Is Trump Right? Is There Too Much Technology In Our Planes?

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Following the crash of the Ethiopian Boeing 737 MAX, this plane that has now been grounded around the world including in the United States. Since this decision was made, a crucial question has been raised “Is there too much technology on our planes?”

In fact, this question was raised by the President of the United States, Donald J Trump:

The decision to ground planes comes after Southwest revealed a decision to add new angle of attack indicators to its fleet, matching those American Airlines already has on its MAX jets providing additional data to cockpit crew which may avert an incident similar to what happened to Lion Air’s MAX in October. Previously, Southwest Airlines had 34 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in service. American Airlines had 24.

The question is, is Donald Trump right? There have indeed been horrible crashes that have been caused by computer software, which pilots have been unable to overcome. These automatic features suggest that, although these systems have been tested, certain crucial scenarios were missing from the testing.

The brilliance of software is limited by the brilliance of the software programmer(s) who are human. Mistakes may be made and while an experienced pilot may know how to pull a plane out of a bad situation, new software may not be prepared for certain anomalies.

We must not forget, however, that overall, airline software has undoubtedly also prevented numerous crashes. It would be impossible to determine how many crashes have been avoided with the help of computers.

Evidence may suggest that the last two B737 plane crashes have been a result of software issues and that the pilots seemed unable to take over from the software. While the majority of airline software makes our skies safer, pilots need to remain vigilant and alert and must be able to override the software where necessary.

Captain Sully performed a miracle on the Hudson River in 2009, landing his plane and saving his passengers. Would the B737 MAX have let him take over the controls or would he have been overridden by the technology?

We need brilliant, well-trained pilots in our skies. We need our planes to embrace technology but this technology needs to be tested in every scenario. Crucially, it needs to be easier for pilots to understand and override failing technology.

Why Wasn’t The B737 Max Grounded Sooner?

IMHO, when the first Boeing B737 Max went down, they should all have been grounded. Why all B373 Max planes were not grounded at that point is most probably a decision based on economics rather than passenger safety. The cost of a second crash was paid with a terrible loss of life. I wish all these planes had been grounded after the first crash, until everyone was sure they were safe.

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