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The Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes and FAA controversy, explained

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The second deadly crash of a Boeing 737 Max model airplane within months of the first has put flyers around the world on edge. Multiple countries have grounded the planes as a result, though the United States has, thus far, refrained.

Here’s what happened: On Sunday, March 10, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, faltered and crashed soon after taking off, killing all 157 people on board. The incident was, of course, devastating. But making it even more disturbing is that it happened just months after a Lion Air flight taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, crashed in October, killing all 189 passengers.

The flights were the exact same model of planes, Boeing 737 Max.

The second crash over the weekend sent shockwaves across the world, not only because victims came from 35 countries, but also because there are multiples of the same such jets being utilized globally. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are a total of 387 Boeing 737 Max models operating, including 74 in the United States.

The second fatal crash of a 737 Max 8 jet in under six months has raised questions about whether such planes are any longer safe to fly. Multiple countries have grounded the planes since Sunday, including Brazil, China, and India. The European Union on Tuesday suspended all flight operations of Boeing Model 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 in Europe.

The US, however, has been slower to act. According to NPR, three airlines fly 737 Max planes in the US: American, Southwest, and United. The FAA has come under increasing pressure to ground the jets, but thus far, it has declined. The agency has confirmed the “continued airworthiness” of the planes.

Two crashes in less than six months

On Sunday, all 157 people on the Ethiopian Airlines flight were killed after the plane lost contact with the control tower and crashed minutes after takeoff. The passengers on the plan came from more than 30 countries, and the United Nations confirmed that at least 22 staff members died in the accident.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 model of the Ethiopian Airlines flight is the same model of the Indonesian airline Lion Air Flight 610 that crashed in October, killing all 189 people on board. In November, investigators in an initial probe determined that pilots were engaged in what CNN described as a “futile tug-of-war with the plane’s automatic systems” minutes before the crash. A sensor erroneously reported that the plane was stalling and erroneously sent the plane nose down, and pilots couldn’t override it. Investigators also concluded that the plane was “no longer airworthy” when the crash occurred.

We still don’t know what happened with the Ethiopian Airlines flight, or if the plane crashed for the same reason. An international probe into the accident is underway, including with experts from the United States. Ethiopian Airlines said on Monday that the flight data recorder and cockpit recorder have been recovered. They could help investigators figure out the cause of the incident.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN on Tuesday that the pilot was “having difficulties with the flight control of the airplane” before the crash.

This has international implications

Two deadly crashes of the same plane model within months has sent ripples around the world. There is broad concern that the jets might not be safe to fly, and calls are growing for them to be grounded until investigators can figure out what’s going on and, if there is one, address the problem.

As Shannon Sims at the New York Times explained, the Boeing 737 Max 8, on the market since 2017, has been a popular one — more than 4,000 such planes were ordered within six months of its launch. Airlines like them because they have good features for passengers, like more legroom, and for the airlines themselves, namely, fuel efficiencies.

But with catastrophic incidents happening close together on a new model of planes, there are a lot of questions about whether they’re safe.

Gregory Wallace at CNN surveyed experts to see what they think. The result: They were split. Former FAA safety inspector David Soucie told Wallace that he’s “never said it’s unsafe to fly a particular model of aircraft, but in this case, I’m going to have to go there.”

He noted that Boeing after the Lion Air crash last year recommended that pilots take training to make sure they avoid the mistakes the pilot of that plane made, but he didn’t know if the Ethiopian Airlines pilot took that training. “If there was a way for me to know that, then I would most definitely get on that airplane,” he said.

Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, told Wallace that it’s “premature to ground the fleet” until more information is gathered.

Regardless of what experts say, people are understandably very nervous and afraid to board a Boeing 737 Max 8 flight in the future. Boeing’s stock price has taken a hit as well.

There are a lot of concerns about the plane itself

The accidents have spurred a lot of questions that need answering.

They’ve put scrutiny on the jet model itself, of course. According to CNBC, the October crash put scrutiny on the plane’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system. Boeing in November issued a safety bulletin for pilots explaining how to better handle it, but it’s not clear whether that’s been enough.

Boeing on Monday put out a statement on its work developing a “flight control software enhancement” for the 737 Max and said it plans to implement the change by April. The FAA also said on Monday that it will mandate design enhancements to Boeing’s automated system and signaling by April as well.

Multiple countries have grounded the Boeing 737 Max jets — Gaby Del Valle at the Goods has a more complete explanation on that. China’s Civil Aviation Administration, for example, on Monday announced a temporary ban on the planes, and Indonesia followed suit soon after. As Del Valle laid out, that’s a big deal, because China and Indonesia are two of Boeing’s biggest customers.

Multiple countries have since followed suit, and now, the US and Canada are the only two countries still flying a significant number of Boeing 737 Max 8s.

Boeing on Tuesday responded to the groundings in a statement. The company said it has “full confidence” in the safety of the jets but understands that “regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets.”

The US airlines, just like US regulators, are sticking by Boeing for now. A Southwest spokesman told USA Today the company remains “confident in the safety and airworthiness” of its fleet of Boeing aircraft, but it also appears to be helping customers figure out what type of aircraft they’re on.

A spokesperson for American Airlines told Del Valle that the company will “closely monitor the investigation in Ethiopia” but has “full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members.” The airline also tweeted that it’s waiting on an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board to figure out what to do.

Despite the reassurances — or at least calls by many in the industry to wait for facts — there is growing pressure for US regulators and airlines to do what other countries are doing here. Consumer Reports on Tuesday said that Southwest and American should have already halted flights and, since they haven’t, the FAA should.

Paul Page, a journalist at the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that the top job at the FAA has been vacant for the past 14 months and airline enforcement fines have dropped significantly. He also noted that the Department of Transportation has been extra friendly to the airline industry under Trump.

Multiple members of Congress have called on the FAA to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 flights, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (D-TX).

Warren also called on Congress to hold hearings to determine whether President Donald Trump’s administration is protecting Boeing.

This has raised questions about airplane automation. And that’s what Trump wants to focus on.

Sunday’s crash has also deepened concerns about airplane automation.

Konstantin Kakaes in the MIT Technology Review laid out what’s going on:

The 737 Max has bigger engines than the original 737, which make it 14% more fuel efficient than the previous generation. As the trade publication Air Current explains, the position and shape of the new engines changed how the aircraft handles, giving the nose a tendency to tip upward in some situations, which could cause the plane to stall. The new “maneuvering characteristics augmentation system” was designed to counteract that tendency.

Did these more efficient engines—and the changes they necessitated to the airplane’s automation systems—compromise the aircraft’s safety? As sociologist Charles Perrow wrote in his classic 1984 book Normal Accidents, new air-safety technologies don’t always make airplanes safer, even if they work just as well as they are supposed to. Instead of improving safety, innovations can allow airlines “to run greater risks in search of increased performance.”

But because it’s so complex, some pilots may have problems with it, especially if it’s the case that they’re not given all the training and information necessary to maneuver. That appears to have been part of the problem with the Lion Air flight. It’s not yet clear if that’s what happened with the Ethiopian Airlines flight.

The Dallas Morning News reported on Tuesday that pilots have brought multiple complaints about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain saying in November that it was “unconscionable” for pilots to fly the plane without training or explicit information about how its systems worked.

President Trump appears eager to lean into that explanation. He fired off a pair of tweets on Tuesday complaining that airplanes are “far too complex.”

He did not mention potential safety issues with Boeing — or Boeing at all.

Ken Vogel at the New York Times reported that early in the day on Tuesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg talked to Trump on the phone. He tried to convince Trump that the Boeing 737 Max planes shouldn’t be grounded in the US, and, at least for now, appears to have succeeded.


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[Read] How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trendwatching to Kickstart Innovation For Free

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Full E-book How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trendwatching to Kickstart Innovation For Kindle
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Amazon 2-day shipping: Why packages sometimes arrive later

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In less than two decades, Amazon single-handedly transformed the way we think about online shopping. Before Prime launched in 2005, two-day shipping was virtually unheard of — now more than 100 million people use the service, and they expect the things they order online to arrive at their doorsteps in 48 hours or fewer.

There’s just one problem: Amazon, which has focused on obtaining customers at all costs for decades, seems to be looking for ways to cut down on shipping costs. In some cases, that means weaning Prime users off the near-instantaneous shipping they’ve come to expect.

From the beginning, free two-day shipping was Prime’s biggest draw. Memberships were cheap — $79 a year in 2005 and $119 today — and users had the option of paying a small fee to get their orders delivered in just one day. Today, Prime is about much more than package delivery: Users can order everything, from groceries to a house cleaner, through Amazon. But as Amazon has expanded, the promise of free two-day shipping — the main draw of Prime — has begun to come with a lot of caveats.

That’s not to say Amazon is totally changing course. In 2014, Amazon launched Prime Now, a service designed to deliver products in an hour or less, for some New York City-based users. (It expanded to other major cities in 2016.) Amazon often makes headlines for the grueling work expected of its in-house delivery fleet — or, more accurately, the network of contractors that deliver packages to Prime users across the country — a sign that it continues to take its shipping promise seriously, often at the expense of workers. But even as Amazon has doubled down on ensuring speedy delivery, it has begun looking for ways to rein in customers’ desire for instant gratification, a phenomenon it arguably helped create, in an attempt to cut costs and streamline its supply chain.

The result? Prime orders don’t necessarily arrive in two days anymore, nor are they always delivered to customers’ homes. All of this makes sense from a financial perspective, but that may not be enough to win customers over.

Prime customers pay for — and expect — quick, free shipping. They aren’t always happy about Amazon’s cost-cutting efforts.

Two-day Prime shipping isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s undeniable that Amazon delivery isn’t as seamless as it used to be.

Amazon will no longer deliver some small items, like razors or hair ties, individually. Instead, customers have to purchase $25 worth of these “add-on” items before Amazon will send the box out; the point, according to the company, is to give customers access to “low-cost items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.” Since 2011, Amazon has given users the option to have packages delivered to “lockers,” which are basically branded PO boxes, instead of to their homes or offices. Most recently, Amazon rolled out Amazon Day, a new delivery option that lets customers choose a specific day for all of their orders to arrive, is the company’s latest cost-cutting effort.

All of this makes sense from a financial perspective. Delivering packages to a single location instead of hundreds of individual homes cuts costs, and requiring customers to meet a delivery minimum for small orders helps Amazon consolidate deliveries, as does the Amazon Day program.

But the response to these new initiatives has been mixed at best.

Last December, Fast Company’s Mark Wilson wrote about how Amazon Prime is “getting worse,” claiming the company had all but abandoned its promise of two-day shipping for most products. “That little Prime logo used to mean something,” Wilson wrote. “Now it feels like a ruse that lulls shoppers into a false sense of security, until they go to checkout and see a shipping arrival date far later than anticipated.”

He continued:

“This cuts through the greatest promise of Prime. It’s not just the free, two-day shipping. It’s that it’s so reliable, you never have to think for more than a second about buying something. In this sense, Prime was constructed to be great for the consumer (so efficient) and great for businesses (mindless impulse shopping!). … It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a slow dilution of Prime itself over time, with the rise of Prime Pantry and Add-on Items. They force you to buy a minimum number of items to get the best deal, adding back the very psychic burden Prime had eliminated from the equation of online shopping in the first place.”

Wilson’s complaints about Prime suggest a bait-and-switch strategy. Amazon got 100 million people to become Prime users by guaranteeing frictionless service, but now that it’s gotten a sizable chunk of the market hooked on quick, free shipping, it’s trying to cut delivery costs by scaling back on the very thing that got customers interested in the first place. Put another way, Prime is built on the idea that shopping should be frictionless; Amazon has now introduced a degree of friction that wasn’t there before, and some customers aren’t happy about it.

https://twitter.com/esirof/status/1075426983104917504

“I can’t help but feel the frustration around how the false sense of shopping confidence is blown when Amazon simply uses the PRIME lockup as a gimmick,” one reader wrote in response to Wilson’s article. “The ‘prime’ benefit of getting your stuff when you expect it is gone, and it’s not just because of the holiday shipping crunch.

Amazon changed customer expectations regarding shipping. Now it’s changing them again.

One of Amazon’s core principles is “customer obsession,” a “vigorous” desire to “earn and keep customer trust.” (Amazon has, by the way, also been known to use customer obsession as an anti-union talking point.) Put simply, customer obsession means giving the customer what they want as cheaply and quickly as possible — e.g., within 48 hours or fewer — at the expense of profits.

Anne Goodchild, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who focuses on supply chain transportation and logistics, told me that Amazon significantly altered customer expectations and shopping patterns.

“The status quo [has been] that we take ourselves to the store, pick up the goods, and go back to our homes. That’s actually a pretty inefficient way of doing the last mile: We all individually use our cars, and that kind of commuting creates a great travel burden,” she said. “Delivery services, to some extent, have the potential to be an improvement. [They consolidate] a lot of deliveries — hopefully — into one vehicle like a UPS truck. They have strong incentives, profit incentives, to do that in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

The problem, she said, occurs when delivery becomes too quick. “As we move toward faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate.” The promise of instant delivery means that customers can buy virtually anything they want without thinking about it; they don’t always think to consolidate their purchases into a single order, because there’s no need to. (A 2018 survey by the optimization platform Feedvisor found that 46 percent of Prime members shop online more than twice a week.) “When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding,” she said.

Other retailers have attempted to compete by offering similarly fast shipping. “After Amazon, we have things like ShopRunner and even Target [now] saying that if you order certain items, you can get two-day shipping,” Ambulkar said. “I don’t see two-day shipping going away. I think there’s definitely more and more businesses adopting it.”

Even as other retailers lower their shipping times to keep up, Amazon appears to be tweaking its two-day shipping promise. Prime may be cheap and easy for customers, but the cost of all those deliveries adds up quickly. Amazon spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, according to its annual report. That’s nearly twice the amount it spent on shipping in 2015.

“Amazon has pursued a growth trajectory rather than a profit one,” Goodchild added. “I think everyone would agree that their strategy has been to please customers and, in doing so, grow their market share.”

But now that it has more than 100 million Prime customers, Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more profitable — which could end up alienating some of the customers it has made an effort to court.

Justin Smith, the founder of TJI Research, an analytics firm that focuses on Amazon, told The Goods that Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more efficient — and cost-effective. “Lockers or other pickup points, or encouraging customers to ship items in the fewest number of boxes possible, which might mean getting it a bit later than if you had shipped items separately,” are all part of that strategy.

“I also think that because of how big they are, they are able to become smarter about predicting what items people are going to order in different regions,” Smith added, “and I believe they’ve been able to put items in warehouses closer to where they expect people to order them from in order to reduce the distance that items have to be shipped when they’re ordered. If that can be done efficiently, I think you reduce the individual shipping volume as well as decrease the delivery time, which improves the customer experience.”

It’s also better for the environment. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks — the kinds of freight vehicles that are often filled to the brim with Prime purchases and other online orders — are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total transportation footprint. These trucks, which used to deliver the bulk of their loads to stores and other retail hubs, are now increasingly dropping packages off to individuals. All those one-off orders add up, both financially and environmentally — but, because this type of delivery is often more convenient for the consumer, this has become the new normal.

Not everyone agrees with the premise that more efficiency will result in greater customer satisfaction. Saurabh Ambulkar, a management professor at Northeastern University, said customers who have come to expect two-day — or even same-day — delivery might not readily accept more optimized, less customer-friendly options. “The whole [promise] was that Amazon can deliver the thing to my house, so why do I need to go to the central locker to get something? Why do I need to go to the store?” he said. “If I have to step out of my house to get something, they lose that competitive advantage that they have, but they have to do some of it [in order to] ease the pressure on the supply chain.”

“In bigger cities, maybe the central locker is closer to the place you work, but in other places, I think delivering to residents is what made Amazon more competitive than other players in the market,” Ambulkar added. “If I have to go to a central locker, I can just go to the store to get that product.”

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A Man From a Remote African Village Has Been Named Best Teacher and Will Get $1,000,000 for It

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When talking about the job of a teacher, many people refer to it as “a calling”. We all want our children to be educated by teachers who love their jobs and who make children feel inspired, interested, and motivated. There are 2 opinions when it comes to teachers: “A talented person will be successful, no matter what,” and “A talented person needs a good teacher.”

A charity foundation that was set up in 2015 by a businessman named Sunny Varkey (and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, his patron) awards someone as “Best Teacher” every year with a Global Teacher Prize.

Bright Side was really interested in the winner of the 2019 competition because there were 10,000 applications from 179 countries, with a prize of $1,000,000.

Teachers from India, Australia, the US, Kenya, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Great Britain, and Georgia made it to the final stage of the competition.

A Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar named Peter Tabichi won the award. The award ceremony took place in Dubai and the name of the winner was announced by actor Hugh Jackman.

Peter Tabichi is a teacher in a small African village where the inhabitants often don’t have enough of the most necessary things. Despite this, his students are famous for their wins in international science competitions which is what ultimately attracted the foundation’s attention.

The school these students go to doesn’t look like a school that houses major victories. There is only 1 teacher for 58 students and 1 computer, and in order to make it to lessons, many kids have to cover huge distances on washed-out roads during the rainy season. Most of Tabichi’s students are kids from poor families or they’re orphans. The school is sorely lacking financial support, so Peter donates 80% of the money he makes on the development of the school — the school uniforms, textbooks, and other materials.

7 years ago, he used to teach at a private school but then decided to become a Franciscan friar and leave his job. The code he lives by requires him to have a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and help others. This is why teaching at a poor school is considered charity for Tabichi.

“This win does not belong to me: it demonstrates the achievements of young minds. I am here only thanks to my students’ achievements. A victory gives them a chance. It means that there are no borders for them.”

Tabichi explains how he uses different motivation methods with his students because the secret to success is believing in yourself. Every person can find something they like doing and feel confident. Peter teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives. This is why his projects where students can organize processes and analyze results by themselves are very popular.

The teacher doesn’t say that some of these projects are “cool” and others are “not cool”. The most important thing about them is that the students have to use their imaginations and have to look for new solutions. Tabichi says, “Creativity is extremely important, especially in difficult situations when the resources are limited.”

In this school, there are scientific and creative clubs where every student can showcase their achievements.

“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills, and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative, and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”

Tabichi also managed to talk about tolerance: “He created the ’Peace Club’ where there are people of 7 different nationalities and religious beliefs who all visit this school.

People are most interested in one big question: What is he going to spend his prize money on?

His answer? First and foremost, on computer science class, the development of the science lab, and new projects that can improve people’s lives. For example, Peter wants to teach his students to grow drought-tolerant crops. This project is absolutely necessary for life in Africa.

Interestingly, the agreement terms of the foundation say that the winner has certain responsibilities and the prize is not given to the winner right away.

For 10 years, the winner gets $100,000 every year and they have to stay in the profession for 5 years and be a global ambassador for The Varkey Foundation. It means that they have to visit certain events, talk to the media, and participate in training.

We’re deeply impressed by such people! Their stories are bright illustrations of what we call “the purpose of life”. What do you think about this award?

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