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Boeing Knew About Max 8 Problems Before Crashes

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  • Boeing admitted that it knew of a safety issue with its 737 Max 8s, the model involved in both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, and did not report it until after the Lion Air accident.
  • Boeing discovered that many of its Max 8s did not have a key safety feature that determined when the plane was receiving conflicting data from its sensors, because the company had made that feature an optional premium add-on.
  • The company claims this feature is not essential, but others argue that it could have prevented the crashes because conflicting sensor data caused both planes to repeatedly nosedive after an automated system was triggered.

Boeing’s Statement

Boeing released a statement Sunday saying that the company was aware of a problem with a safety feature in its 737 Max 8s in 2017, but did not disclose the issue to regulators or airlines until after a Max 8 operated by Lion Air crashed in October 2018, killing 189.

The announcement also comes nearly two months after another Max 8, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed just outside of Addis Ababa. That crash killed all 157 people on board.

According to the statement, within a few months of delivering the Max 8 planes to buyers, Boeing’s engineers found a problem with an essential warning light. The feature, which is called an Angle of Attack (AOA) Disagree alert, tells pilots if the sensors on either side of the plane are giving contradictory information about the direction of the plane’s nose.

Boeing intended for this feature to be on all the Max 8 models as it had been a feature on the previous generations of 737s. However, after months of delivering the planes, their engineers found that the sensors only worked on Max 8’s where buyers had also purchased a separate, optional safety feature.

This basically means that a key safety feature that the company thought was standard was actually optional– sort of like a premium add-on.

Following the discovery, a review was launched after the engineers discovered the problem. “That review, which involved multiple company subject matter experts, determined that the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation,” according to company’s statement.

Boeing said it reported the problem to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a year after they knew about it. The FAA determined that the problem was “low-risk,” but still told Boeing they should have informed them earlier.

Boeing also reported the problem to the airlines that operated the planes. However, only 20 percent of buyers had purchased the optional indicator, according to the New York Times, which meant that an important warning light did not work on most of the 737s.

Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines

Unsurprisingly, neither of the two flights that crashed had that indicator.

Immediately, after the Ethiopian Airline crash, people began drawing lines between the Lion Air crash off the coast of Indonesia just four months earlier. In addition to the fact that both planes were Max 8, the pilots of both planes reported issues and requested to return to the airports they took off from but did not make it back.

Following the incident, tons of countries grounded their Max 8 planes until Boeing investigated the situation. Numerous pilots also came forward to say that they had not been fully informed about software changes to the MAX 8’s autopilot and that they had not been trained to use the new software

The pilots specifically referenced a new feature that causes the plane to automatically correct the planes level if it’s sensor’s think it is flying at an angle that puts it at risk of stalling. Investigations from both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines crashes found that this software was engaged, and that it caused the noses of both the planes to be pushed down repeatedly.

Boeing initially responded to the pilots by arguing that there should not be a problem as long as pilots followed procedures. Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, later said that the company would update the Max 8’s software and provide training.

However, throughout the whole process, Boeing executives have denied that there is anything wrong with the planes.

The Debate Goes On

Boeing still maintains that this feature is not essential.

“Neither the angle of attack indicator nor the AOA Disagree alert are necessary for the safe operation of the airplane,” the company said in Sunday’s statement. “They provide supplemental information only, and have never been considered safety features on commercial jet transport airplanes.”

Others disagree. If AOA sensors on the Max 8 think that the nose of the plane is too high, the automated control system forces the nose of the plane down automatically. That is exactly what happened to both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes.

In fact, investigators of both crashes found that a faulty sensor gave the system incorrect data, which then forced the nose of the plane down repeatedly. Logically, experts say, it seems like if those two flights had this safety feature that Boeing itself said tells pilots when sensors are giving contradictory information, this would likely not have happened.

Boeing is still refusing to draw that line. The combination of the lack of knowledge that their planes did not have key safety feature and the fact that they didn’t disclose their knowledge of this issue for a year just add to Boeing’s problems.

Ongoing Investigations

In their statement Sunday, Boeing also pushed back on the criticism that the aircraft certification system Boeing and the FAA have in place is flawed, which is the subject of congressional inquiries, a Department of Transportation panel, and a criminal investigation.

During a Congressional hearing in March, Daniel Ewell, the acting head of the FAA, stated that the agency’s certification procedures “are extensive, well-established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs for decades,” also adding that the FAA was “fully involved” in certifying the 737 Max.

However, this was contradicted by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who said the FAA has allowed plane manufacturers to help certify that their own aircraft meets safety standards.

Boeing’s management of the Max 8’s design has continually come under fire, which in turn has resulted in strained relations with airlines and customers, several federal investigations, and huge financial losses.

Still, time and time again, Boeing has continued to essentially skirt responsibility, even as the Max 8, which was the fastest-selling plane in the company’s history, remains grounded world-wide.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (New York Times) (Washington Post)

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Tinder Plans to Roll Out Panic Button and Other Safety Features

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  • The popular dating app Tinder plans to unveil new in-app safety features for users who feel threatened during face-to-face meetups.
  • Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, is investing in a safety platform called Noonlight, which tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any issues arise. 
  • The safety tools are free to use and will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of the month.
  • Match Group’s other dating apps will see the new features later this year.

Tinder’s New Features

Tinder is planning to add free in-app safety features for users whose dates go awry, including a panic button that can be pressed if something goes wrong, security check-ins, and an option to call authorities if needed.

Match Group, Tinder’s parent company who also owns Hinge and OkCupid, is making these features possible by investing in the safety platform Noonlight. Noonlight tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any concerns arise.

“I think a lot about safety, especially on our platforms, and what we can do to curtail bad behavior,” Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg told The Wall Street Journal, who first reported the story. “There are a lot of things we tell users to do. But if we can provide tools on top of that, we should do that as well.”

Prior to in-person dates, Tinder users will have the option to manually enter information into a tool linked to Noonlight, such as details about the other party and times.

Source: The Wall Street Journal — Tinder

If at any point a user feels unsafe, they can press the alert button. Noonlight will then send a code for the user to enter. If the code isn’t entered, Noonlight will send a text. If the text goes unanswered, Noonlight will call the user. If the call is not answered or if the user confirms that they need assistance, Noonlight will alert local authorities and share the information previously entered with them, as well as the user’s location. 

Once the Noonlight tool is instated, Tinder users will also be able to add an emblem to their profiles to indicate the additional protection they have opted to take. 

The new security measures will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of January, while other Match Group dating apps will see the features in the next few months. 

Tinder is also currently testing a feature aimed to eliminate “catfishing” in which users will be required to take photos in certain poses to prove that they look like the images they upload. Profiles that pass the test will have a blue checkmark to indicate they were verified.

New Wave of Safety for Tech Platforms

While Tinder has previously monitored abusive language and images via in-app conversation, this is the first move it has taken to play a hand in regulating in-person interactions once users decide to meet up. 

This step comes after multiple cases of sexual assault and other crimes that users have traced back to relations made through the app. 

The dating app is following the lead of other platforms like Uber and Lyft, who have both rolled out additional security features in the wake of criticism for not doing enough to protect users from safety threats.

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (The Verge)

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Facial Recognition Technology on College Campuses

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Facial Recognition Technology, better known by its acronym, FRT, has been a hot topic for nearly a decade. Most fields have some form of FRT from Taylor Swift using it to identify stalkers at her concerts to police making quicker arrests by matching faces of suspects to a database of mugshots. All forms of FRT have one way or another been contested, but some of the most controversial places that it’s being used are college campuses. 

Recently, an anti-FRT group named Fight for the Future launched the largest nation-wide student campaign to demand that universities never use FRT on their campuses. There are multiple reasons why people love and despise FRT and in this video, we’re going to show you both sides of the argument and why it’s so controversial to use on college campuses. 

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Angled Toilet Designed to Shorten Employees’ Bathroom Breaks Met With Criticism

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  • A British company, StandardToilet, has filed a patent for a toilet fixture designed with a downward-sloping seat. 
  • The product is meant to be uncomfortable to sit on for more than five minutes, in an effort to reduce bathroom breaks and increase employee productivity.
  • StandardToilet also says their product will reduce bathroom lines in public spaces and serve better for people’s health.
  • The company’s idea has been supported by some, but largely slammed by others who claim it promotes an unhealthy expectation of workplace productivity and is inconsiderate to a range of users with differing needs.

A New Type of Toilet

A British startup has developed a toilet designed to be uncomfortable to sit on for longer than five minutes in an effort to increase workplace productivity.

StandardToilet has filed a patent for a toilet fixture with a seating surface sloped forward between 11-13 degrees. The company claims that this design will decrease the time that employees spend taking bathroom breaks, thus allowing them to devote more minutes to work. 

“In modern times, the workplace toilet has become private texting and social media usage space,” StandardToilet says on their website.  

The company estimates that about £16 billion ($20.8 billion) are lost annually to the time that people are spending using the bathroom at work in the U.K. They claim that reducing time spent sitting on the toilet will save about £4 billion of that sum. 

Mahabir Gill, the founder of StandardToilet, told Wired that sitting on the angled fixture for more than five minutes will cause strain on the legs, but “not enough to cause health issues.”

“Anything higher than that would cause wider problems,” Gill said. “Thirteen degrees is not too inconvenient, but you’d soon want to get off the seat quite quickly.”   

StandardToilet says that in addition to increasing employee productivity, their design will shorten bathroom lines in public places such as shopping malls and train stations.

They also claim studies have suggested that flat-surfaced toilets used now can cause medical issues, like swollen haemorrhoids and weakening of pelvic muscles. The company says its product can reduce musculoskeletal disorder “through promoting the engagement of upper leg muscles.”

Response to StandardToilet

While news of the proposed time-saving toilet has been supported by some, like the British Toilet Association (BTA), an organization that campaigns for better toilet facilities, it was also largely met with criticism. Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, an assistant professor of design history at Purdue University in Indiana, expressed that the idea is a bit controlling. 

“In an office, the one space you have where you can find privacy is often the toilet,” Kaufmann-Buhler told Wired. “So, god forbid that we want to make the one place where workers should have at least some autonomy – the toilet – another place where people impose the very capitalist idea that people should always be working.”

Kaufmann-Buhler’s sentiment was echoed across Twitter, where people were upset by StandardToilet’s motive.

Others pointed out the discomfort StandardToilet’s design would bring to those with physical disabilities.

The company told HuffPost in an email that the product isn’t designed to take the place of toilets for people with disabilities. StandardToilet’s website also notes that another benefit of the slanted toilet is “reduction in overspill usage of disabled facilities.” 

Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting, a company that works with other businesses on how to serve workers with disabilities. She noted to HuffPost that there are other kinds of hindrances that might justify more time in the bathroom.

Vogel brought up examples of diabetic people testing their glucose levels or others simply needing a break for their mental health.

 “The fact that the concern is extended employee breaks ― well, what about people that have some kind of mental health situation that actually need that kind of longer break?” Vogel said.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Guardian) (Wired)

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