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Airbus A380 Under Fire

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the u.s.-laws-that-aren't-so-bad dept.

Technology 587

jose parinas writes "The security of the Airbus A380 jetliner is questioned by a U.S. Engineer that faces arrest and bankruptcy in Austria. A year ago, Mangan told European aviation authorities that he believed there were problems with a computer chip on the Airbus A380, the biggest and costliest commercial airliner ever built."

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FP, BIATCHEZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695462)

phurst post!

NEWFLASH (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695463)

Flying might be dangerous ....

Re:NEWFLASH (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695649)

but using a chip that does unpredictable things on inputs and could destroy the entire plane and kill everyone on board is extremely STUPID.

Under fire? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695464)

What from terrorists?

Re:Under fire? (1, Insightful)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695486)

Airbus A380 Under Fire

anyone else thought this literally meant an A380 was on fire?

sheesh, they really need to name the stories better ;)

Re:Under fire? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695576)

To be under fire, which originates from being under artillery fire, means to be under attack.

Re:Under fire? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695610)

well, with the notorious bad slashdot grammar skills, you could intuitively assume that under=on

And the flaw is ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695465)

it runs Windoze!

Dang, the whole industry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695466)

Even airplane engineers are going bankrupt.

ha (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695468)

This story will never get off the ground.

Re:ha (-1, Offtopic)

Tink2000 (524407) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695531)

Hooray for mods who fail to find AC comments funny. And here I sit, excellent karma for almost a year, and it's been 4 years since I've had a single modpoint.

The metamoderation and moderation system are as broken as this engineer claims the air valves on the A380 are.

Re:ha (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695573)

I'll tell you the secret that I discovered. I always liked moderation, but never got to moderate much. I've always had excellent karma, so that wasn't it. I read Taco's posts about /. on his Journal, and one day he mentioned thinking of re-dooing the moderation system, and how there are different kinds of moderators, and what not. He said something along the lines of "I can count on one hand the number of excellent moderators there are" and that they try to give them more points. Recently, I've been moderating at least once a month if not more.

The secret: never (almost) moderate a comment with a score of 3 or higher up. By that point, the comment is known. You can moderate any comment down if it deserves it (don't bother moderating the 0 and -1 posts down). Find the diamonds in the rough. Read at -1 when you get mod points and mod up those posts that are really good/funny. Even if they are from ACs or start at 1, moderate them up.

This is easiest to do if you do it on new stories. Get in there with the first few comments. That is your best chance to find them. Once the post count grows, many of those posts are already up at 5, and you are unlikely to find any new great posts down low (unless everyone completely misses the point of the story).

One other thing: I never meta-moderate. I used to. I did it daily. It never seemed to increase the number of mod points I got. I stopped meta-moderating because the politics section appeared (I'm right-wing and I can't STAND reading the politics section's comments: they are so full of hate and so far left very often. There is no respect and the most hateful vitriol can end up +5 Insightful fast.) Shortly there after, I discovered the technique above and have been getting many mod points ever since.

Last (and hopefully obvious): USE THE POINTS. Don't let them expire, otherwise it will be a long time before you get more. Save them for a story you know a lot about (something in your field) if possible, but don't let them expire.

Re:ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695602)

There is a secret that Taco won't tell you.

If you mod up a comment that Taco/et. al deems to be bad, he will put you on a moderator blacklist. This also applies if you reply with an unfavorable opinion about Slashdot or its editors (generally doesn't apply to everyday discussion, as far as observation can tell) on Slashdot.

Lets face it - Slashdot is suposedly "moderated by the people" but its really just moderated by people Taco deems appropriate.

Trust me, I'm not here because I love Taco. I'm here for the comments.

Re:ha (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695630)

What are you babbeling about? STFU already you brown skinned hindu moron.

Re:ha (0, Offtopic)

Fastball (91927) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695638)

Dude, I score mod points almost every other day. Yes, I metamoderate like a motherfucker. Good news for you, I relish the opportunity to smack Troll/Flamebait/Offtopic/Redundant mods that are out of line. Metamoderate at every opportunity. It's the best way to take back /., man.

WTF? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695481)

Why the hell would you leave the country just because you are a whistle blower?! The US offers protection, no? There are laws, you can file for bankruptcy without people breaking your fingers.

And why in the hell would you move to a country like Austria?! That's even more stupid than leaving the US. And to take your kids there?!?! WHAT THE FUCK is this moron thinking?!

Re:WTF? (2, Informative)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695521)

Maybe he was thinking that they Airbus was built and designed in Europe? And that he'd need to move there in order to work on it?

http://www.airliners.net/info/stats.main?id=29

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695528)

RTFA. He was in Austria at the time.

Re:WTF? (3, Informative)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695530)

He lived & committed the crime in Vienna, how would your US law provide any protection ?

Try reading stuff, it usually helps.

Re:WTF? (1)

Tink2000 (524407) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695551)

You totally didn't read the article, did you? Sadly, your post will probably get modded up to insightful.

Re:WTF? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695595)

First sentence of the article:VIENNA -- Ever since the Mangans gave up their comfortable house in Kansas City, Kan., and moved here a year ago, the family has been living in a kind of suspended animation.
Yeah.....

easy (4, Insightful)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695482)

Take chip, look for problem, if exists fix and replace. It isn't like they would have to rebuild the whole plane.

Re:easy (4, Informative)

Cylix (55374) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695513)

Except now the chip has to be recertified for aviation.

In effect, the article states it has already been modified and there was some sentiment that it really should be re-certified yet once again.

But are the problems only limited to the one chip? (3, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695534)

Let us assume that a problem is found. But even if it is fixed, then how can we know for sure that other problemtic parts were used? If this chip was able to get through the engineering screening process, perhaps other faulty componentry was used as well. A fault here could, in theory, make need for a complete analysis of every single part used. And in a plane this size, that's a massive amount of time and effort.

Re:But are the problems only limited to the one ch (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695577)

Read the article again. This chip didn't "get through." According to the whistle blower, the company forged his signature on documents approving the chip. If true that means they knew about the problem and tried to cover it up.

the answer is in the article silly (3, Informative)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695565)

If you care enough to RTFA, you will see the following line

Yet his employer ignored his concerns, he alleges, because fixing the glitches would be costly, could take up to a year and would further delay the A380's launch.(a year behind already)

Re:easy (2, Informative)

saj_s (667330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695572)

And given the fact that they've only built about 3 A380's so far, it should be pretty easy to do!

Re:easy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695600)

The problem isn't just with the chip. The problem is that where typically these systems on commercial airlines are triply redundant (from three different manufacturers, even) for safety, plus a manual override, the Airbus has only one system and no manual override. But Airbus wanted to save some weight, and cut out the backups. Bringing the system up to customary standards would indeed require a lot of redesign.

Re:easy (1)

ehiris (214677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695680)

And the cost of the chip would probably jump back to 500 from 20 which might make TTTech lose the aerospace business. Apparently they won Airbus and Boeing over with their price not the uniqueness of the product.

MIsleading (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695484)

I thought that a plane was getting shot at... disappointing!

I have a chaos fetish!

LOL My dick is bigger than yours! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695490)

Thanks White Devil! [pbfcomics.com] I think I'll hang ScuttleMonkey with it.

Poor Children (1)

bloko (888358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695497)

"And the Vienna police, who are conducting a criminal investigation into the matter, searched the family's apartment for four hours, downloading files from Mangan's computer as his children watched." This makes it seem as it was very horrifying for the children to see files downloaded from their fathers computer. I know it still very traumatic for whenever i use my usb stick to transfer files.

Re:Poor Children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695514)

I'd be tramatized too at that age if I saw the male end of the USB stick plug into the female jack.

Autopilot (4, Interesting)

Cthefuture (665326) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695510)

The story about the plane losing pressure then flying on autopilot before crashing is interesting. Doesn't the plane know it has lost cabin pressure? If it's on autopilot why can't it reduce altitude so the people can regain consciousness? Hell, why can't it just declare an emergency and automatically land at the nearest airport after receiving an OK signal from the airport that it's safe to land.

We have all this technology but it's implemented by idiots.

Re:Autopilot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695562)

To your first question: Yes, the pressurization system knows the aircraft lost pressue. No, the autopilot doesn't know. They're seperate systems. That's a very good idea, though, there must be a reason why no one thought to do it that way. Perhaps they separate the systems in order to avoid having all the systems die if one does?

With the amount of technology out there, I'm sure this is technically possible... but reprogramming the gps based on a reading from one system seems kind of scary to me. What if the pressure gauge malfunctions and shows a loss of pressurization? The autopilot goes HAL9000 and the pilots can't stop the landing (afterall, you wouldn't want stray control movements to override the system - what if the pilot falls forward while he's unconscious and hits the control column?). Good ideas, nonetheless...

Re:Autopilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695568)

Mod Parent UP.

Having an autopilot that handles a few subsets of inputs and a few subsets of controls may be easier to certify through bureaucracies; but is REALLY dangerous.

If someone designs an autopilot that doesn't consider loss of cabin pressure they should be in even more trouble than someone who makes a mistake implementing the extra complexity -- because at least in the second guys' case it's not a willful problem.

Re:Autopilot (1, Insightful)

Fastball (91927) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695571)

We have all this technology but it's implemented by idiots.

Written by someone with no clue about the complexity of modern avionics. If the folks in charge of writing autopilot software are idiots, then I invite you step right in and do it for them, since you seem to know what's what.

Re:Autopilot (0)

v1 (525388) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695586)

There are very few aircraft that can take off OR land purely automatically, and to my knowledge, they are all model aircraft, the largest being a miniature helicopter used for observing volcanoes. Even the Predator, the US military's premier unmanned craft, cannot land or take off completely automatically. I dont' think anything anywhere near as sophisticated as an Airbus can do that. Taking off is diffcult, landing is very difficult. (ask any pilot, landing and takeoff are absolutely the most dangerous maneuvers they ever get to make) To just hold SLF (straight and level flight) is cake by comparison, and that's about all they use autopilots for.

I recall seeing a demonstration of what happened the last time they tried that technology, it's been several years now. 13 crew aboard the demo 747 (or something of that size, I don't recall exactly) all died iirc. They were trying to take off, and the enhanced autopilot decided they were trying to land and took over, so it got about 100ft off the ground and started heading back down, off the end of the runway and into a forest. Nice large fireball too.

Lets leave the flying to the humans for now.

No, it was an Airbus (2, Informative)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695640)

The pilot had made a slow pass over the field, and when he tried to pull the plane up, the computer overrode his commands thinking he was trying to land, and that is why they crashed into the forest. After that, an emergency pilot override was placed in AirBus jets. The Boeing 777 can takeoff and land automatically. Hell, that airplane can do anything.

Re:Autopilot (2, Informative)

jsight (8987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695643)

Not true at all... some airplanes can land automatically with a full ILS.

And, of course, the UAVs (as used in Iraq and elsewhere) can as well.

Re:Autopilot (1)

eskayp (597995) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695662)

The one I recall from a few years back was an early model AirBus.
Looked like they were doing a low speed, low altitude
pass over the runway for photographers.
If I remember right the AirBus (300? 320?) powered up
but kept losing altitude, ending up plowing a furrow of
fire into the deciduous forest beyond the end of the runway.
Don't know if the video clip is still on the web or not.

Re:Autopilot (2, Interesting)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695674)

I don't think that's true. I flew into Boston's Logan on a very foggy night, looking out the window, I couldn't see the ground until literally a moment before the wheels touched down. After we landed, the pilot came on the PA to say that the landing was done entirely on autopilot. I'm not sure why he felt the need to share that with the passengers, but it was interesting none the less.

It makes me wonder why they havent instituted some sort of anti-hijack system that would auto-pilot the plane to a military airport or something. Pilot radios for help, enters a code on the panel, ground does the same... and instantly, all cockpit controls are locked out unless the pilot unlocks them. Autopilot then takes the plane to a "safe" location. Seems like it would be fairly easy. If the system failed, the worst case would likely be a plane full of people landing safely at an airport that they didn't intend to go to.

-S

Re:Autopilot (5, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695681)

They were trying to take off, and the enhanced autopilot decided they were trying to land and took over, so it got about 100ft off the ground and started heading back down, off the end of the runway and into a forest. Nice large fireball too.

Sorry, that's incorrect.

What you're talking about here is Air France Flight 296 [ncl.ac.uk]. There's a full description on the link, but the short version is that the pilot tried to throttle up because the plane was too low, and the fly-by-wire system overrode him due to a fault. Nothing to do with the autopilot at all --- autopilot landings are quite common these days.

(There's also been a lot of controversy about that accident, because there are a number of irregularities with the investigation indicating that the evidence has been tampered with. Check out this link [airdisaster.com] for more information.)

(Oh, yes; only three people died, although about 50 were injured.)

Re:Autopilot (5, Informative)

Colbalt Blue (915568) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695700)

You are way off on what pilots use autopilot for. On most commercial flights these days the pilot rarely touches the yoke after takeoff. He enters all headings, altitudes, speed and vertical speed settings into the autopilot and the computer takes care of it for him. In my plane I can enter my entire flight plan into the computer before taking off, engage the autopilot at 500 feet off the ground and not touch anything except the radio until the computer has me lined up for a landing at the destination airport.

Re:Autopilot (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695703)

The Russian space shuttle Buran was able to do a fully automated landing, the American space shuttles are almost fully automated except for the landing gear, which are deployed manually since they astronauts felt that if they landing gear deployed too soon it could be fatal.

Re:Autopilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695648)

Sure. Until a air pressure sensor fails, and the plane decides to descend to 10,000 feet while lfying over mountains averageing 12,000 feet.

ROFLMAO (-1, Flamebait)

rakslice (90330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695694)

Whoever modded this probable post 'Interesting' gets a big hug and a free membership in the amateur psychologists' guild.

And in case I'm wrong, and the post wasn't actually intended as a troll:

>Doesn't the plane know it has lost cabin pressure?

No. It's a plane.

>If it's on autopilot why can't it reduce altitude so the people can regain consciousness?

Because it's on autopilot. The captain set the autopilot's target altitude, turned it on, and then keeled over. The autopilot held the altitude as long as it could.

>Hell, why can't it just declare an emergency and automatically land at the nearest airport after receiving an OK signal from the airport that it's safe to land[?]

And if it has to crash land, it can go for a nice long trip to the plane hospital, and maybe the plane doctor will give it a nice lollipop! Yeah, that sounds good.

-aT

Re:Autopilot (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695710)

It really is just not that easy. What happens if the sensor fails?
What happens if it is on a trans pacific flight and there is no good place to land?
What if there is more than one airport in range? How does it know where to land?
What if you do include a datalink so remote control of the plane is possible? How do you secure it?
Frankly the rapid and total loss of pressure is very rare.

Re:Autopilot (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695711)

The story about the plane losing pressure then flying on autopilot before crashing is interesting. Doesn't the plane know it has lost cabin pressure? If it's on autopilot why can't it reduce altitude so the people can regain consciousness? Hell, why can't it just declare an emergency and automatically land at the nearest airport after receiving an OK signal from the airport that it's safe to land.

Do you really want an aeroplane that makes decisions by itself?

What if, for example, it dedicded that it was a revolutionary and flew to Cuba?

Or perhaps it decides to become Wahabbi and makes a beeline for the nearest skyscraper?

What then?

Perhaps the pilots will be required to have a degree in psychology and be liscensed therapists in order to convince the aeroplane it has made a poor decision?

Offer (4, Interesting)

mysqlrocks (783488) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695516)

TTTech has offered to drop its legal action against Mangan, court records show, and pay him three months of severance, if he retracts his statements.

This doesn't sound like much after all he's been through.

austria (1, Troll)

ecumenical_40oz (914889) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695524)

It sure sounds like Austria has a screwed up legal system. Corporations can bring criminal charges against individuals? Here we have horror stories about SLAPP lawsuits, but this is a whole new level. If a company or powerful person doesn't like what you have to say, you go could to jail at their whim.

Re:austria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695546)

Shut the fuck up yank.

Re:austria (2, Insightful)

moonbender (547943) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695644)

IANAL, but I doubt it's as bad as the article makes it sound. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some serious misconceptions resulting from a false application of US terminology and system of law to a European one. Maybe some (Austrian) lawyer can shed some light on it.

Maybe I'm biased, but I found the article to be kind of terrible overall - the writing is very confused, it repeats itself all the time and there doesn't seem to be any internal logic or progression, just random bits of (mis-)information. For instance: Airbus is owned by British and Dutch companies; yes, well, EADS which holds an 80% share of Airbus (apparently) is legally a Dutch company but I'm sure the French and my some of my fellow Germans would disagree with the notion that it's Dutch.

Pure propaganda, or whatever... (5, Insightful)

antek9 (305362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695527)

Let's just hope at least slashdot does keep its hands out of the propaganda war already started between Boeing (US) and Airbus Industries (EU). It's a dirty economical struggle, its about jobs and profits in the US, or jobs and profits in Europe. And because of that, plus the military aspects of aircraft research and development, both companies are, and will always be heavily funded by the respective governments.
Keep that in mind before making mindless posts about A. vs. B. . Thanks for your time.

Re:Pure propaganda, or whatever... (3, Interesting)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695587)

Well when it concerns about the lives of 800+ men, women, and children. I think it is safe to think that we better get it right the first time around. If we don't, welll... This is not a matter of US vs world- if the plane has known flaws, yet it is still certify to fly for cost/politic reason...I want to see heads rolling- and not from my side either.

Re:Pure propaganda, or whatever... (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695591)

This is not Airbus vs. Boeing. Boeing is planning to use these same chips in its planes as well.

Re:Pure propaganda, or whatever... (5, Informative)

niXcamiC (835033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695620)

RTFA! It says that both Airbus AND Boeing are going to be useing this new chip. It seems like people go out of their way to trash stories, when they have no idea what there talking about.

Re:Pure propaganda, or whatever... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695667)

[...] when they have no idea what there talking about.

What where talking about again?

Re:Pure propaganda, or whatever... (1)

zoney_ie (740061) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695627)

It's not mindless, it's about whether you're in Camp A, or Camp B. The more people in the US supporting Boeing, the better for them. The more support for Airbus, the better for us. It's fairly elementary - and so, as a European, I support Airbus and am delighted to see its rise at the expense of Boeing.

And so, I'm unsurprisingly prejudiced and hope the concern raised in this news item doesn't turn out to be a real issue.

No point in pretending to be impartial really - as long as people aren't getting all nasty about it, being truthful about one's allegiences is better than some politically correct pretence of impartiality.

AC's on "/." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695529)

""The security of the Airbus A380 jetliner is questioned by a U.S. Engineer that faces arrest and bankruptcy in Austria."

Now you know this wouldn't have happened if he had posted as an AC on Slashdot.

The next concorde? (2, Insightful)

Dingo_aus (905721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695539)

The fact that the company forged his signature on internal certifications should be enough to throw the burden of proof on the company. What worries me about this chip is "The system was executing "unpredictable" commands when it received certain data, possibly causing the pressure valves to open accidentally" So with the right junk data the system fails........at 30,000 feet, great :( Why are they moving away from using several chips from several manufacturers to reduce the risk? Will this be the next concorde? I suppose we'll have to wait a few years until the right (wrong?) junk data is sent to the pressure control chip and 800 people die......... I sure hope not.

Re:The next concorde? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695614)

Why are they moving away from using several chips from several manufacturers?

And my Kingston ram still doesn't work on my Asus KT400 motherboard...

While you reduce the risk of a design flaw inside a specific chip from happening at the same time, you add potential compatibility(chaos theory comes into play) problem.
 
Different parts from different manufactures don't tend to work well with each other (the square/circle air filter on Apollo13 for example).

They're not very secure (2, Funny)

freeweed (309734) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695544)

After all, it's easy to lose your daughter on one.

To top it off, the flight attendants just don't care :(

He violated the judges orders too (4, Insightful)

br00tus (528477) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695547)

The story begins with a portrait that tries to paint this fellow sympathetically, and I normally would look on him sympathetically. He goes to the government and complains about problems he perceives, and he gets fired. The events transpire, and eventually a judge tells him to be quiet. By now this is out in the public - he is an American with a family in a foreign city and if he had a need to do something he did it. But then he violates the judges order and begins posting about this on a blog? It makes me think there's something more to the story, or as aviation consultant Weber says "There is something really unusual about this case in the sense that there is this hard standoff between Airbus and the individual, it doesn't make any sense to me." It doesn't make sense - him violating a judges order doesn't make sense, them filing criminal charges doesn't make sense. There seems to be something more at work here. I'll read more about this, but both parties are acting unusual to the point where I am really on neither side, whereas normally I suppose I would be on his side.

Re:He violated the judges orders too (1)

autocracy (192714) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695629)

Well, you know, in the history of aviation, it has been that manufacturers have always been out to fix their products with a religous fervor. Of course, in history it was generally common for any manufacturer to deal with their products... now ignoring or flat denying flaws is becoming very commonplace. The DMCA has made it a plague.

I mean, hey, it could be starting to filter into the airline industry. Want to talk about viral nature, forget the GPL. DMCA has a viral effect in busniess mentality.

Re:He violated the judges orders too (1)

ehiris (214677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695713)

It's always something fishy when people mention their faith. Usually that is a tactic to distract people and build credibility among the majority without reasonable questioning.

Strange case but the fact remains that the redundancy on this new plane is not something I would trust. If only three out of one million chips fail which is normal in a six sigma environment, the plane can be very unsafe if the chips used for redundancy fail at the same time. Somehow I don't understand how all chips fail if one fails.

Peak Oil (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695549)

Peak Oil is really hurting the airlines right now.
The fact that air transport is heavily sensitive to fuel costs while mostly being luxury has caused it to be branded as the canary in the mineshaft for the current energy crisis.

Oddities in the article. (4, Interesting)

Chmarr (18662) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695554)

The article claims that a failure in the chip could open valves that would cause rapid decompression.

There is NO WAY a valve could open up far enough to cause that kind of decompression. It would take several minutes to equalise with the outside air.

The article also claims that such depressurization would cause uncomciousness 'within seconds'.

Well, at 45,000 feet, you have 15 seconds of useful conciousness. Most craft cruise at around 38,000', where you'd have a full minute of useful conciousness... PLENTLY of time, in both cases, for you to put on supplemental oxygen masks.

There may well be problems with that chip, but the article really hypes up the fear factor. Typical of today's journalism: just repeat what others say, dont even bother making your own analysis, and you can't be sued.

Re:Oddities in the article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695608)

Yes, whatever you say, this year a plane going from greece to somewhere in europe despresurized on flight and everyone on board died within seconds due to the -60 celcious degrees that nicely you have on air comming from the outside, the airplanes just crashed alone with everyone inside blue. (certified by two militar airplanes on each side of the airplane looking at why the airplane was not responding to calls from earth control).

Re:Oddities in the article. (1)

jsight (8987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695621)

Please wait for the conclusion of the investigation before quoting details like that, and even then read the actual reports instead of the pathetic reporting.

There are strong indications that people aboard that plane did not drop anwyhere near -60 within seconds, and that at least a few had consciousness well into the flight.

The final report will be a fascinating read.

Re:Oddities in the article. (4, Informative)

Yoohoo Ladies! (919562) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695615)

A slow decompression is even more dangerous than an explosive one because hypoxia can sneak up on anyone without them realising it. It takes a very special person to recognise the symptoms of hypoxia when they're not looking for them specifically.

Re:Oddities in the article. (4, Informative)

Chmarr (18662) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695632)

I agree. However, there are other systems in the aircraft that detect the low pressure, and THESE cause additional alerts, plus the oxygen systems to activate.

In addition, a slow 'leak' gives the pilots great time for an emergency descent. Give me a slow leak over a fast one anyday.

Re:Oddities in the article. (1)

dracocat (554744) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695690)

"No person may operate a civil aircraft of US registry with a pressurized cabin (ii) At flight altitudes above flight level 350 unless one pilot at the controls of the air-plane is wearing and using an oxygen mask that is secured and sealed and that either supplies oxygen at all times or automatically supplies oxygen whenever the cabin pressure altitude of the airplane exceeds 14,000 feet..."

Slow leak, fast leak, I don't know if either one is an issue.

Re:Oddities in the article. (2, Informative)

Bonhamme Richard (856034) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695693)

Navy flight surgeon http://www.vnh.org/FSManual/01/03Hypoxia.html/ [vnh.org] gives you a maxium of 45 seconds of useful consciousness at 35000 ft. assuming a rapid loss of cabin pressure. Its only 45 seconds at 40,000. This is assuming that you are sitting still. If you are preforming "moderate activity" (say screaming your head off because you are are scared stupid) it drops to 30 and 18 seconds (35 and 40 thousand ft, respectively.) Even 30 seonds isn't a lot of time. You need to recognize that there is a problem, identify the problem, and correct it, all in that time, with impared cognitive abilities due to hypoxia. If you're a hot shit Navy Jet Jock whose trained for years to handle that kind of conditions, then no problem. If you are the average airline passenger (and likely the average airline pilot) that's not nearly enough time. I have no idea how violent a depressurization of this kind would be, but if it didn't rock the plane too much, the pilot's first warning that something is wrong might be when he passes out. Hypoxia = nasty

Re:Oddities in the article. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695701)

The facts are against your theory. Two recent crashes were caused by decompression, and in both cases pilots were as helpless as anyone else, despite the availability of oxygen on board. One would think that 15 seconds would be enough to grab a mask with one hand and to shove the stick from you with another... that would override the autopilot even if you don't switch it off with a button. But in both cases the pilots passed out before realizing what is happening to them, and autopilots kept the airplanes in the air until all the fuel was gone.

Re:Oddities in the article. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695707)

I believe he is not just suggesting that the chip may be faulty, but that they are following a bad practice of using only one brand. It says other planes use multiple brands so that the same design flaw does not haunt all valves at the same time. Airbus seems to be claiming that multi-vendor redundancy is not necessary because there are more valves on such a big plane. In other words, their "redundancy" is in the number of valves, not the number of chip vendors. IIRC, the space shuttle used the same algorithm programmed by 3 different companies to provide redundancy. Sounds like a similar issue.
   

Very strange reporting (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695574)

Really strange reporting. For starters, they don't even get basic facts right, e.g. they report Airbus was "owned by Dutch and British companies", when in fact it is owned by EADS (80% share, French/German) + BAE (20%, British). They also keep calling it a problem between Airbus and Mangan, when the actual events (as per their own article) seem to only involve Mangan and his former employer, TTTech. Airbus doesn't seem to have any involvment in this.

Crazy, but possibly in the right (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695585)

I am an Australian working for a French aerospace company and there is no way I would trust a European Government to back me up in a case like this.

More than in the USA aerospace firms are seen as a branch of defense in Europe, and the courts will not look kindly on whistle blowers.

He should have gone back to the USA and started his campaign from there. He would get more backing from Boeing supporters and the US Government certainly would not act against him for criticising EADS.

Snitching on your employer (3, Insightful)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695594)

I worked for 3 pharma companies. I would never openly challenge a company like this about their product. I would find a new employer first and then I would try to leak out what was going on - and I would be extra careful that my new and old employers would not find out it was me. Why volunteer yourselfs to go in front of a firing squad? - It is not important that you made the point first, give a journalist a hint, he will give you a story. If they then call you then to testify, you do it, maybe without trying to look eager.

Reporting to autorities on your own employer - even if there was a serious wrongdoing - is certain to end your industry career.

Re:Snitching on your employer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695664)

I'd rather do the right thing and potentially be poor than do nothing and potentially cause innocents to suffer.

Re:Snitching on your employer (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695687)

I'd rather do the right thing and potentially be poor than do nothing and potentially cause innocents to suffer.

When you have a wife and kids to take care of, you generally feel pressured (no pun int.) to shut-up and play the game. You feel guilty for making them suffer for something that does not involve them. He should have compromised somehow. If he was single and willing to take the brunt himself, that is a different story.
           

Re:Snitching on your employer (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695679)

What if your waiting cost the lives of thousands of people? Your approach wouldn't work at all btw. Random rumors about a product without hard evidence just won't float with the FDA. You would leak it so someone else to take the career hit. What company do you work for so I know to never use their products?

Re:Snitching on your employer (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695682)

Hey, how about sharing the name of your current employer with us so we can avoid their products, knowing they have at least one morally handicapped employee ?

Ask yourself this: what is the difference between letting a random stranger die from a product defect so you can keep your paycheck, and shooting a random stranger to take his money ?

This reeks of FUD (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695636)

"Mangan told European aviation authorities that he believed there were problems with a computer chip on the Airbus A380"

"Mangan alleges that flaws in a microprocessor could cause the valves that maintain cabin pressure on the A380 to accidentally open during flight"

If there was an inclining of truth to this I doubt he would be going through this drama. Europe is VERY different to the US when it comes to corporate coverups.

I believe there is a major flaw with the fuel injection computer on ALL Ford motor vehicles which could at any time take control of your vehicle, disable the airbags and crash into the nearest telegraph pole (which it finds by GPS) at high speed.
Buy a Chev instead, to be safe!

Airbus is not saying he is wrong (1)

janneH (720747) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695642)

From the article: As for Mangan's allegations, they are "an unsubstantiated crusade," Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell said.

It gets my attention when they say unsubstantiated, which could be read to mean that he can not provide documents supporting his case, rather than saying it is untrue or false. It just makes me feel that they are avoiding the real issue.

They also say: "Don't you think we would look into it, and if we found it was true we would do something about it?" McConnell asked.

To that one says that risk-reward calculations made in the board room are not so black and white.

Speaking as a Civilian FAA Representative (5, Insightful)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695645)

The FAA and European agencies are pretty close to each other on regulations...a good thing since we fly big commercial aircraft in each others airspace all the time. The rest of the Airbus fleet is type-certificated in the US, I can only assume they wish the same for the A380.

In this country, you're not going to put an "off the shelf" anything in a commercial aircraft unless it's gone through appropriate approval processes. You can't change the color of the fluid in the compass bowl without PMA approval.

Furthermore, if they want thier TCDS (Type Certificate Data Sheet), they will need to, among other things:

1) Fully ground test the operation of the depressurization valves

2) Ground pressurization test the aircraft

3) Test the pressurization systems in flight

[Reference: Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 25, Subpart D, Paragraphs 841 and 843]

Bypassing the approval process for a component is a serious charge. However, given that a gigantic double-decker commercial aircraft has "new and novel" written all over it, something just doesn't quite compute here.

Smells like a propaganda war, but I'll keep my eye on it.

Clear For Takeoff (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695659)

'The European Aviation Safety Agency, which is handling the A380's flight worthiness certification, has reviewed Mangan's allegations. "We have done the research and acted accordingly," spokesman Daniel Holtgen said. "We can't comment on it because it is a matter for Airbus."'

What else can Mangan do? He submitted his allegations to EASA, they claim they researched it and did their jobs. Another wing of the European government is prohibiting him from speaking about it in Austria. If he wants to continue his crusade (as his conscience dictates), he can move to Germany where the gag order doesn't apply, or somewhere else. He's fired from the Vienna firm, so why does he stay there? He's not even unpacked.

It sucks that a whistleblower has to cope with so much adversity. But his wife can tell him that christians accept adversity when following their conscience. His Vienna church that's helping him would probably tell him the same thing. If he can't expose a legitimate flaw from a new job in Germany, and the flaw injures or kills people, he'll have done all he can. The EASA, TTTech and Austrian court people should of course face severe recriminations for their less committed response to their liability. And maybe Austria will be forced to protect whistleblowers, if just to protect their ability to get future aerospace contracts.

Shame he didn't work of Microsoft, Intel or AMD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695669)

Then he could have posted corporate secrets which we all could use!

more yankdot bullshit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13695706)

pathtic even by its low standards

Whistle Blower (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 8 years ago | (#13695714)

Wouldn't this be better under 'hardware' ? Interesting to note how far this went.. Funny when you 'do the right thing' you end up being screwed.
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