from the costly-mistakes dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that although fly-by-wire technology has huge advantages, Airbus's 'brilliant' aircraft design may have contributed to one of the world's worst aviation disasters and the deaths of all 228 passengers onboard Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. While there is no doubt that at least one of AF447's pilots made a fatal and sustained mistake, the errors committed by the pilot doing the flying were not corrected by his more experienced colleagues because they did not know he was behaving in a manner bound to induce a stall. The reason for that fatal lack of awareness lies partly in the design of the control stick – the 'side stick' – used in all Airbus cockpits. 'Most Airbus pilots I know love it because of the reliable automation that allows you to manage situations and not be so fatigued by the mechanics of flying,' says Stephen King of the British Airline Pilots' Association. But the fact that the second pilot's stick stays in neutral whatever there is input to the other is not a good thing. 'It's not immediately apparent to one pilot what the other may be doing with the control stick, unless he makes a big effort to look across to the other side of the flight deck, which is not easy. In any case, the side stick is held back for only a few seconds, so you have to see the action being taken.'"
"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all
other causes combined."
-- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_