Share this story...
off switch, 737-MAX
Latest News

Ross: A 737 MAX crash comes down to an ‘off switch’

National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Nurcahyo Utomo holds a model of an airplane while discussing preliminary findings of an investigation into the crash of Lion Air flight 610, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

The flight data has been released from that doomed 737-MAX which crashed a month ago.

The information from 13 minutes after takeoff has started an intense online discussion among pilots.

The consensus is that a new system designed to automatically stabilize the airplane was getting bad data. That system assumed the plane was climbing when it wasn’t. Twenty-six times the computer automatically pitched the nose down. Twenty-six times the pilots tried to pull it back up.

It’s like when you forget your cruise control is on until suddenly you feel yourself accelerating, but tapping the brake doesn’t help because it’s a new kind of car that requires you to flip the “off” switch.

In the case of Flight 610, the speculation is the pilots just didn’t know that pulling the stick wasn’t enough – that this new system required that flip of the “off” switch.  And so a system designed to make the aircraft easier to fly – ended up crashing it into the Java Sea.

The online discussion is split when it comes to who is to blame. But to me, it’s another reminder of the fatal flaw in any computer entrusted with life and death decisions: no computer, no matter how smart, will ever understand death.

Which is why, if there is one rule for the computer age, it’s this: you must always know how to turn the thing off.

RELATED: Easy money and the rise of ‘neo-banking’
RELATED: Ending the age of robocalls, and robo-answering

Most Popular