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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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Default Death by computer

Death by Computer................

189 people recently died in a tragic crash. The crew and passengers of Lion
Air JT610 on board a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 never had a chance.

The less than three months old plane had a new software in it. They called
it MCAS or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentations System. MCAS was a
system that didn't exist in any of the Boeing 737's before. However, when
they built the 737 MAX version, in layman's term, they built the plane with
a larger and more efficient engine.

However, this larger engine, which delivered a further 14% fuel efficiency
had to be fitted further forward under the low wings of the 737. This
potentially may cause the plane to stall. Stalling is bad. It is basically
when a plane stops flying and starts falling.

In order to avoid this, Boeing installed the new MCAS software. This
software is designed to tell the plane to move its nose down to increase its
speed and avoid it from stalling.

So here comes the problem.

In the computer world, we have this term called GIGO. The old school fella's
will know this. Yes. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The problem based on the findings so far is this.

On the plane there is a sensor called the Alpha Vane which measures the
Angle of Attack (AOA) of the plane. It looks like a small little wing, and
they have two of it, one on the pilot side, and the other on the co-pilot's.


The sensor's job is to tell the computer the angle the plane is flying at.
And if the AOA of the plane is too high, this will result in the plane
stalling. Typically the AOA is below 15 to 20 degrees, and the new MCAS
software will push the plane's nose down if it thinks that the AOA is too
high.

Now.

With flight JT610, the Alpha Vane sensor measuring the AOA on the Captain's
side was reported to be faulty. So they changed it. That fault was reported
from the equally harrowing flight from Bali to Jakarta.

On the fateful final flight, the plane which arrived from Bali the night
before, had the sensor changed, and then it took off in the morning.

No one knew what was really wrong with the plane, or about the new MCAS
software. No one. Not the maintenance folks, and in fact not even the pilot.
He apparently wasn't trained on it yet.

So they flew the plane.

And once in the air, the faulty sensor told the computer that the plane is
stalling. The computer then, without the pilot ever knowing pushed the nose
of the plane down further, while the pilot was trying to raise the plane.

In this battle between the pilot and the computer, the computer won. And the
pilot, the crew, and the passengers lost and they died. The plane was too
low, and the pilot didn't have enough air to raise the plane and fly it.

The computer literally flew the plane into the ocean.

A few weeks later, Boeing issued an update on the plane, and informed that
should the plane have an issue with it's AOA sensors, one of the way to stop
the computer was to switch it off!

Apparently 189 lives could have been saved, had the pilot known about the
software, and flipped a switch to turn it off.

A switch!

A single simple switch was the difference between life and death.



Computers are really going to be the end of us all, because while a man
makes mistakes, to really, really screw up; you need a computer!

Harry



Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend. - Plautus






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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 12:45 AM
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So Sad.
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 01:55 AM
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There's a strange science fiction story about the technical advancements to the weapons of war. Finally, one side manages to perfect cloaking, or invisibility, but each time they cloak and then uncloak, a tiny bit of the ship and its contents disappear. Eventually it can't uncloak and all the crew are lost. The lesson is that advancements are not always what they seem, and there are always unintended consequences that never occurred to the designer and engineers. True of politics too.

The more I do, the less I accomplish.
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 07:23 AM
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Sign in office- To err is Human; To really screw it up, you need a Computer.
Thanks, Harry. Makes me wonder about self-driven cars that rely on a computer. Wonder when hackers will figure out how to override the system. Will be interesting. I worked with a guy who described himself as a reformed computer hacker. He commented that people would be shocked at the systems he was able to enter.
G'day, Harry!

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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 07:24 AM
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Very sad. Thank you for sharing Harry
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 08:53 AM
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"to really, really screw up; you need a computer!"
Or a committee.

  • Accident free since 10/27/12 at 3:58 pm.
  • Cursing free since 10/27/12 at 3:59 pm.
  • ...it happened in Everett, WA USA
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 11:38 AM
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That's not an isolated incident Harry. Quite often it's a combination of computer and human error. I was watching the program Mayday last night about the first Airbus 380 to crash and it started with the plane on auto pilot and the pitot tube freezing up at high altitude which gave a faulty speed readout. In the end it was the pilot's inability to understand and react properly that caused the crash. I've seen a number of the Mayday program crashes where the plane simply fell out of the air because it wasn't going fast enough to have enough lift to keep the plane aloft. And in every case I can think of the pilots kept trying to lift the nose up instead of pointing it down. It seems they forget basic physics in stressful situations. If you aren't going fast enough you won't fly and if you aren't going fast enough then you need to point the nose down and let gravity help.
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Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 12:07 PM
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That's a sad story Harry, it can happen far too easy. N
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 12:48 PM
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Also true in the medical field, never be the surgeons first operation. A fatality just happened recently to prove that.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 05:59 PM
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Quote:
Also true in the medical field, never be the surgeons first operation. A fatality just happened recently to prove that.
That's why they call it a medical practice. You practice on each patient!
rwl7532, a camel is a horse put together by a committee.

John T.
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