back to article Melbourne man arrested for broadcasting fake messages to pilots

Melbourne man Paul Sant has been charged with unauthorised broadcasting over to pilots over radio bands restricted to aviation users, causing one plane to abort a landing to Tullamarine Airport. Sant, 19, is alleged to have placed 16 separate transmissions to pilots at Tullamarine and Avalon airports between 5 September and 3 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry he's got some problems but this guy needs a sentence that is a clear deterrent to any would be copycats.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seems like Autism / Asperger's is becoming the go to defense in the UK these days.

      1. J. R. Hartley

        Yes, that's right, I had lasagna.

      2. Shugyosha

        American, I assume?

        That may well be your perception, but Melbourne is in Australia.

    2. Scoular

      The problem is that any sentence will not act as a deterrent to those with autism.

      They are simply unaware (depends on severity and that is highly variable) that what they are doing is not advisable. It is not malice they just do not comprehend the consequences of their actions as 'normal' people do.

      There is a genuine problem and governments around the world can find the money to lock people up for decades but never the money to avoid the problem by helping families with a person with this quite genuine problem. Families with an autistic child have problems, families with an autistic teenager have bigger problems and they just do not go away.

  2. Mark Simon

    … no hacking is required … ?

    “no hacking is required to make transmissions”

    I may have missed something here, but there is no mention whatsoever of any measures to prevent this sort of thing happening. Now that the incident has been publicised, isn’t it more likely that it will happen again, with potentially disastrous consequences.

    Saying that laws are “robust” doesn’t mean that they’re not useless.

    1. RobS

      Re: … no hacking is required … ?

      Any measure to prevent hacking is most likely to result in the inability for some pilots to communicate with air traffic control leading to bigger safety problems than the occasional idiot. Secure key distribution is really hard for a single organisation, distribution to every ATC and every aircraft and everyone who might have a valid need to communicate to an aircraft or ATC is more likely than not to result in some people who don't have the right keys and therefore, no communications path. Just getting everyone capable of using the same language correctly is pretty tricky.

    2. Kernel

      Re: … no hacking is required … ?

      "I may have missed something here, but there is no mention whatsoever of any measures to prevent this sort of thing happening. "

      The major issue is that there are many 10s of thousands, if not 100s of thousands, of standard aviation transceivers in use around the world. The time, cost, effort and risk involved in changing to a different radio platform means it's unlikely to ever happen - having tubes full of people whizzing around in the air using incompatible radios and not being able to communicate with each other or listen to instructions being given to other aircraft in the vicinity is not a safe idea.

      The only way to make a change safely would be to ground all aircraft in a country (or region, such as all of Europe) and not let any aircraft of any size back into the air until it has a certified installation of the new secure radio.

      I doubt the risk is all that great - the fact that the accused is an ex-employee of Virgin Australia suggests this is more likely to be an isolated disgruntled ex-employee situation, rather than an exciting new hobby for bored teenagers. There's also the fact that there would be a lot more to getting the aircrew to accept a bogus instruction than just grabbing a radio and going for it - a newcomer on any radio service used by regulars (eg., commercial marine channels, aircraft, amateur radio) normally stands out like the proverbial dog's parts. It's been many years since I did any flying, and that was only as a ppl at a small airport, but I do remember there were a lot of standard expressions and behaviours on air that would make an intruder stand out.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: … no hacking is required … ?

        The time, cost, effort and risk involved in changing to a different radio platform means it's unlikely to ever happen

        Hammer, nail, impact !

        There's enough fuss just getting users over to 8.33kHz radios here - to the point where there's even some public money being put up towards the costs for small aircraft. And that' a change where some aircraft (starting with those using the airways) can change without impacting their ability to talk with the older system (25kHz channels) - and so it's been phased in over many years. Given that for some aircraft, a fancy radio can be a significant part of the value of the aircraft, a mass change to something else just isn't going to happen.

        And there are procedures to deal with these situations - and they don't require the Outer Marker to be talking to the aircraft .... (sits back and waits to see if anyone gets it)

        1. Phil.T.Tipp

          Re: … no hacking is required … ?

          Errrrm. I'm not sure what your point was. The Outer Marker, part of an ILS which broadcasts Morse letter M at 75MHz is usually coupled with an NDB to form an LOM. Quite what this has to do with a teenager making unofficial VHF traffic calls I cannot tell.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: … no hacking is required … ?

        Indeed, It's not as if we can have world-wide IFF here.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enthusiasts regularly tune into the broadcasts which are sent unencrypted meaning no hacking is required to make transmissions.

    That's an understatement … they're the only AM stations I know of in the VHF spectrum other than radio amateurs… and even most of them have moved up to SSB.

    As a voice mode, AM is as old as it gets!

  4. J. R. Hartley

    I'd just like to say good luck. We're all counting on you.

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