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Old 21st Apr 2019, 18:00
  #4198 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Hotel Sheets, Downtown Plunketville
Age: 72
Posts: 686
Originally Posted by syseng68k View Post
Haven’t posted here for a while and semi retired now, but also electronics / software engineer, three decades plus including avionics systems exposure. Have read this thread and amazed that such a system with a single point of failure could ever have passed certification, either internally or regulatory. Although the circumstances differ, am reminded of the AF447 episode, where the crew were completely disoriented by the system going awol and dumping the a/c in an unknown state, misleading signals, onto an overloaded crew, who really did not stand a chance. Seems to me yet another example of the gap in the man / machine interface. Ideally, such systems should be designed to provide an unambiguous view of the machine state at all times, but seems far from it. Should be a basic design requirement that no crew should be expected to “guess” the state of the system at any time.

What is clear is a gross failure of systems engineering. Design, attention to detail and oversight. The big picture view of how the overall system works and how the individual parts interact and communicate. I don’t think you can blame software engineers or the software for any of this, as faults vs spec at that level would have been found during rigorous testing, but if the fundamental design is wrong, or full of uncovered corner cases, no software can compensate for that. The problem is that modern systems are now so complex that it may in fact be nigh impossible to test for every possible situation, or component failure. However, that is no excuse for not trying.

Reminded of another company: Hewlett Packard, who built a reputation over decades for building the most innovative and highest quality test equipment in the business. They spent a fortune on R&D and were widely diversified into science, healthcare and more. Then, bean counters and “shareholder value”, gross mismanagement and greed turned a hard won reputation and pursuit of excellence into a laughing stock. Fortunately, the test gear division was spun off, but now a pale shadow of their former selves and not sure how much r&d they do now. Really, does anyone care anymore, or is it already too late ?...
Design and manufacture concepts are the result of mass market demands. Aviation is now a mass market form of transportation, seeking to satisfy a demand for ever cheaper fares for every destination against the ever increasing costs of every resource on the planet. Automation is therefore the way forward and that involves a cost for knowledge and learning from many mistakes. It was so in the past, where the process involved the misfortunes of many, so it will be in the future. This particular incident shows that until such time when machines are free from mistake, human fallibility shall remain. For reason that their fallibility is replicated in any machine they design and manufacture. Perhaps AI will resolve this weakness and we shall have machines designed by machines. Then we shall have fulfilled our pursuit for excellence. Don`t you remember when you were first instructed in Instrument Flying, I do. I was told trust your instruments.
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