Flight control software april fool
Peter Mellow wrote:
"A few years after that, I broadcast my own story that Airbus had subcontracted the maintenance of the flight control software on the A320 to a third-party support firm. I had just just returned from a meeting in Copenhagen, and said I had seen the story in the Danish magazine "Godaj" ("Hello" in Danish). I said that the head of the third-party support firm was Wolf Larssen (the villain of "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London) and quoted him as saying that he was not worried that the original developers of the flight control system would not give him the source code, since his employees could download the binary and de-compile it.
At least three experts in safety-critical avionics were totally taken in and expressed their concern to the discussion group on which I had broadcast the story. I was still receiving concerned enquiries 5 years later from people who had read it in the archives, and hadn't noticed the date on it.
Moral: Make the spoofs believable, but perhaps not *too* believable! :-)"
I'm not surprised it was believed because that actually happened, admittedly not with the flight control software, but for the cabin systems (air conditioning, smoke alarms, reading lights, passenger call, etc).
Years after the A320 went in to service and gained a reputation for the flakiness of some of these systems, Deutsche Aerospace decided it might be a good idea to check the code against the design, so contracted this out to a 3rd party who disassembled vast quantities of 68000 code and wrote analysis tools to compare it with the design pseudo code. After finding hundreds of defects in the 33% of systems in the first tranche, they promptly cancelled the contract for the remaining 66% of systems, and those bugs probably remain there today.
At least for the next generation of the A330/A340 aircraft, the software was written in C and properly certified before flight, it still ran on ancient 68000 processors though.