More Airbus FBW woes

From: (Robert Ashcroft)
Organization: Stanford University, CA 94305, USA
Date:         16 Mar 95 14:38:56 
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Reposted from comp.risks.  Anyone know anything more about this?

Date: 15 Mar 1995 15:56:26 +0000
From: Les Hatton <>
Subject: A340 shenanigans

The BBC news at 08.30 reported a slight problem which occurred on the
morning of 15 Mar 1995 with the ultra high-tech, packed full of software
and therefore utterly wonderful Airbus A340.

Apparently on the final part of its approach to Gatwick, both the pilots
screens went blank, to be replaced by a polite little message saying "Please
wait ...".  Somewhat unnerved, the pilots requested that the plane turn
left, but it turned right instead.  They then tried to get it to adopt a 3
degree approach to the runway, but it chose a 9 degree plummet instead.  At
this point, from the report, they appeared to gain manual control and landed
safely.  It is not clear who will pick up the dry-cleaning bill.

Vis a vis this sort of thing, I was at a talk recently, given by the CAA (UK
Civil Aviation Authority), at which it was stated that in the past
generation of civil aircraft, most of the software problems were reported in
the Flight Management System.  Not surprisingly, this was the most complex
part of the aircraft software system.  Not any more it isn't.  During the
talk, it was also admitted that the newer generation of aircraft such as the
A340, other software systems including active systems were "at least as
complicated".  So what next ?
 I suppose it follows on nicely from the story in the October 1994 Risks
whereby a Japanese Air Force T-4 jet trainer ejected one of its pilots.
Perhaps it didn't like him.  :-)

Les Hatton, Ph.D. C.Eng, Director of Research & Engineering, Programming
Research Ltd, England    +44 (0) 1 932 888 080