the NFB announced. "We're exploring areas that were previously regarded as plain stupid," said NFB President Greg Genius. He added that projects like this airliner are changing people's perception of the blind. "We're moving away from the theory that blindness ends the capacity of humans to contribute to society."

Mr. Genius said he started talking about an airplane for blind pilots ten years ago. "Some people thought I was crazy, but not the airlines. They were overwhelmed with complaints against their idiot pilots. They were the first to see the advantage of having blind pilots. You just can’t criticize a blind man flying the aircraft. That would be perceived as pure cruelty and discrimination. And spoiled and picky passengers will always be grateful just for staying alive when a blind pilot lands the airplane,” he said. "Having blind pilots will also cut the costs to build the airliners. Imagine--there's no need for cockpit windows any more; in fact, there won't be cockpits at all--the whole front of the plane will be chopped off. The pilot could sit next to any passenger, or in one of the toilets," he added.

The NSA salutes this initiative and recommends future blind pilots to turn down any hijackers' demands by saying: I can't see the point of complying with your request. "You just can't beat that argument" said the NSA spokesman, adding that it's very unlikely for a terrorist to even board an airplane flown by blind: "They might be suicidal, but they're not that reckless".

The prototype is expected to be tested by a blind pilot on the New York/Dallas route, sometime next January.