What happens when technology fails?
Recently this question was answered in my hometown where a severe storm knocked the power out in every grocery store, restaurant, gas station and home in town. On Labor Day weekend no less, in a tourist town!
What followed was pure chaos. It was a Sunday, thus visitors had checked out of their hotels and cabins and were preparing to leave town. They were stopping for gas and being told they couldn’t buy any. They were showing up at restaurants and hearing that the kitchens were down. They were encountering locked doors at every business in town; no one had any place to go.
Recently I encountered this question at work. The content management system I work in daily experienced a coding error that made it impossible to do anything. As a result it took six hours to accomplish a task that normally takes an hour.
Airlines, airports and aircraft are also not immune to this type of failure.
In April, a massive technology outage forced American Airlines to ground planes from coast to cost. The company blamed a “software issue” that knocked out both its primary and backup computer reservation systems, resulting in the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights and the delay of another 1,100.
In July, a down passenger processing system contributed to long lines, missed flights and angry passengers at McCarran International Airport. Though passengers were manually checked in, long lines formed at ticket counters, and those who hadn’t allowed sufficient time missed their flights.
Earlier this month, officials concluded their investigation into the Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that plummeted into Atlantic. They found the plane had crashed because of a mechanical failure in which the pitot tubes were obstructed by ice particles, this in turn caused the autopilot to disconnect, and the resulting inability of the crew to react led to the plane stalling before plunging into the sea. These findings prompted North Yorkshire Coroner Michael Oakley to question whether pilots are overly dependent on technology and are not retaining the skills required to properly fly complex commercial aircraft. It’s definitely something to think about.
Gizmos and gadgets are great -- they can simplify our lives, and improve functionality, efficiency, and more for our airlines and airports.
But what happens when technology fails?
What's your backup plan?