May 11, 2019

The five points given below were taken from an excellent article written by Jacob Beningo and appeared in “Electronics & Test Aerospace”, May 2, 2019.  I have added my own comment relative to those five (5) points.  It appears, from what we know now, there were no mechanical failures causing both aircraft to crash.  The real failures were lack of training and possibly embedded electronic systems effecting on-board systems. 

Recently the news headlines have been dominated by two crashes involving Boeing’s new 737 MAX aircraft. Both of these tragedies occurred under similar circumstances and within six months of each other. The fallout from these disasters may only be starting as aircraft around the world have been grounded, production of the 737 MAX has been decreased and March sales of the aircraft dropped to zero. The damage to Boeing’s reputation as a safety leader has now also come into question as investigations have been opened into how the system at the center of the investigations, MCAS, was developed and certified.

The investigations into the sequence of events that led to the loss of these aircraft with resulting causes will take time to fully discover—maybe even years but certainly months. However, with the information that has currently been released, embedded systems companies and developers can look at the fiasco Boeing is currently going through and learn and be reminded of several general lessons that they can apply to their own industries and products.

Lesson #1 – Don’t compromise your product to save or make money short-term

There is normal pressure on businesses and developers today to increase revenue, reduce costs and ship products as fast as possible. The result is not always quality. It isn’t security. It isn’t user friendly. The objective is maximum short-term growth at any cost as long as the short-term growth is maximized.  The company needed to remain in good standing with Wall Street and their investors.  That seems to be the bottom line.  Boeing appeared to be under significant pressure from customers and shareholders to deliver an aircraft that could compete with the Airbus A319neo.  They may have started to cave to this normative pressure.

Lesson #2 – Identify and mitigate single points of failure

Boeing and the FAA are looking at embedded systems in trying to discover the root cause of both failures and how corrections may be made to eliminate future tragedies.  In any embedded system that is being developed, it’s important to understand the potential failure modes and what effect those failures will have on the system and how they can be mitigated. There are many ways that teams go about doing this, including performing a Design Failure & Effects Analysis (DFMEA) which analyzes design functions, failure modes and their effect on the customer or user. Once such an analysis is done, we can then determine how we can mitigate the effect of a failure.  This is common practice for systems and subsystems of any complexity.

Lesson #3 – Don’t assume your user can handle it

An interesting lesson many engineers can take from the fiasco is that we can’t assume or rely on our users to properly operate our devices, especially if those devices are meant to operate autonomously. Complex systems require more time to analyze and troubleshoot. It seems that Boeing assumed that if an issue arose, the user had enough training and experience, and knew the existing procedures well enough to compensate. Right or wrong, as designers, we may need to use “lowered expectations” and do everything we can to protect the user from himself.

Lesson #4 – Highly tested and certified systems have defects

Edsger Dijkstra wrote that “Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence.” We can’t show that a system doesn’t have bugs which means we have to assume that even our highly-tested and certified systems have defects. This should change the way every developer thinks about how they write software. Instead of trying to expose defects on a case-by-case basis, we should be developing defect strategies that can detect the system is not behaving properly or that something does not seem normal with its inputs. By doing this, we can test as many defects out of our system as possible. But when a new one arises in the field, a generic defect mechanism will hopefully be able to detect that something is amiss and take a corrective action.  

Lesson #5 – Sensors and systems fail

The fact that sensors and systems fail should seem like an obvious statement, but quite a few developers write software as if their microcontroller will never lock-up, encounter a single event upset or have corrupted memory. Sensors will freeze, processors will lock-up, garbage-in will produce garbage-out. Developers need to assume that things will go wrong and write code to handle those cases, rather than if we will always have a system that works as well in the field as it does on out lab benches. If you design your system considering the fact that it will fail, you’ll end up with a robust system that has to do a lot of hard work before it finally finds a way to fail (if it ever does).

I had an opportunity to hear the chief engineering program manager discuss the “Dreamliner” and the complexities of that system.  They were LEGION. Extremely complex.  Very time-consuming to work out all of the “bugs” relative to all of the computer programming necessary for successful AND safe air travel.  Trying to make a system “simple” by making it complex is a daunting task and one that needs to be accomplished, but it is always a “push” to get this done in a timely fashion and satisfy management and Wall Street.


Various definitions of product lifecycle management or PLM have been issued over the years but basically: product lifecycle management is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal of manufactured products.  PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.

“In recent years, great emphasis has been put on disposal of a product after its service life has been met.  How to get rid of a product or component is extremely important. Disposal methodology is covered by RoHS standards for the European Community.  If you sell into the EU, you will have to designate proper disposal.  Dumping in a landfill is no longer appropriate.

Since this course deals with the application of PLM to industry, we will now look at various industry definitions.

Industry Definitions

PLM is a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise, and spanning from product concept to end of life integrating people, processes, business systems, and information. PLM forms the product information backbone for a company and its extended enterprise.” Source:  CIMdata

“Product life cycle management or PLM is an all-encompassing approach for innovation, new product development and introduction (NPDI) and product information management from initial idea to the end of life.  PLM Systems is an enabling technology for PLM integrating people, data, processes, and business systems and providing a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.” Source:  PLM Technology Guide

“The core of PLM (product life cycle management) is in the creation and central management of all product data and the technology used to access this information and knowledge. PLM as a discipline emerged from tools such as CAD, CAM and PDM, but can be viewed as the integration of these tools with methods, people and the processes through all stages of a product’s life.” Source:  Wikipedia article on Product Lifecycle Management

“Product life cycle management is the process of managing product-related design, production and maintenance information. PLM may also serve as the central repository for secondary information, such as vendor application notes, catalogs, customer feedback, marketing plans, archived project schedules, and other information acquired over the product’s life.” Source:  Product Lifecycle Management

“It is important to note that PLM is not a definition of a piece, or pieces, of technology. It is a definition of a business approach to solving the problem of managing the complete set of product definition information-creating that information, managing it through its life, and disseminating and using it throughout the lifecycle of the product. PLM is not just a technology, but is an approach in which processes are as important, or more important than data.” Source:  CIMdata

“PLM or Product Life Cycle Management is a process or system used to manage the data and design process associated with the life of a product from its conception and envisioning through its manufacture, to its retirement and disposal. PLM manages data, people, business processes, manufacturing processes, and anything else pertaining to a product. A PLM system acts as a central information hub for everyone associated with a given product, so a well-managed PLM system can streamline product development and facilitate easier communication among those working on/with a product. Source:  Aras

A pictorial representation of PLM may be seen as follows:

Hopefully, you can see that PLM deals with methodologies from “white napkin design to landfill disposal”.  Please note, documentation is critical to all aspects of PLM and good document production, storage and retrieval is extremely important to the overall process.  We are talking about CAD, CAM, CAE, DFSS, laboratory testing notes, etc.  In other words, “the whole nine yards of product life”.   If you work in a company with ISO certification, PLM is a great method to insure retaining that certification.

In looking at the four stages of a products lifecycle, we see the following:

Four Stages of Product Life Cycle—Marketing and Sales:

Introduction: When the product is brought into the market. In this stage, there’s heavy marketing activity, product promotion and the product is put into limited outlets in a few channels for distribution. Sales take off slowly in this stage. The need is to create awareness, not profits.

The second stage is growth. In this stage, sales take off, the market knows of the product; other companies are attracted, profits begin to come in and market shares stabilize.

The third stage is maturity, where sales grow at slowing rates and finally stabilize. In this stage, products get differentiated, price wars and sales promotion become common and a few weaker players exit.

The fourth stage is decline. Here, sales drop, as consumers may have changed, the product is no longer relevant or useful. Price wars continue, several products are withdrawn and cost control becomes the way out for most products in this stage.

Benefits of PLM Relative to the Four Stages of Product Life:

Considering the benefits of Product Lifecycle Management, we realize the following:

  • Reduced time to market
  • Increase full price sales
  • Improved product quality and reliability
  • Reduced prototypingcosts
  • More accurate and timely request for quote generation
  • Ability to quickly identify potential sales opportunities and revenue contributions
  • Savings through the re-use of original data
  • frameworkfor product optimization
  • Reduced waste
  • Savings through the complete integration of engineering workflows
  • Documentation that can assist in proving compliance for RoHSor Title 21 CFR Part 11
  • Ability to provide contract manufacturers with access to a centralized product record
  • Seasonal fluctuation management
  • Improved forecasting to reduce material costs
  • Maximize supply chain collaboration
  • Allowing for much better “troubleshooting” when field problems arise. This is accomplished by laboratory testing and reliability testing documentation.

PLM considers not only the four stages of a product’s lifecycle but all of the work prior to marketing and sales AND disposal after the product is removed from commercialization.   With this in mind, why is PLM a necessary business technique today?  Because increases in technology, manpower and specialization of departments, PLM was needed to integrate all activity toward the design, manufacturing and support of the product. Back in the late 1960s when the F-15 Eagle was conceived and developed, almost all manufacturing and design processes were done by hand.  Blueprints or drawings needed to make the parts for the F15 were created on a piece of paper. No electronics, no emails – all paper for documents. This caused a lack of efficiency in design and manufacturing compared to today’s technology.  OK, another example of today’s technology and the application of PLM.

If we look at the processes for Boeings DREAMLINER, we see the 787 Dreamliner has about 2.3 million parts per airplane.  Development and production of the 787 has involved a large-scale collaboration with numerous suppliers worldwide. They include everything from “fasten seatbelt” signs to jet engines and vary in size from small fasteners to large fuselage sections. Some parts are built by Boeing, and others are purchased from supplier partners around the world.  In 2012, Boeing purchased approximately seventy-five (75) percent of its supplier content from U.S. companies. On the 787 program, content from non-U.S. suppliers accounts for about thirty (30) percent of purchased parts and assemblies.  PLM or Boeing’s version of PLM was used to bring about commercialization of the 787 Dreamliner.



November 14, 2015

I don’t really know when my love for aviation began but I am sure it was very early in life.  As a kid, I built tens of plastic airplane models.  My biggest challenge was the “Spruce Goose”; eight engines, four per wing.  I discovered that painting and decal “fixing” was my biggest and most time-consuming chore.   I’ve sniffed enough Testors glue to classify as a junkie.   I would then carefully display the models in my room either hanging from the ceiling, always in attack mode for the fighters, or positioned squarely on a shelf available for all to see.

Later on, I graduated to “U” controlled balsa wood models.   I realize this takes most of you way back so I’ve included a JPEG of a “U” controlled plane.  As you can see, the planes are tethered by two wires, each controlling the vertical climb/dive motion of the aircraft.  The control is a hand-held plastic or wooden “U” device shown by the second JPEG.

U-Controlled Airplane

U- Flight

As you can see, the wires are attached to the upper and lower “U”.  The “pilot” will rock the controller to facilitate climb and descent motion.

We loved to dog fight these balsa wood planes.  You do that by tying streamers to both wings, then have at it.  Both pilots stand back to back, crank the engines and have at it.  The first one to cut the streamer of the other is obviously the winner.

Then came remote-controlled model airplanes.  This was the third phase in the development of flying models.  By that time, I was attending my university so I missed out on this fun-filled activity.  Too little time and too little money.  After graduation, I was commissioned into the United States Air Force.  You get the picture.  I’m a real fan.

Several weeks ago, I attended the “Wings Over North Georgia” air show in Rome, Georgia.  It was a miserable, rainy, cold, muddy day but we enjoyed every minute of it.  The next slides will illustrate the day and the airplanes we saw.  The “feature” event was an F-22 Raptor.  This is one beautiful machine.  Let’s take a look at several “heavier-than-air-aircraft” on display that day.



I told you it was wet.  I had never seen an Osprey before and after seeing the cockpit, it’s the real deal. Let’s take a look.

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is an American multi-mission, tilt-rotor military aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.

The V-22 originated from the United States Department of Defense Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program started in 1981. The team of Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopters was awarded a development contract in 1983 for the tilt-rotor aircraft. The Bell Boeing team jointly produced the aircraft.  The V-22 first flew in 1989, and began flight testing and design alterations; the complexity and difficulties of being the first tilt-rotor intended for military service in the world led to many years of development.

The United States Marine Corps began crew training for the Osprey in 2000, and fielded it in 2007; it supplemented and then replaced their Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knights. The Osprey’s other operator, the U.S. Air Force, fielded their version of the tilt-rotor in 2009. Since entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed in transportation and medivac operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Kuwait.  A better look with the aircraft going from VTOL to level flight is given as follows:



One other aircraft on display was the C-17 Globemaster transport.  The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft. It was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) from the 1980s to the early 1990s by McDonnell Douglas. The C-17 carries forward the name of two previous piston-engine military cargo aircraft, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster and the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II. The C-17 commonly performs strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; additional roles include tactical airlift, medical evacuation and airdrop duties.

Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s, continued to manufacture C-17s for export customers following the end of deliveries to the U.S. Air Force. Aside from the United States, the C-17 is in service with the United KingdomAustraliaCanadaQatarUnited Arab EmiratesNATO Heavy Airlift WingIndia, and Kuwait. The final C-17 was completed in May 2015. Let’s take a look.

C-17. Todd and Bob(3)

OK, so I’m not the HULK, but this thing is huge.  I’m the one in the yellow rain jacket and you can see how “petite” my buddy Todd and I are in comparison to this monster.   The following JPEG is courtesy of the USAF and will show the internal size of the C-17.

C-17 Internal

I told you it was big.

F-22 Raptor

I don’t have any JPEGs of the Raptor I took personally.  There was a four-hour delay due to weather and the Raptor made a low-level run to demonstrate maneuvering capabilities.  The JPEGs below were obtained (again) from the USAF.  I can tell you from witnessing the flight, it has impressive sharp-turn capabilities and deserves to be called state-of-the-art.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities including ground attackelectronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles.  Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor and was responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems, and final assembly of the F-22, while program partner Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 prior to formally entering service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted development as well as operational issues, the USAF considers the F-22 a critical component of its tactical air power, and states that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter.  The Raptor’s combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and situational awareness gives the aircraft unprecedented air combat capabilities

The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air missions due to delays in Russian and Chinese fighter programs, a ban on exports, and development of the more versatile and lower cost F-35 led to the end of F-22 production.   A final procurement tally of 187 operational production aircraft was established in 2009 and the last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012.

F-22 Raptor

The Raptor cockpit is a digital marvel.  Please note the “heads-up” display.

F-22 Raptor Cockpit

There were other aircraft on display including several that would qualify as “oldies-but-goodies”.  The most impressive was the B-25 bomber.  It was in pristine condition and flew to the air show from its “home” in Arizona.  Unfortunately, it left the show before I had time to make a picture.  We frequently had to duck for cover during several periods of driving rain.  Good day—but wet day.

Hope you enjoy this one.  As always, I welcome your comments.


February 2, 2014

Several months ago I posted an article entitled “GREEN AVIATION”.  That blog (hopefully) indicated several efforts to bring about improvements in the GPH (gallons per hour) of fuel used by commercial aviation.  Those efforts are significant and involve the following:

  • Investigations into the use of “bio-fuels”
  • Improvements in aerodynamics of aircraft bodies including the flight surfaces
  • The use of adhesives instead of rivets and screws used as fasteners for outer surfaces
  • The use of composite materials to lessen the overall weight of an aircraft

That effort continues by companies such as BOEING and governmental agencies such as NASA.  We also must factor into the “mix” educational institutions.  All three contribute greatly in the search for improvements relative to reducing the use of precious, non-renewable fossil fuels.  The following is one such effort.

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., recently installed this 15-percent scale model based on a possible future aircraft design by the Boeing Company in its Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. The 13-foot model is “semi-span,” meaning it looks like a plane cut in half. It is being used to assess the aeroelastic qualities of the unusual truss-braced wing configuration. (“Aeroelastic,” or “aeroelasticity,” is the study of how an aircraft flexes during flight in response to aerodynamic forces. The “truss” is the diagonal piece attached to the belly of the fuselage and the underside of the wing.)



Boeing designed the concept as part of SUGAR (Subsonic Ultra-Green Aircraft Research) to help conceive of airplane technologies and designs needed 20 years from now to meet projected fuel efficiency and other “green” aviation requirements. According to Boeing engineers the wind tunnel tests will help validate the analysis done during the SUGAR study, which predicts that the truss-braced wing would improve fuel consumption by 5 to 10 percent over advanced conventional wings. Boeing’s SUGAR work, as well as that of other teams studying advanced future aircraft concepts, is funded through NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program’s Fixed Wing Project.

I will certainly keep you posted as to further developments in the “GREEN AVIATION” world.  It’s a fascinating technology.

 Data for this blog is derived from NASA TECH BRIEFS, “Changing How We Fly”, June 2012, Vol. 36, Number 6.

If you travel at all, you are more than familiar with domestic transportation in our country.     It is a given fact that commercial airlines have become “bus service” for millions of people in the United States.  I traveled from Atlanta to Bangor, Maine this past week for $309.00—round trip.  I’m not too sure I could have done that traveling by bus or train and it would have taken at least twenty-four hours one way.     Even more amazing are the facts concerning international travel from the United States.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that last year alone, U.S. and foreign air carriers transported an estimated 168.1 million passengers between the United States and the rest of the world.  The FAA also estimates there will be one billion passengers by 2024.  An amazing number considering rising fuel costs, much more crowded air space, outdated systems and increasing environmental concerns.  How will we handle these conditions?  The answer is technology!  Technology will address these areas in the following manner:

  • Green Aviation—Acceptance and use of biofuels
  •  Modification and design of wings and wing tips providing increased efficiencies
  •  A new generation of aircraft engines designed for noise abatement while running on biofuels
  • Lightweight composite structures reducing the need for “heavy metals”. (NOTE: One remarkable benefit for using composite materials is the ability to make needed repairs quickly.)
  • Better and more refined management systems to accommodate heightened safety and smoother flow of  passengers

 I would like to address only one area of investigation with this paper, “green aviation”.


When we talk about green aviation, we address our responsibility for the impact of aviation on the environment, which includes carbon footprint, other emissions and last but certainly not least, noise.  Last year, ASTM International published new rules overseeing the specifications for jet fuel allowing the use of biofuels on all commercial flights.  The revision to standard D7566, “Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons”, includes requirements for synthetic fuel components manufactured from hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids ( HEFA ) produced from renewable sources.  This standard allows new components to be manufactured from jatropha camelina, and fats, combined with conventional aviation jet fuel.  These synthetic fuels must be able to function in desert heat or in cold temperatures up to 40,000 feet.  The Boeing Company has been leading the push for approval of synthetic paraffinic kerosene (Bio-SPK) jet fuel and is testing algae and camelina-based fuels.   France-based Airbus is helping to develop a second-generation of biofuels, known as biomass, which will avoid competing with food resources.  Boeing recently flew the world’s first commercial airplane from Everett, Washington to Paris using biologically derived fuel.  The 747-8 Freighter’s four GE GEnx-2B engines were powered by a blend of 15 % camelina-based biofuel mixed with 85% traditional kerosene fuel ( Jet-A).  There was no need to make changes to the airplane, its engines, or operating procedures to accommodate the biofuel.  I think this is truly fascinating.  There also were significant reductions in carbon dioxide and NoX emissions resulting in carbon footprint reduction for the aircraft.    A recent report indicated the carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft engines is approximately 20% more than previously thought.   These emissions could hit a whopping 1.5 million tons by 2025. Far more than the worst-case predictions of the International Panel on Climate Change.     If you’re looking to put that number in perspective, the European Union currently emits 3.1 billion tons of CO2 annually– that’s the entire 27-nation, 457 million person EU.   The report, “Trends in Global Aviation Noise and Emissions from Commercial Aviation for 2000 to 2025,” is among the most authoritative estimates of the industry’s growth in emissions.   It was produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Eurocontrol, the Manchester Metropolitan University and the technology company QinetiQ.   They used a variety of models to calculate current fuel use, then projected out to 2025 based on these findings and anticipated increases in air travel.  Their assessment, if correct, certainly indicates changes are necessary to bring about modifications bringing down CO2 and NoX emissions.  GE, Boeing, Airbus, Pratt & Whitney and other manufacturers of airframe and engines are definitely on the correct path to aid efforts in accomplishing this task.  In short—THIS PROBLEM WILL NOT GO AWAY AND BIOFUELS SEEM TO BE ONE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM.  I mention this to indicate you will be hearing additional information in the upcoming weeks and months, so don’t be surprised when these remarkable advancements occur.

I would like to recommend you  access the following web site to learn more about the General Electric aircraft engine that accomplished the above-mentioned performance:


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