back to article iPad data entry errors caused plane to strike runway during takeoff

On the 1st of August, 2014, cabin crew aboard a 737 operated by Australian airline QANTAS reported hearing a “squeak” during takeoff. The crew's ears were good: the sound they heard was the plane's tail scraping the ground – a “tailstrike” - during takeoff. That's the conclusion of an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) …

Joke

Surely you mean "have their tail strike protectors tested"?

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FAIL

keyboards

My experience in entering any data with iPad (or other touchscreens) has been it is much more error-prone than using a real keyboard.I would not let it be used anywhere where safety-critical data needs to be entered.

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Re: keyboards

THIS seems to be likely to be the root cause of the problem, rather than squabbles about what OS to use, and updates and yadda yadda

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Joke

Re: keyboards

But if they'd been using an older Windows based OS, Clippy could have popped up and said "It looks like you're trying to launch an aircraft, shall I check your figures"?

It seems strange that it wasn't already procedure for both to check the figures first. Not entirely sure how 35 got transposed to 51 either?

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Re: keyboards

I'd agree with that; while it is fairly easy to hit the wrong key on a moving keyboard, the lack of tactile feedback from a touch control is I think a major issue with them; there is no immediate cue that you have hit a 'key' at all.

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Re: keyboards

Not sure how 35 transposed to 51. Because its a shit data entry system. Have you ever been in a cockpit? Light comes in from all angles and even with the best gullibility in the world an iPad (or any other tablet) would be more likely to show clouds than whatever is written on the screen.

And not to have any form of sanity checking in the software...

FFS dont let this crap near anything of importance.

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Re: keyboards

Not sure how 35 transposed to 51.

Depending on how the Boeing performance app is written, it could be slowing the whole OS down. You hit a few keys on the keyboard, nothing happens, you try again at which point it catches up and you enter a string of gibberish into the data field.

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Re: the lack of tactile feedback

No, it's worse than that. Because there is no tactile feel I've grown accustomed to watching while I type. I can often CLEARLY see my finger on the 5 and it picks the 4 or the 6, or worse a letter from the row below.

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Megaphone

Read it back?

Presumably such a device could say "You entered 64,000 metric tons. Is this correct?" or similar which should engage another bit of the brain to cross check.

Unless pilots, of course, are like end users and just click "Yes" to everything whilst grumbling about the time taken.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Read it back?

"You entered 64,000 metric tons. Is this correct?"

At that weight it wouldn't just be the tail that was dragging along the runway!

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Re: Read it back?

I would hope that if you entered a weight of 64,000 tons it would pop up a warning that you are supposed to be trying to fly a plane not a battleship :)

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Are Pilots checked for Dyslexia?

This thread only brings a question. Are Pilots actually checked for Dyslexia ? I will bet not !

It may just be the simplest of things to hide in a test, but very easy when tired to transpose Numbers and Letters, OOps! / Letters and Number or was that just numbers?

My Day was a Pilot. He suffered badly from Dyslexia and fudged his way through the sky. ( He did survive the Battle of Britain and after, many years of flying)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are Pilots checked for Dyslexia?

Commercial pilots sit a LOT of exams - you might scrape through with dyslexia, but I doubt it. Given the competition to work as a pilot, the airlines can afford to be picky. I guess in WW2 there might have been just a little less paperwork.

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Re: Are Pilots checked for Dyslexia?

>I guess in WW2 there might have been just a little less paperwork.

Get up in a crate, Perkins, pop over to Bremen, take a shufti, don’t come back.

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FAIL

This is incomprehensible.

We are talking about a bunch of figures which need to be entered accurately to ensure the plane gets off the ground safely.

a) The figures presumably have been calculated, and exist on some computer somewhere. Why the hell do they have to be transferred by hand into a iPad? Why can't they be transferred by some software system?

b) Even if we assume that they have to be typed in by hand, who the HELL thought using a touch-screen rather than a keyboard was a sensible idea?

I'm surely missing something. Surely no-one in their right minds would believe that this is a sensible and safe way of doing things.

Would they?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is incomprehensible.

1. Because life is complicated.

2. Because maybe it's handy to have a portable system so that some data can be entered sitting in the briefing room, and some in the cockpit

3. Because not every where every plane flies to has great 4G connections.

4. Because they pay good money to smart people to take responsibility and do the calculations

5. Because before you got to 'some computer somewhere' someone entered them, so maybe its a good idea if its the clever lass who might die if she gets it wrong who does the entry.

6. Because clever programmers have, just occasionally, cocked up.

7. And actually, did anyone die? No. All that happened is that Dulux got a nice order from Airbus for a can of paint.

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Facepalm

Weigh Station...

Airports could implement a weigh station on the taxi route to the start of the runway and display the weight on an electronic board. This would resolve a few aircraft crashes as they has been a few episodes of Air Crash Investigation where the crew got the weight wrong and weight was a contributing factor to their plane crashing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Weigh Station...

A nice idea but just not practical...

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Re: Weigh Station...

That would be a reasonably wind free weigh station, big enough to hold an airliner?

How expensive would that be and how long would it take to open and shut the doors?

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There are more devices in the world than you fave...

...and some people might use the other type of device.

Right now that's clear we can all get on with our lives.

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Bronze badge

Number Pad v Linear Numbers

I wonder if having a normal keypad as opposed to the 1 to 0 numbers in a horizontal row would reduce errors like this. With that said, seeing how there are one hundred thousand of flights per day around the globe with many using some sort of EFB (Electronic Flight Bag), there really aren't many of these bum dragging take-offs due to these kind of GIGO errors.

Emirates Flight 407 was so close to being a massive catastrophe due to the incorrect data entry error (NOTE, this was NOT an iPad issue in this case) and they were using a normal keypad. The Swiss cheese did however line up for those poor sods. Fortunately the last hole was covered.

@Martin. Re comment b). Perhaps some tactile feedback on the touchscreen may make it feel more like a normal keyboard. ISTR that one of the Blackberry phones with a touchscreen had a tactile feedback keyboard and it made typing SMS messages a lot easier.

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Anonymous Coward

Grandpa radio dial

My grandpa had this radio on his car, with an *analog* knob that you twisted to show a *digital* number on the FM tuner. BEST. INTERFACE. EVER.

You could twist it fast to the proper number and turn slowly to find the decimal frequency. Both fast and accurate, very hard to miss the intended value.

We are analog humans, and a nice analog interface sometimes solves problems that digital interfaces create. Just saying.

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Silver badge

Bah!

Touchscreens out, old-school keyboards with IBM style mechanical clicky action back in for the data entry win.

I mean, seriously, how could anyone use the iPad soft keypad and think it was a good idea to use it in any time-critical, mistake-sensitive theater of operation?

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why are they having to manually enter the planes weight? surely they could have a system on the wheels that worked out how far the supports are being compressed to get the weight.

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Oh guys automate it !

If you can measure the pressure of the wheels, then for sure one could completely automate this..

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Re: Oh guys automate it !

> If you can measure the pressure of the wheels, then for sure one could completely automate this..

No. 'Pressure' is force per unit of area. You would also need to measure the area that the wheels happened to cover on the ground, which is rather difficult to do. As an experiment you could change the pressure in your car's tires and then reflect on whether the car's weight has changed.

Also, aircraft have devices (called wings) that are designed to change the amount of their weight that rests on their wheels. These work, to varying degrees, even when the plane is static and there is a wind blowing.

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Joke

Surely...

...it's all "To the cloud!" these days?*

*sincere apologies if someone else has remembered this advert afore I.

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At least...

They didn't enter 22,300 pounds of fuel as 22,300kg

tail scrapes are less embarrassing than a deadstick landing in Gimli.

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What kind of error?

Typing 76,400 instead of 66,400 is not a transposition error. That would, for example, be 64,600.

Or were the quotes around "transposition error" sarcastic?

In which case I invoke Poe's Law.

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WTF?

Eh?

Since 2003, most airlines have assumed a weight of 210 pounds for each adult passenger in summer and 215 pounds in winter - including a 20 pound cabin baggage and a 10 pound so-called 'American' allowance for the food-lovers among us. Checked bags are assumed to weigh a minimum 25 pounds each. This information is offset by the actual check on final weighed baggage and then presented to the pilot. I wasn't aware at all that this information could then be adjusted by the flight crew.

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