“When something goes wrong,” , “things get very confusing.”
Thefatal Lion Air crashhas revved up debate about the biggest quandary in airline safety: how best to meld increasingly sophisticated computer controls, designed to prevent tragedies, with traditional piloting skills.
Ever-more-powerful cockpit automation and ultrareliable jet engines have contributed torecord-low accident ratesin recent years. For example, in 2017, there were fewer than three major accidents per one million commercial flights globally, and not a single scheduled jet airliner went down.
But the accident this past October involving Lion Air Flight 610, which killed 189 people in Indonesia, dramatically highlighted the hazards whenautomated flight-control features fail or misfire, and pilots aren’t able to respond properly.
The crash of the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane contributed to an erosion of the industry’s safety record last year—though it was still the third safest in terms of total airliner crashes. It amplifies the pressure on airplane makers…
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