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Plucked from Obscurity: Anti-Hijack Device

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

An inventive, yet under-publicized device
by Marina Tsipis, Improbable Research staff

Zoltan Egeresi of Santa Cruz, California, has invented a kind of anti-hijack contraption that is novel in the commercial airline world. It is less novel in the worlds of novels and movie comedies.

Based on an Uplifting Principle

U.S. patent #7,014,147, granted to Mr. Egeresi on March 21, 2006, gives details in clear, evocative language:

This low cost non lethal Anti Hijacking System is... a last line of defense against a single or team of would be hijackers...

When one or more person is trying to over power the pilots, this anti hijacking system can provide a non-lethal last line of defense. Doors on the cockpit may not be penetration proof. When pilot or flight attendant is confronted with a situation where the pilot’s door is about to be penetrated, a concealed stainless steel net from below the carpet will hoist up all people to the ceiling or simulations side by side winch activation will hold the trapped people by the wall immobilizing them.

See Mr. Egeresi’s Figures 1–5, reproduced here, for a rough idea of how and where the apparatus is meant to be installed in a commercial airliner. The details are instructive. The system includes:

plural winches concealed within the walls of a passenger area of said aircraft, a flexible high strength net located within said passenger area under a floor covering thereof, said net is connected at plural locations by cables concealed in the walls of said passenger area, said cables are connected to said winches and when said winches are activated, the cables pop out of the walls and pull the net from beneath the floor covering to capture and control designated passengers, and these cables have an extreme stop activator to stop winches at least one foot from ceiling when the cables are winched up by the winches.

That’s not all. There are also:

switches for said winches are located in plural locations in a cockpit and in said passenger area of said aircraft, said switches have three positions, up, down and stop, manually controllable by the crew or pilot as they can see when and how to activate said winches.

There are additional features:

said switches individually control respective winches behind the cockpit and when all are activated said net will lift up all people in the net, with selective actuation of fewer winches said net will be lifted up on only one side to trap the people by a wall or keep them further away from the cockpit, or a single winch can lift up said net to separate an area in case several people try to lunge forward at the same time.

Hsieh’s Pioneering Trap

Mr. Egeresi was partly inspired by the work of Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan. Mr. Hsieh was granted U.S. patent #6,219,959, on April 24, 2001, for what he calls a “net trapping system for capturing a robber immediately.”

A net trapping system for capturing a robber immediately is used in a place of business such as a bank. The device looks like a storing box and is installed above the entrance of the business. When a robbery takes place and the system is activated, an infrared detecting device determines if a robber is in a zone beneath the storing box. A net, a curtain, and a plurality of barriers will drop down immediately and simultaneously. After a lifting motor is activated, the system traps the robber and suspends him above the floor.

The system in its entirety is complex. Here is a portion of the technical description (they refer to Mr. Hsieh’s Figure 5, which is reproduced here together with a descriptive set of labels):

Once the system is started, the infrared detecting devices (25) are activated and the entrance is automatically closed. If a robber moves to a zone beneath the storing box (10), he is detected by the infrared detecting devices (25). The electromagnetic controller (20) makes the pushing rod (22) move so that the positioning rope (15) drops down. Meanwhile, the net (40), steel rings (43), and curtain (30) break a cover plate (80) so that they are all dropped down. Also, due to the movement of stopping block (23), the barriers (17) will fall down. After which, the lifting motor (70) is started to lift the main hanging rope (55) so as to make the closing ropes (50) encircle the robber and hang the robber in an upside down position (shown in FIG. 5).

Scholars who desire further details may obtain them from the U.S. Patent Office, where they also may obtain a copy of Mr. Egeresi’s patent.

Mr. Egeresi analyzed Mr. Hsieh’s bank-robber-trap technology, and spotted what he considers to be serious limitations. With an economy of words, Mr. Egeresi describes them:

This invention as it is described, is an unattended system triggered by infrared beams. Barriers would fall from above immediately, not exactly an ideal solution in a confined area in the sky. This invention has no mention of the kind or type of net being used, most type of nets could be cut with knife. It is easy to see, that most of the prior art systems (using net) has no place on today’s flight deck for being too expensive, unworkable, or just for being totally unsuitable for the intended job.

The Blocker

Zoltan Egeresi is no novice at innovation, nor is he a monomaniac. His interests are diverse, or at least dual. He invented an exciting bathroom accessory—a “Toilet Odor Blocking System”—for which he obtained US patent #20040064884, on April 8, 2004. The patent is an almost textbook example of how to apply basic engineering principles to solve a simple problem (see Mr. Egeresi’s Figures 1 and 2, reproduced here):

The object of this invention is to block any odor from escaping the toilet before it contaminates the whole bath room.... Air pump creates bubbles in the tank, bubbles flow through the hose guiding bubbles into the toilet tank. By covering the human waste with scented soap bubbles it blocks any odor from escaping into the surrounding area.... The object of this invention is to cover the excrement with bubbles (or foam) as fast as possible.

Thanks to Martin Gardiner for bringing the anti-hijacking system to our attention.


The article above is from the January-February 2007 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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