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Crashed jets lacked key safety features because Boeing charged extra for them (cnbc.com)
36 points by patagonia 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments

> Neither safety feature was mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, but experts say it is key to flight safety.

Clearly, the accountability also lies with the authority who allows them. If these features were key to flight safety - the respective authority should mandate them.

On a tangential note - I tried to access the full NYT story in "Private Mode" and NYT detects that I use private mode [0]. The private mode isn't so private anymore.

[0] https://imgur.com/a/lKEJD6f

I have the same reaction as most people to want to jump to "well safety features shouldn't be optional".

But in practice such a policy translates into "no one is allowed to invest in better safety." Different parties have different threat models, e.g. consider the differences between passenger and cargo aircraft, or over-land vs trans-continental. It makes it difficult to exceed safety standards, which were often just intended to establish a baseline.

Floors become ceilings, as they say.

That argument may make sense for costly safety features, but not in this case.

It will _always_ possible after an major airliner crash to say that one particular thing that would have prevented it would have been worth the cost.

But investing in just the specific mitigation needed to prevent the next disaster is not an option that we have. We only get to choose a level of investment in protection against classes of risks based on human judgement of the probabilities involved.

The feature in question is a warning light if two sensors disagree. You could implement that with a microcontroller, an LED and two wires. In practice, it might not even require additional hardware at all. We do know in advance that its worth the cost because the cost is absolutely neglible.

Society needs to have a conversation about upselling.

The business model of "this is the product, here are your luxury features" that was popularized in America in the 20th century on products like cars and blenders is now applied to thousands of product categories because it is an easy way to get clients to overpay.

Clients will generally keep approving added expenditures until they hit their allocated budget for a given purchase. It's a hack to prevent clients spending less than the maximum they're willing to spend.

The consequences of this model being applied to things like jets and bridges are catastrophic but it's so well-suited to American puritanical values (brass buttons? on a suit? Good lord!) that few people ever question it.

Should "it won't kill or maim you as often" ever be an acceptable feature, on any product?

> The business model of "this is the product, here are your luxury features" that was popularized in America in the 20th century on products like cars and blenders is now applied to thousands of product categories because it is an easy way to get clients to overpay.

It's how you raise prices without people noticing. Video games have been doing this for years. "Your game is still $60! But, I mean, if you want the full experience, want to be competitive, and want to play all the content, well, that's $80+."

Or in the alternative, the airline that purchased the jet opted to not pay for key safety features...

I would argue that a business operating with the possibility of such a high-impact failure ought to bundle in safety features and redundancies as a matter of course.

How much does such an option cost?

I mean a plane is in the multiple millions so an indicator light that costs several thousands is still just a tiny fraction of the cost.

This shouldn't be an option in the first place.

How much does such an option cost?

I couldn't find pricing in any article, but I suspect that airlines that paid extra for the disagree light will be looking for a refund now that Boeing is offering it for free.

I wonder if it's like buying a car where in order to get that one option that you want, you need to buy a whole expensive package of other options that you don't really want.

Crashed jets lacked key safety features because the companies that bought them didn't want to pay for them

Again. Systems required for safe operation of a device by a reasonably competent operator are not something you consider an option.

It's cheaper and safer in the long run to just do the right bloody thing, since you get the whole economy of scale windfall.

Define required. Required by whom? Not by the FAA, at least. So they are extra. So operators decide whether they buy them or not. They didn't, and this is the result.

Required by reasonable/responsible engineering principles.

If you add an automated system that has high control authority, which is fed data by a failure prone sensor, you add redundant information sources, compare/average out inputs and alert the operator to the possible technical issue.

This is a well known engineering pattern. No one tells you to do it. You're expected to be able to identify when something is high risk and act accordingly. If you seriously believe that regulations change designs rather than codifying lessons learned the hard way, I don't know what to tell you, as apparently we start from two completely different sets of axioms when it comes to implementing things others depend on.

The FAA are there to maintain a collection of lessons paid for in blood, and to provide a general process to follow which strikes a balance between manufacturers doing their thing, and the public's interest in not crashing with no survivors, and maintain a cohesive set of guidelines that govern the industry. An FAA inspector can't be looked at as outsourceable common sense for manufacturers and designers however. Due diligence starts at home.

It is up to the people signing off and the engineers overseeing everything to ensure that design is safe, and all outcomes are such that the public interest is best served. Executives and sales be damned.

Unethical engineering costs innocent lives. Dollars are (or should be) secondary in all regards.

The fact this is even debatable demonstrates how much safety ethos has taken a back seat to economic factors in the modern aviation industry.

A lot of modern can have collision prediction systems, pretty sure that a lot of them are optional on cheaper trims.

I would say that those are key safety features.

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