BOEING 737 Max, Dr Nunes – blaming the victims

It was predictable that after the crash of Ethiopian airlines some Western commentators would be insinuate that it was due to poor African  pilot skills. However FT reports 4 April 19  :

‘ Ethiopian minister of transport Dagmawit Moges said that the crew of the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on March 10 “performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but were not able to control the aircraft”. ‘ Note 1

Much to my astonishment there is an author who suggest that Boeing is not responsible for the safety of its aircraft!

Ashley Nunes, heavily promoting MIT and Harvard associations, argues that Boeing should charge extra for safety- Note 2

This is an astonishing article. He argues ‘Both doomed jets lacked certain safety features in the cockpit — features that may have helped avoid disaster.’

In this particular case there was an additional device which would alert the pilot if there was a conflict between sensors. This article is a particularly sad case of seeking to blame the victims with distorted reasoning. If I buy a car I expect it to be safe as-is. If it will not be safe on the road without an additional device  that should be stated upfront and can hardly be said to be an optional extra. Safety devices come in all shapes and sizes. For example if one is sailing there are many additional safety devices which are not required to ensure a boat is safe to sail. These devices such as early warning systems, can be helpful but for an experienced sailor can be an unnecessary expense i.e. they automate procedures that can be achieved in other ways. In this particular case there is no evidence that such a warning would have made any difference – the preliminary report states that the pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft, that is to say they were fully aware of the problem but could not do anything effective about it.

Additionally Nunes ellides price and costs. Boeing would charge for these additional devices but the costs need bear no or little relation to the cost of production. Since these features appear to be software related there is a high probability that the capability is built in and the ‘additional device’ merely enables the added functionality.  This completely negates Nunes argument that this is a result of cost cutting. In such a case it would be the result of price gouging.

To put the matter bluntly the issue is whether the plane was fit for purpose. If we buy a plane, a boat or a car we expect it to be safe to use as purchased.

In many fields authors are required to disclose their financial connections to the story. The shoddiness of this article suggests that this might be a good question to ask. On the other hand Boeing might have discovered a new author they might wish to fund. Shame on MIT and Harvard.