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The Boeing 737 Max crisis goes way beyond software

By Quartz

Describing it as a software problem fails to capture the mistakes made by Boeing and US aviation regulators in certifying the plane to carry passengersRead full story

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  • Agree this goes way beyond imperfect software design, a poor user interfacing and lack of training. In this case, it appears that there was a deliberate attempt to save money at the expense of safety.

    Boeing felt intense competitive pressure to get the new aircraft to market fast. When testing revealed an issue meeting certification standards, they developed a fix but did not tell airline pilots about it. In mitigating one risk, they created another far greater risk. Pilots were put in a position

    Agree this goes way beyond imperfect software design, a poor user interfacing and lack of training. In this case, it appears that there was a deliberate attempt to save money at the expense of safety.

    Boeing felt intense competitive pressure to get the new aircraft to market fast. When testing revealed an issue meeting certification standards, they developed a fix but did not tell airline pilots about it. In mitigating one risk, they created another far greater risk. Pilots were put in a position where the flight systems were overriding their actions and judgment.

    Beyond all of this, there is an industry issue. When the regulators gets too close to the industry, there are bound to be huge problems. In this case, problems that cost lives and have seriously damaged consumer confidence.

    Even after two major crashes (that we are aware of), Boeing executives continued to push to keep the planes in the air, calling the US president to act in their behalf.

    In my view, this behavior is criminal and there is a serious issue with values and business ethics that the company must address.

  • There are important lessons relative to capitalism and the role of government as a rule setter/enforcer for markets that can be learned from catastrophic failures like the 737 MAX and the Facebook-enabled ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. These companies abused the enormous latitude given them for self-regulation. People died because of choices made by executives to prioritize short term shareholder value over the lives of customers and users.

    I suspect that similar root causes explain the Wells Fargo

    There are important lessons relative to capitalism and the role of government as a rule setter/enforcer for markets that can be learned from catastrophic failures like the 737 MAX and the Facebook-enabled ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. These companies abused the enormous latitude given them for self-regulation. People died because of choices made by executives to prioritize short term shareholder value over the lives of customers and users.

    I suspect that similar root causes explain the Wells Fargo account fraud, the VW diesel emissions fraud, and Theranos.

    It is within our power to limit undesirable corporate behavior. Will we do so?

  • @Craig Suckling – How is the answer to failed software more software? The reason this accident happened was because the people designing the system didn’t appreciate the humans in the picture (not to mention they overestimated the capabilities of the software). People are complex; these systems are complex; the environment they fly in is complex; put all that together and you better have some humility. That’s the takeaway, not we need more software. We’re not designing algorithms for frequent flyer points programs here.

  • Reprehensible does not even begin to describe playing fast and loose with people's lives in this way.

    This quote from Roger McNamee captures the horrible essence of the issue, "These companies abused the enormous latitude given them for self-regulation. People died because of choices made by executives to prioritize short term shareholder value over the lives of customers and users."

  • What the media have cited or dug up thus far is far beyond any mere instance of CSR, ESG or direct governance issues. Where an act of corporate malfeasance and misfeasance (and from what the media are pointing out, we seem to have both and in both) or omission is a violation of a law it is indeed a criminal offense.

  • Bad engineering + hubris = this mess. No system that takes the controls away from humans should rely on a single point of failure.

    For the sake of the venerable company that, to its credit, has created many many safety enhancements and several successful planes, I hope this was not also a case of negligence...

  • Imperfect software design matched with poor user interfacing and training ended in the worst of consequences - these kind of scenarios are ripe for an AI safeguard to step into the gap of split second misinterpretation between machine and human and save hundreds of lives. Software alone is definitely not the answer here but more intelligent predictive software that can detect a risk trajectory and take corrective actions in milliseconds could buy the pilot crucial time to respond fully to the situation

    Imperfect software design matched with poor user interfacing and training ended in the worst of consequences - these kind of scenarios are ripe for an AI safeguard to step into the gap of split second misinterpretation between machine and human and save hundreds of lives. Software alone is definitely not the answer here but more intelligent predictive software that can detect a risk trajectory and take corrective actions in milliseconds could buy the pilot crucial time to respond fully to the situation. The rest is over to quality experienced piloting with adequate training of the plane they are flying.

  • Sad day that profits and faulty software goes by uncheck until it is to late.

  • Lots of people who know nothing about flying aircraft with strong opinions on system design. Is the system imperfect? It appears to be. Is it something a pilot responsible for a couple hundred lives would consider unsafe? No. Runaway trim isn’t new. Training to deal with runaway trim isn’t new.

    Airlines and aviation authorities around the world tend to mimic our system. But they often do so in a reactionary fashion.

  • Boeing thought only about the bottom line, safety be dammed.

  • Two switches pilots only 200 hours some on simulator. Boeing paying the price for stupidity.

  • It tells us so much about the culture that their strategy was to approach the deep thinker himself, Trump, to over ride safety for profits.

  • While Boeing's Max 8 aircraft may require "a quick patch" to solve the software issue, something more substantial than a "quick patch" will be required to repair the damage to the brand. I hope management recognizes that support will be required from all aspects of the brand, not just PR.

  • This is a serious matter that needs real investigation. The symbiotic relationships between government & those who they regulate can be beneficial but also detrimental to the health & welfare of us all. Unfortunately it becomes easier to abuse as government gets bigger & more invasive. We need to be vigilant & less trusting that 'they're from the govt & here to help.'

  • It appears some are actually trying to lay the blame on government steps.

    Proper regulation and oversight are crucial. But, this administration has made it clear that agencies like the FAA are simply seeking to remove legislative barriers which are seen as revenue impediments.

    What's happening is disgusting, not only in the airline industry, but pharmaceuticals, communications, automotive, environmental, etc. Every agency only exists, at this point, to serve capitalism.

  • AI is the answer? Really Craig? Oh, i See, you work for an AI Company. Bias much?

    Boeing missed a trick and needed a new plane to fill a niche.

    Bad decision 1 :- crash together something rather than go back to the drawing board and replace an old design with a new one.

    Boeing crashed together an aircraft to meet customer demand and made it unstable.

    Bad decision 2 :- solve in software. Rather than go back to the drawing board, they fix it in software, integrating capabilities that did not exist

    AI is the answer? Really Craig? Oh, i See, you work for an AI Company. Bias much?

    Boeing missed a trick and needed a new plane to fill a niche.

    Bad decision 1 :- crash together something rather than go back to the drawing board and replace an old design with a new one.

    Boeing crashed together an aircraft to meet customer demand and made it unstable.

    Bad decision 2 :- solve in software. Rather than go back to the drawing board, they fix it in software, integrating capabilities that did not exist before.

    Boeing integrate new tech in the cockpit but that means pilots need training and simulators need updating.

    Bad decision 3 :- downplay the tech and make monitoring capabilities “optional extras”, thereby saving training cost and reducing the price.

    Each decision is negligent at best, criminal at worst.

    Given Boeing is an American company and American companies have the same rights as people, I suggest charge the company with premeditated murder and seek the death penalty.

  • Optional Safety Features!?! Unbelievable!

  • Omg i m afraid of our corrupt and deregulated institutions...also corruted leaders of Everything in thos country...they learned nothing of use to mankind

  • Reeling from 787 program development fustercluck delay and expense, now challenged by Bombardier and Airbus on the cash cow side of the business, the

    financialists who had run Boeing in the new millennium turned up the wick on development. Some of the throughput improvements are probably useful. Some folks felt pressure to shade things, too.

    While 737 production got more and more like Toyota, its management got more like GE. Big, emblematic story here, how Boeing might have gone the Toyota Way but didn't.

  • Pardon the brevity but in this instance kludge does not apply. I would use the earlier terms gigo(garbage in garbage out) coupled with fubar because the whole process, certification, error reporting and airline response (Lyon air should have grounded their plane the day before) is totally beyond all recognition. I leave the FU to your imagination ( fouled fudges....)

  • This piece is clearly an opinion piece. Why isn’t this article labeled as an opinion piece?

  • Learn how to really fly.

  • So Boeing required extra fee to install a safety feature that will tell the pilot if the pitch sensor has malfunction ?? Its like charging extra money to have airbag or seatbelt in your car !!

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