In 2009, Captain Chelsey Sullenberger safely landed his Airbus 320 with 155 passengers and crew on the Hudson River, after both engines were disrupted by a flock of birds. The dramatic rescue was turned into a hit movie, “Sully: Miracle on the Hudson,” starring Tom Hanks.

Last August, a private aircraft experienced a fuel-supply-induced engine cutoff and was forced to land on a Washington highway.

Airplane engine failures can be life threatening.

A team of professors and students at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology developed and successfully tested software that monitors a plane’s trajectory to determine if it’s losing altitude and what physical obstacles might be in its way.

Image courtesy of the Technion

“It involves flight modeling, the generation of the optimal trajectory towards the preferable airstrip and cues on a screen,” explained Prof. Nahum Shimkin, dean of the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering, who led the research group.

The team ran a simulation using a Cessna 172 four-seat single engine aircraft. The simulation assumed an engine failure west of Mount Tabor in Israel’s Galilee region and selected the best landing strip from among several potentials.

“Since we are aiming to aid a pilot under immense stress, it is imperative to validate the algorithm in actual flight,” the team explained.

The test “validated our concept in-flight, as a real-time algorithm,” said Shimkin. “The algorithm is now ready to be integrated into the cockpits of other small aircraft as well as UAVs [drones].”

The research was partially supported by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.