Pretty v. Safe

A couple months ago I opined about the wonders of the productization work done by Airbus on the A380.  I mentioned the smooth ride, excellent interior fit and finish and my then-favorite, a wonderful in-seat entertainment system.


As fate would have it, on a recent business trip to Australia I was booked on one of the Qantas A380s that were grounded after the early November incident regarding the failed Rolls Royce engine on a Qantas flight out of Singapore.  While I did grumble about my own 4 hour delay due to Qantas’s juggling of equipment and flights, I totally support Qantas’s focus on safety and frankly as always they are a wonderfully courteous airline.  But the irony of my recent praise for the A380 did sink in while I was flying home on an ageing yet flight-worthy 747, not as luxurious but still working hard, a gray beard like me.

The lesson learned here is that while many mavens of design preach the importance on human interfaces; usability; form, fit and finish; and even sex appeal; as engineers we should never lose sight of the importance of engineering basic performance and of course on top of the list is safety.  Which is not to say that Airbus or Rolls Royce cut any corners, but rather that as engineers involved in product development, lets remember to put that extra effort on what counts.  Spend a little extra effort on that DFMEA, on reviewing rather than just rubber stamping regulatory and environmental test results, and on sneaking a few extra tests into the design validation budget.  Do the metaphorical product walk around one last time before saying “done.”  And lose a lot of sleep over anything in a product that could kill or maim Grandma.

A slightly more humble Chuck

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