Fleet Maintenance - 36
» The industry should consider the impact
of automated vehicles and increasingly
"smart" automated vehicle safety systems.
Why the recent
should be concerning
Giving up full control of an
operating system should be
the most worrisome issue.
The recent Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashes
have me a bit worried. I fly a lot, and would
have no trouble getting into a 737 MAX tomorrow. I'm not concerned with the apparent safety
exposure. Rather, I'm concerned about something new and unknown.
Boeing is going to take a lot of heat over the
crashes, and they should. There were several
But, the main problem facing the 737 MAX
will also impact other industries in transportation, including commercial vehicles:
relinquishing control systems to Artificial
Intelligence (AI). We should consider this as
we continue on the road toward automated
vehicles and increasingly "smart" automated
vehicle safety technologies.
Issue 1: Accelerated schedule
First off, the accelerated schedule for production
and launch of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was
By Joel Levitt
PRESIDENT, SPRINGFIELD RESOURCES
Springfield Resources (maintenancetraining.com) is a
management consulting firm that services a variety of
clients on a wide range of maintenance issues. Levitt is
the president of the company and has trained more than
17,000 maintenance leaders from more than 3,000 organizations in 38 countries. He is also the creator of LaserFocused Training, a flexible training program that provides
specific targeted training on your schedule, online to one
to 250 people in maintenance management, asset management and reliability.
36 Fleet Maintenance | May 2019
an issue. We all know that accelerated schedules can sometimes lead people to take shortcuts. Boeing was in a heroic battle with their
sworn competitor, Airbus, and behind schedule.
Maybe Boeing figured they would catch up to
Airbus, and then fix those minor issues that
their employees were complaining about later.
Take another well-known example: rushing
was one of the contributors to the sinking of
the RMS Titanic in 1912. The crew attempted
to cross the Atlantic Ocean quickly and didn't
slow down, despite reports of icebergs. At a
more leisurely pace, they could have potentially avoided hitting an iceberg, or limited
the amount of damage to the ship.
But an accelerated schedule is not even the
main source of my worry.
Issue 2: Conflicts of interest
The second issue is the relationship Boeing
officials have with federal regulators. Like
the close ties between Boeing officials and
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
inspectors, this kind of relationship has been
the source of many catastrophes in several
industries. It seems as if it were human nature
for an inspection organization to allow a
market leader, like Boeing, to self-certify.
After all, who knows the products better
than the company that makes them? There
is something to be said, though, about having
a third-party offer their seemingly unbiased
analysis and a different perspective.
Even now in the same news cycle, the
recent collapse of a Brazilian dam, controlled
by the mining company Vale, has resulted in a massive catastrophe and loss of life.
Once again, a special relationship between
the inspection organization and the mining
company got in the way of proper engineering inspection.
Even so, the sweetheart relationship between
the vendor and the regulator isn't what makes
me worry most.
Issue 3: Quality management
The third issue with the Boeing 737 MAX was
a breakdown in the systems that ensure quality. W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer best known for the development of his 14
Points of Total Quality Management, said that
quality inspections are too late. By the time an
inspection is in progress, the damage is already
done and the money is already spent.
Quality control can never replace systems
that fail to produce a quality product.
At a company like Boeing, there is so much
inspection and re-inspection, but no matter
how many inspections a product goes through,
if it's not a quality product to begin with, the
inspections won't do much good. Although, this
still isn't the issue that worries me most.
Issue 4: Unanticipated
Remember the Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery
fire issues? They were big news. They were a
failure mode, caused by high-current discharge
rates that were not anticipated.
After assessing one instance of these battery
fires, which occurred in January of 2013 with
a Japan Airlines Boeing 787, the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued
an executive summary on November 21, 2014,
and determined "that the probable cause of this
incident was an internal short circuit within
a cell [cell 5 or cell 6] of the auxiliary power
unit (APU) lithium-ion battery, which led to
thermal runaway that cascaded to adjacent
cells, resulting in the release of smoke and
fire. The incident resulted from Boeing's failure to incorporate design requirements to
mitigate the most severe effects of an internal
short circuit within an APU battery cell and
the Federal Aviation Administration's failure
to identify this design deficiency during the
type design certification process."
Like in the case of the 737 MAX, the 787
battery fires could have been related to the
complexity of the system. It does not lend itself
to a complete inspection since all the failure
modes are not yet known. However, even knowing that all of the failure modes are unknown
does not worry me.
The main issue: Letting
go of control
These automated systems assisting with the
operation of vehicles are complex. They are
starting to rival the complexity of our brain.
AI software is developed through millions
of lines of code, written by thousands of
people. No one knows how it all works together. I remember years ago that programmers
were rewriting the system for a telephone
switch (that still runs our landlines today).
They took out a million lines of code that
didn't seem to "do" anything. But when they
took them out, the switch stopped working.
Unable to find the problem, they reinserted
the "useless" code and the switch started to
work again. We are moving toward a day in
which no one truly understands the systems
that run our lives.
In the 737 MAX, the problem was with an AI
system called the Maneuvering Characteristics
Augmentation System (MCAS). The MCAS
decided that the plane was going to stall (lose
lift) and automatically corrected for it. The
human pilots, and reality, disagreed. The pilots
did everything they could think of to fix the
issue, including turning MCAS off. They ended
up crashing because the computer took over
and caused a catastrophic incident. This set
of facts troubles me.
We are rushing willy-nilly into a future
where AI systems will be running airplanes,
trains, trucks, and passenger cars. Not only do
we have no idea how these systems work, the
companies that build them don't either. That
worries me most.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fleet Maintenance
Uptime - Are You Communicating with Employees Effectively?
Trends in Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Oils
Vehicles - Keys to Consistent Liftgate Performance
In the Bay - How Standardized Vehicle Communication Protocols Impact Diagnostics and Vehicle Operation
Shop Operations - Considerations for Mobile Device Usage in the Shop
Training - Where are all the Students Going?
Management - Why the Recent Airline Accidents Should be Concerning
Fleet Parts & Components
Tools & Equipment
Guest Editorial - How Much Do You Spend on DPF Maintenance?
Fleet Maintenance - 1
Fleet Maintenance - 2
Fleet Maintenance - 3
Fleet Maintenance - 4
Fleet Maintenance - 5
Fleet Maintenance - 6
Fleet Maintenance - 7
Fleet Maintenance - Uptime - Are You Communicating with Employees Effectively?
Fleet Maintenance - 9
Fleet Maintenance - Trends in Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Oils
Fleet Maintenance - 11
Fleet Maintenance - 12
Fleet Maintenance - 13
Fleet Maintenance - 14
Fleet Maintenance - 15
Fleet Maintenance - 16
Fleet Maintenance - 17
Fleet Maintenance - Vehicles - Keys to Consistent Liftgate Performance
Fleet Maintenance - 19
Fleet Maintenance - 20
Fleet Maintenance - 21
Fleet Maintenance - In the Bay - How Standardized Vehicle Communication Protocols Impact Diagnostics and Vehicle Operation
Fleet Maintenance - 23
Fleet Maintenance - 24
Fleet Maintenance - 25
Fleet Maintenance - 26
Fleet Maintenance - 27
Fleet Maintenance - Shop Operations - Considerations for Mobile Device Usage in the Shop
Fleet Maintenance - 29
Fleet Maintenance - 30
Fleet Maintenance - 31
Fleet Maintenance - 32
Fleet Maintenance - 33
Fleet Maintenance - Training - Where are all the Students Going?
Fleet Maintenance - 35
Fleet Maintenance - Management - Why the Recent Airline Accidents Should be Concerning
Fleet Maintenance - Fleet Parts & Components
Fleet Maintenance - 38
Fleet Maintenance - 39
Fleet Maintenance - 40
Fleet Maintenance - Tools & Equipment
Fleet Maintenance - 42
Fleet Maintenance - 43
Fleet Maintenance - 44
Fleet Maintenance - Classifieds
Fleet Maintenance - Guest Editorial - How Much Do You Spend on DPF Maintenance?
Fleet Maintenance - 47
Fleet Maintenance - 48