The Human Factor

Horrible news today out of Ethiopia, with the loss of a second Boeing 737 MAX 8 resulting in the deaths of all aboard. I’m grateful to learn that the recorders have been recovered, though one was severely damaged. Hopeful Boeing and the authorities can piece things together quickly.

Reading the initial reporting on today’s incident, this amateur plane nerd’s first reaction was a single word: Prius.

Remember when shortly after the Prius hit the mainstream there was a series of unfortunate events involving vehicles and their occupants sailing through hedge bushes and shopping mall storefronts? Toyota did eventually issue software updates to help prevent crashes, but over time the platform also became familiar to the public. Now, we see more and more models with push button starts and unconventional shift levers and transmissions.

This is the Prius, at scale. Boeing is already working with the FAA to deploy software updates to improve safety, and I’m sure they will help prevent future events. But training and familiarity with an aircraft and, now more than ever, it’s software, will always win the day. Like when you hit birds and determine your best bet is to go for a swim.

Further Reading

…on “we are experiencing high call volume…”

If I call your company’s 24 hour support hotline at nine on a random Sunday night and the first thing that comes on the line is your front-end message announcing “unusually high call volume,” what you really are telling me is that you not only don’t care about service you’re giving your customers, but don’t care¬†how routinely overworked your call center staff is as well.

“We are experiencing high call volume” is just like “please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed” – they are the “under construction” clip art of the 21st century IVR system. Just don’t use it.