13 votes

What Boeing’s door-plug debacle says about the future of aviation safety


  1. [2]
    This section is the gist of the article in my opinion:

    This section is the gist of the article in my opinion:

    So how does this understanding of aviation reliability help us make sense of Boeing’s recent missteps with its 737? Seen through this lens, the door-plug drama looks highly unusual in that it appears to have been an avoidable error. This is stranger than it seems. On the rare occasions when jetliner failures are attributable to the airplane’s manufacturer, they are almost always “rational accidents,” with root causes that had hidden in the uncertainties of experts’ tests and models. If the insecure plug was due to missing bolts, then this was something else. Securing bolts properly is about the lowest-hanging fruit of high-reliability engineering. It is the kind of thing that manufacturers ought to be catching with their elaborate rules and oversight, before they even begin their “march of nines.”

    8 votes
    1. cfabbro
      Link Parent
      The following two paragraphs are pretty important too, IMO:

      The following two paragraphs are pretty important too, IMO:

      We should always hesitate to draw large conclusions from small samples, but a failure this ordinary lends credence to increasingly pervasive accounts of Boeing as a company that has gradually lost its way; its culture and priorities increasingly dominated by MBAs rather than the engineers of old. Especially when that failure is seen in conjunction with the 2019 737-MAX disasters, which were also rooted in avoidable design shortcomings, and the “Starliner” space capsule’s ongoing troubles.

      This is probably the failure’s real significance: The underlying shift in institutional culture that it represents. Boeing will surely remedy any specific problem with missing or unsecured bolts; it would be truly incredible if that mistake was ever made again. The fact that the mistake was made at all, however, suggests an organization that is decreasingly inclined, or able, to make the kinds of costly, counterintuitive, and difficult-to-justify choices on which it built its exemplary history of reliability. These choices always pertain to marginal, almost negligible, concerns — simply because reliability at high altitudes is all about the margins — so their consequences manifest slowly. But their effects are cumulative and inexorable. A company that is not securing its bolts correctly is unlikely to be making the kinds of strategic decisions that pay dividends in decades to come.

      9 votes