US obliged to ground all Boeing Max 8 & 9 planes

Titbits

One may not agree with everything President Trump is doing, but for once he has a point about the increasing complexity of sophisticated software and the need for ‘great flying professionals’

By Dilip Laxman

On March 12, 2019, US President Donald Trump tweeted the following: ‘Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!’


“Flight 302 was the second fatal accident of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft this decade, after Flight 409 in January 2010. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 model first flew on 29 January 2016 and entered service in 2017, making it one of the newest aircraft in Boeing’s commercial airliner offerings, and the newest generation of Boeing 737. As of January 2019, 350 aircraft of this model had been produced…”

This was in the wake of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday 10 March 2019, bound for Nairobi from Addis Ababa International Airport. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft crashed six minutes after takeoff near the town of Bishoftu, killing all 157 passengers and crew aboard. It was the second crash involving the 737 Max 8 model in less than five months, after the Lion Air crash off Indonesia in which 189 people died in October.

Flight 302 was the second fatal accident of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft this decade, after Flight 409 in January 2010. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 model first flew on 29 January 2016 and entered service in 2017, making it one of the newest aircraft in Boeing’s commercial airliner offerings, and the newest generation of Boeing 737. As of January 2019, 350 aircraft of this model had been produced.

Following this tragic accident — called a ‘global tragedy’ by UN Secretary General Antonio Guerres as many of the passengers on board were going to a UN conference on the environment in Nairobi – the first country to ground all Boeing Max flights was China, setting off a chain reaction that led other countries to do the same, notably Singapore, UK, Canada, Indonesia, Turkey, India. European countries followed; 50 countries have now banned or grounded Boeing Max 8 planes.

However, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) initially refused to advise grounding of the Boeing Max, in spite of concerns raised by the unions of US airline crews, maintaining that ‘it was safe to fly the jet, issuing a “continued airworthiness notification” to reassure airlines. It said that if it found an issue that affected safety it would take “immediate and appropriate action”.’

Well thank goodness it has now done so, and this was announced by President Trump himself, although we don’t quite understand what he meant by his caveat ‘we didn’t have to do so, but we thought it’s better to do it.’

He cited among other things physical evidence collected at the site of the crash that had led the FAA to change course, especially after the ban by other countries and mounting pressure on the US.

One may not agree with everything President Trump is doing, but for once he has a point about the increasing complexity of sophisticated software and the need for ‘great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!’ And this surely applies to other modern technical marvels which are also loaded with software that is so sensitive and subject to potentially equally dangerous glitches.

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India goes to the polls

The whole world will be watching closely and with great interest as India goes to the polls soon. This is bound to be as India is the largest democracy in the world, and the scale and complexity of the logistics that need to be deployed for such an exercise are overwhelming, as was demonstrated in the general elections of 2014. They brought the BJP to power with a crushing majority of 282 seats in the 543-strong Lok Sabha, with Narendra Modi then taking over as Prime Minister.


“India’s polls will be held from April 11 in 7 phases, as announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) through the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora. The elections will start on April 11 and continue till May 19. The counting will be held on May 23. Nearly 900 million voters will be eligible to vote for the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country. Of these 15 million are in the age group of 18-19 years. There will be a staggering nearly one million polling stations, 100,000 more than in 2014…”

A nationwide opinion poll has shown that India’s ruling party alliance will sweep a majority of parliamentary seats. The coalition led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance could win 264 seats in the election compared to 141 for the Congress party-led opposition alliance, according to the CVoter opinion poll televised on a local Indian channel recently.

The polls will be held from April 11 in 7 phases, as announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) through the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora. The elections will start on April 11 and continue till May 19. The counting will be held on May 23. Nearly 900 million voters will be eligible to vote for the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country. Of these 15 million are in the age group of 18-19 years. There will be a staggering nearly one million polling stations, 100,000 more than in 2014.

From the Indian Diaspora perspective what we are seeing is a challenger to Narendra Modi who is at the head of his party, the Congress, simply by virtue of his being a dynast. It is no secret across the board that the Congress has been led by the Nehru dynasty from its inception, as the daughter Indira Gandhi took over from the father Jawaharlal, followed by her own son Rajiv and then his mother after he was killed, albeit much later. And now it’s their son Rahul.

He is no doubt a charming and handsome young man who, as some commentators have said, is still undergoing his political education. But he has never held any position of responsibility in running the county’s affairs, compared to three-time Chief Minister Narendra Modi, acknowledged internationally as having transformed Gujarat, his home state. His age notwithstanding, Modi has the dynamism of youth both physically and mentally, as the practice of yoga keeps him fit and he is very savvy in ICT, with perhaps the highest number of followers in India on social media. His track record is, to say the least, eminent, as far as the development of his home state and India is concerned, and this is not the place to go into details.

Rahul Gandhi has been holding rallies and making electoral pledges that for one, may never be implemented – he has no experience or record to show of any practical achievements in development or governance terms – as we know is the case around the world; on the other hand, there is concern about the sustainability of his proposals, especially the financial aspects of, for example, giving waivers across the board.

Besides, the Congress is well known for its pursuing minority-appeasement politics in the sole pursuit of power by nurturing turbulent vote banks, a policy that continues to cost India dearly.

Further, these elections come in the wake of the terrorist attack in Kashmir that saw the death of nearly 50 CRPF soldiers. India’s determined response against the terror camp of the outfit that claimed responsibility for the attack, the JEM of Massod Azhar in Pakistan, has been hailed as a first by a majority of Indians, taking place under the determined leadership of Narendra Modi. It is only the Congress in the main that has raised some quibbles and unnecessary controversies instead of giving due respect to the armed forces and acknowledging their capabilities and professionalism.

These are certainly some of the factors that will play in the coming polls, and not least also the fact that China has yet again, for the 4th time, blocked a move by the UN Security Council to declare Masood Azhar a global terrorist. And this is the person who was referred to as Masood Azhar-ji by Rahul Gandhi – as discussed in a programme on Republic TV by Arnab Goswami.

All in all, therefore, there are exciting times ahead for India and the Indian Diaspora!


* Published in print edition on 15 March 2019

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