99% Invisible: 170- Children of the Magenta (Automation Paradox, pt. 1)
June 30, 2015 2:17 PM - Subscribe

On the evening of May 31, 2009, 216 passengers, three pilots, and nine flight attendants boarded an Airbus 330 in Rio de Janeiro. This flight, Air France 447, was headed across the Atlantic to Paris. The take-off was unremarkable. The plane reached a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The passengers read and watched movies and slept. Everything proceeded normally for several hours. Then, with no communication to the ground or air traffic control, flight 447 suddenly disappeared.

... The story they told was was about what happened when the automated system flying the plane suddenly shut off, and the pilots were left surprised, confused, and ultimately unable to fly their own plane. ...

Full show notes at 99pi.org

Bonus! Nate Dimeo and "the memory palace" join Radiotopia! This episode ends with a rebroadcast of High Above Lake Michigan
posted by jazon (2 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Welp, I'm never flying again.

Four hours of actual piloting over six months. He spent more time than that in the bathroom.
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 AM on July 2, 2015

See also this post on the blue in September 2014 that goes into more detail of the crash of Air France Flight 447.

This is something rather dear to my heart, though not with air planes specifically. I work in and around chemical plants and with safety systems for them. The case studies for major accidents often read very similar, the control system goes into alarm, the operators have no idea why and end up doing something that makes the problem worse instead of better. At the end of the day it is chalked up as operator error and everyone goes around saying "we need better training".

I think this episode of 99% invisible did a good job about talking about automation as a design problem and a human interface problem.
posted by selenized at 10:19 AM on July 7, 2015

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