[E-voting] Aeroplane software fails

Adrian Colley aecolley at spamcop.net
Mon Oct 3 16:22:49 IST 2005


Long ago (2003-12-18), Henk Steentjes (CTO of Nedap) told the Oireachtas
Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government:
> This is a system that can register votes in a secure and safe way. A
> top-ranking testing institute tests the system.  When I came to
> Ireland from Schiphol Airport, I boarded an aeroplane and laid my life
> in hands of those operating the aircraft.  I did not ask to see the
> source code used by the authorities or ask how it was tested.  I trust
> Airbus, the manufacturer of the craft, and the FAA that certified the
> machine.

The latest Risks (http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/24.05.html#subj1.1)
refers to an incident two months ago on a Boeing 777 in which the
autopilots failed dramatically.  The day was saved only because the
pilots saw what was happening and were able to disengage the autopilots.
Extracts follow.

> An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report
> (http://www.atsb.gov.au/aviation/occurs/occurs_detail.cfm?ID=767)
> released yesterday reveals the pilot in command disconnected the
> autopilot and lowered the plane's nose to prevent a stall, after
> incorrect data from a supposedly fail-safe device caused the plane to
> pitch up and climb 3000ft, cutting its indicated air speed from 500kmh
> to 292kmh, activating a stall warning and a "stickshaker". [A
> stickshaker vibrates the aircraft's controls to warn the piot when he
> is approaching stall speed ... which, you know, means the plane is
> about to fall out of the air.]
[...]
> Boeing has told operators of the jet -- which by the way has the best
> safety record of any aircraft
> (http://www.geocities.com/khlim777_my/ashowsafe1.htm) -- to load a
> previous software version.

This is a good anecdote for use when someone brings up the "we trust
computers to fly aeroplanes, don't we?" objection to VVAT.

 --Adrian.

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