Re: A320 cockpit visit)

From: (Stefano Pagiola)
Organization: DSO, Stanford University
Date:         24 Jun 93 00:37:48 PDT
References:   1
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Mike Collins writes
> But hang on here. I can remember as a kid in the mid sixties
> reading about a series of crashes involving the B727. Uk newspapers
> were running headlines like "Jinx Jet Crashes Again". Well they
> would wouldn't they? They were trying to sell the Trident. But
> the fact remains that the cause of these crashes (as far as I
> remember) was pilots were upgrading from piston craft to jets
> and had no idea of the true handling "quirks" of the 727. The
> common problem was allowing speed to decay on the approach. We
> are talking the same problem here with the A320, a change from
> a familiar technology to a new. I think.

That, to me, is the most convincing explanation of the several A320  
accidents.  That's not to say that there may not be specific problems  
with the way this or the other feature are implemented (there  
definitely are) but that these problems alone would not be, to my  
mind, critical except that they are new and unfamiliar.

Having said that, I think Airbus and the travelling public would have  
been better served by more humility on Airbus' part.  They _may_ be  
right that the accidents were, _technically_, pilot error (note  
emphasis before flaming).  However, just as they wrote complicated  
control laws that incorporated current aerodynamic knowledge, they  
should have incorporated current human-factors knowledge.  A system  
might be _technically_ perfect but will still be unsafe if it assumes  
perfect operators.

Having said that, let me add that the A320 pilots that I've talked to  
have all expressed a great deal of respect for the aircraft's  
possible interface faults in the wake of the accidents.  I've always  
thought that few aircraft types are safer than those who have just  
had a major accident: everybody seems to take more care of them all  
around.  So I happily fly A320s.   And DC-10s.

Stefano Pagiola
Food Research Institute, Stanford University (NeXTMail encouraged) (NeXTMail encouraged)