Soooo… is the Boeing 737 Max 8 fightworthy?
I can only get a small sense of the horror and exasperation, which any jet flight crew must experience whenever a major malfunction occurs… especially one where an alleged advance… a.k.a. Artificial Intelligence (AI)… flat-out fails to live up to the inventors’ / programmers’ hype… and… worse yet… might even precipitate and exacerbate a problem.
Albeit a different form of transportation, four long decades ago, I experienced similar horror and exasperation.
It all began on a sunshiny summer afternoon. All the sudden, I discovered that my barely one year off the dealership’s new car lot, 1972 Chevy Nova was cruising along at 45 mph / 72 kph and still building up speed… all this occurring with my foot totally off the accelerator pedal!
Fighting off that sinking, sickening, surreal, this cannot possibly be happening feeling… I had to rapidly  assess a situation that I had never, before, trained for in any of my driver education classes,  come up with my own “by the seat of the pants” game plan to regain control and… above all else…  prevent the injury and/or death of other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. And let’s not forget saving my own life, either.
Trust me… for a panicking, inexperienced teenage driver, formulating such a plan can be easier said than done. My intitial inclination was to deem myself expendable and litterly ditch my vehicle. Fortunately, my self-preservation kicked in as did the realization that the light traffic volume was buying me both space and time for a less drastic, dramatic solution.
And in spite of the fact that my plan B left me worried that I’d damage the automatic transmission by shifting gears to Neutral at this speed… that became my plan… one that eventually allowed me to safely apply the brakes… to coast off towards the highway’s shoulder and come to a halt.
Of course, compared to a jet, I had only been dealing with lower velocity and forward, left and right maneuvers. A flight crew’s reality is much tougher… multiple hundreds of mph/kph plus the up and down of the Z axis… hopefully more up than down… and down only when that becomes desirable.
The fake prez did Tweet on this subject…
Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are…. …needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!
Oddly enough… I find myself in rare… albeit only partial… agreement with him… or whoever the Tweet’s ghostwriter may’ve been. Of course Einstein… born on this very day in 1879 (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AL!) and having died in 1955… would be a lousy choice for any jet’s captain’s seat. But, setting all levity aside…
While I’d never suggest humankind should absolutely abandon artificial intelligence, aircraft systems designers must always  ensure that the flight crews are fully educated (write comprehensible instruction manuals / conduct training classes) re these systems and  envision the need for a manual override switch to allow the IQ of aviators… whenever deemed necessary… to regain full control over AI. Ultimately… that’s the best way to prevent injury and death.
ADDENDUM: Although the following clips feature Sci-Fi’s Star Trek Universe, the Season II episode, The Ultimate Computer did address the urgent need for AI… a.k.a. The M-5 Computer… to be governed by an OFF switch.