Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Airbus looking at descent until it adds pilot override

I think we'll see accelerating cancellations of Airbus orders. It will have little to do with whether Airbus can identify and correct sensor and/or other problems with Air France Flight 447, which went down a week ago while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Rather, I believe it will be because the Flight 447 crash will make the public aware of something that must be very unsettling to pilots -- Airbus has a design philosophy of using computer fly-by-wire, without the ability of pilots to override! Of course, Boeing jets also operate with fly-by-wire, but at least pilots' inputs can override the computer.

I don't know if this design philosophy truly reflects a difference between American and European cultures. But I would say, to the public, this is not a story about culture or mechanical sensors. It's a story about whether the pilots in the cabin have a fighting chance to bring you back alive, if something goes very wrong. That is an epic human story, of which I would not want to be on the wrong marketing side. If I were an airline, I would have already cancelled any Airbus orders possible. That's exactly what I expect to see happen.

Note to Orbitz et al. Offer an extra search option to select for aircraft with pilot override. It would be a great differentiator.

Disclosure: no positions

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