Engine malfunction, fuel leaks or improper maintenance can spell death for pilots, their crews and passengers.A research group at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology led by Prof. Nahum Shimkin, dean of the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering, developed an on-line algorithm to solve this problem. “The on-line algorithm calculates (and periodically re-checks) the globally-optimal trajectory in terms of minimal altitude loss, accounting for descent-generated terrain obstacles and on-board estimated intense in-plane and crosswinds,” Technion wrote in a press release.The algorithm would help pilots in distress, similar to Chesley Sullenberger, who was forced to land his plane on the Hudson River in 2009 after both of its engines were compromised.“Since we are aiming to aid a pilot under immense stress, it is imperative to validate the algorithm in actual flight,” the team told Technion. “We’ve chosen to flight-test our optimal algorithm on a Cessna 172 – to demonstrate both the optimal airstrip choice, and trajectory generation, as well as the following of this trajectory by the Pilot-in-Distress.”The simulation that the students developed to test the algorithm “involves flight modeling, the generation of the optimal trajectory towards the preferable airstrip, and cues on a screen – for the pilot to track this trajectory. This [simulated] environment has contributed immensely to our on-board S/W debugging and thus to the success of our airborne experiment,” according to the team.The algorithm was able to route a simulated flight experiencing engine failure west of Mount Tabor to a landing strip east of the mountain and gave it the optimal trajectory for the test pilot to track.“We have thus validated our concept in-flight, as a real-time algorithm for the tracking of the globally-optimal trajectory by the pilot. This real-time globally-optimal algorithm, developed by the Technion research team, can be readily adopted in GA aircraft cockpits as well as for UAVs,” the team told Technion.