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On the evening of February 12, 2009, a Continental Connection commuter flight made its way through blustery weather between Newark, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York. As is typical of commercial flights today, the pilots didn’t have all that much to do during the hour-long trip. The captain, Marvin Renslow, manned the controls briefly during takeoff, guiding the Bombardier Q400 turboprop into the air, then switched on the autopilot and let the software do the flying. He and his co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, chatted—about their families, their careers, the personalities of air-traffic controllers—as the plane cruised uneventfully along its northwesterly route at 16,000 feet. The Q400 was well into its approach to the Buffalo airport, its landing gear down, its wing flaps out, when the pilot’s control yoke began to shudder noisily, a signal that the plane was losing lift and risked going into an aerodynamic stall. The autopilot disconnected, and the captain took over the controls. He reacted quickly, but he did precisely the wrong thing: he jerked back on the yoke, lifting the plane’s nose and reducing its airspeed, instead of pushing the yoke forward to gain velocity. Rather than preventing a stall, Renslow’s action caused one. The plane spun out of control, then plummeted. “We’re down,” the captain said, just before the Q400 slammed into a house in a Buffalo suburb.
The crash, which killed all 49 people on board as well as one person on the ground, should never have happened. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the cause of the accident was pilot error. The captain’s response to the stall warning, the investigators reported, “should have been automatic, but his improper flight control inputs were inconsistent with his training” and instead revealed “startle and confusion.” An executive from the company that operated the flight, the regional carrier Colgan Air, admitted that the pilots seemed to lack “situational awareness” as the emergency unfolded.
The Buffalo crash was not an isolated incident. An eerily similar disaster, with far more casualties, occurred a few months later. On the night of May 31, an Air France Airbus A330 took off from Rio de Janeiro, bound for Paris. The jumbo jet ran into a storm over the Atlantic about three hours after takeoff. Its air-speed sensors, coated with ice, began giving faulty readings, causing the autopilot to disengage. Bewildered, the pilot flying the plane, Pierre-Cédric Bonin, yanked back on the stick. The plane rose and a stall warning sounded, but he continued to pull back heedlessly. As the plane climbed sharply, it lost velocity. The airspeed sensors began working again, providing the crew with accurate numbers. Yet Bonin continued to slow the plane. The jet stalled and began to fall. If he had simply let go of the control, the A330 would likely have righted itself. But he didn’t. The plane dropped 35,000 feet in three minutes before hitting the ocean. All 228 passengers and crew members died.
Read more. [Image: Kyle Bean]
Truly human leadership: Bob Chapman
Robert Chapman is chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, Inc., a $1.5 billion global manufacturer of capital equipment and provider of engineering consulting. Under Chapman’s leadership, Barry-Wehmiller has used strategic acquisitions and organic growth to achieve a 20% compound growth rate during the past 20 years. At the heart of its successful economic model, however, are more than 7000 outstanding team members worldwide. The company prides itself and is fiercely committed to building great people through its distinctive people-centric leadership initiatives and innovative learning institute, Barry-Wehmiller University.The 127-year-old company was named one of the Best Places to Work in St. Louis because of its programs in leadership and motivation.
Andrew McAfee: What will future jobs look like?
Economist Andrew McAfee suggests that, yes, probably, droids will take our jobs — or at least the kinds of jobs we know now. In this far-seeing talk, he thinks through what future jobs might look like, and how to educate coming generations to hold them.
Andrew McAfee studies how information technology affects businesses and society.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM?
Andrew McAfee studies the ways that information technology (IT) affects businesses, business as a whole, and the larger society. His research investigates how IT changes the way companies perform, organize themselves and compete. At a higher level, his work also investigates how computerization affects competition, society, the economy and the workforce.
He’s a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His books include Enterprise 2.0 and Race Against the Machine (with Erik Brynjolfsson).
Why Successful Organizations Fail: Danny DeLaRosa
How a successful business can lose sight of what makes them unique.
Erik Brynjolfsson: The key to growth? Race with the machines
As machines take on more jobs, many find themselves out of work or with raises indefinitely postponed. Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynjolfsson — it’s simply the growing pains of a radically reorganized economy. A riveting case for why big innovations are ahead of us … if we think of computers as our teammates. Be sure to watch the opposing viewpoint from Robert Gordon.
13 Steps to Happiness and Prosperity
There are thirteen steps to happiness and it all begins with a process. From recruiting to advertising, watch this week’s Think Tank Tuesday to determine which processes you need to focus on in order to be successful.
Michele Desjardins on Complex Family Business Structures
Michele Desjardins describes the differences in governance structures and leadership for holding companies versus operating companies.
Fredda Herz Brown on “Family Sustainability”
Fredda Herz Brown describes four essential characteristics for high net worth families who wish to create “family sustainability” for multiple generations.