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Could it happen again?

Our story about the unsolved mystery of MH370 characterized the pilot sabotage theory as “thinly sourced” [“Could it happen again? MH370: Ten years later,” March]. AIAA senior member Robert Hall of Hockessin, Delaware, [rah335@gmail.com] took issue with this description. “The evidence is not thin,” he wrote. He summarized the evidence, some of which Aerospace America has not independently verified: “The unexplained cabin depressurization does not fit the series of turns and altitude changes which quite conveniently served to elude tracking radars. (Particularly with the path up the Malacca Strait before turning southward.) Not to mention the extremely tight window between tracking radars when the plane went ‘dark’ in the first place. And of course there were the practice simulations, some of which the pilot attempted to delete.” Nevertheless, Hall said he appreciated author Keith Button’s focus on exploring “what can be done to ensure we never have another incident where the world writ large is blind.”

Taming the Wild West

AIAA senior member Henry Spencer of Toronto [regexpguy@gmail.com] felt an important point was missed in Jonathan O’Callaghan’s piece about whether rules should be established to govern privately funded space research on nongovernment spacecraft [“The ‘Wild West’ of Space Research,” February]. “Space is just a place. It’s not some special preserve of governments, where private ventures should be allowed in only grudgingly,” he wrote. On Earth, privately funded research “has existed for a long time — longer than government-funded research, in fact.”  If rules and regulations are needed for private research in space, “then, surely, the same should apply to privately-funded research in the air, and on the oceans, and in the Arctic, and right back home on the ground. Any new requirements, such as a demand that all research meet standards of ‘scientific excellence,’ or that research results never be kept proprietary, should be applied everywhere. And contrariwise, if additional restrictions and overhead for privately-funded research are not justified on the ground, then they are not justified in space either.”

Fixing the corporate culture

AIAA Fellow William Oberkampf of Georgetown, Texas, [wloconsulting@gmail.com] was happy to see Associate Editor Cat Hofacker’s interview with Amy Edmondson, an organizational psychologist [“Q&A: Chronicler of corporate culture,” April]. “This field is vitally important because a weak or corrupt organizational culture is the root cause of most complex system failures. The technical failure of the system receives the headlines, but that is generally the superficial issue,” he wrote. On Edmondson’s point that a “learning culture of transparency and curiosity and honesty” is “extraordinarily rare to see,” Oberkampf wondered: “who should be asking probing questions of system performance, safety, and reliability? I argue that it is senior staff’s responsibility to raise these questions, as junior staff are just trying to keep their nose clean. When you see an organization ignore, marginalize or reprimand senior staff for asking embarrassing or dangerous questions, you know you’ve got a serious problem.”

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