Re: Airbus safety

From:         philip@rainbow.mentorg.com (Philip Peake)
Organization: Mentor Graphics
Date:         02 Dec 92 13:18:59 PST
References:   1 2 3 4
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In article <airliners.1992.67@ohare.Chicago.COM>, rdd@cactus.org (Robert Dorsett) writes:
|> We can automate easily quantifiable issues: simple tasks.  Judgement and
|> airmanship has thus far evaded us, on all levels.  Until we get a grip on
|> it, talk of fully autonomous aircraft or ground control is nothing more
|> than science fiction.

Robert,
	in general, you write extremely well argued and researched cases,
but occasionally you spoil the whole effect by little "throw away" comments
such as the above - history, even modern history is littered with comments from
people writing off things as "science fiction", "can't be done", "will never replace
the current ...." etc who have had to eat their words shortly after.

Anyway, getting back to the A320 ...

I suppose that I should now admit to not actually being a strong a supporter of
this machine as might have been assumed from past postings (I have flown on
them too many times :-)

My concernes are not based so much on the ergonomic design, so much as the engineering
of the computerised systems, and the numerous "cover-ups", which are apparently
inspired by the French government - if you read French, you might be interested
in a series of articles in "Science et Vie", which is a sort of "Scientific American".

There, the concerns expressed are simply that:

	- There have been many documented occurences of sudden altitiude
	  changes which were uncorrectable by the pilot.

	- Airbus Industrie REFUSES to let independent experts audit their software,
	  that say that the control system can only be examined as a "black box",
	  which either performs correctly, or it doesn't - anyone at all familiar
	  with software engineering will recognise this as being close to garbage.

	- Refusal by AI to acknowlege that there may be problems at all.

	- Attempts by members of the French government to abort independent
	  investigations (including that of Science et Vie).

This is getting away from our discussion about pilot contributions to "incidents",
but if you want to knock the A320, there are much better grounds for doing so
than ergonomics - without the more serious design problems, there would probably have
been many fewer "accidents", and hence less reason to blame the ergonomics.

Besides "cosmetic" issues like tactile feedback, and some layout issues, the 767
is pretty close to an A320 - as you have said (I think - sorry if I misquote you)
the 767 is just more conventional in cockpit design - its a pity its automatic
landing system can be as good as the best pilot on a good day, and a rough as
the worst on a bad day ... usually more towards the latter ...

Philip