Missed Step in Procedure Costs USAF $6.7M

Often in the marketing hi-tech products, the benefits are soft: more productivity, increased performance, better access to information, information you can trust, better decisions, etc.

So it’s always appreciated when a story comes along with very concrete costs/benefits related to a hi-tech problem. That’s why I’m highlighting this post from Scott Abel’s The Content Wranger entitled, Missing Procedure Costs US Air Force $6,745,275. Here is a quote:

The expensive accident happened October 20, 2005 at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City when repairs being made to F-22 Raptor fighter jet failed to go as planned. Although mechanics followed the correct procedures to insert the landing gear pins (devices used to stabalize the aircraft and prevent it from moving while being repaired) there were no instructions to remind the mechanics to remove pins prior to returning the aircraft to service.

According to an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, an airman noticed the landing pin was still installed and signaled a crew member to shut down the left engine so he could remove it. Although the airman removed the pin successfully, a streamer attached to it got caught in the jet intake of the Raptor’s right engine, “ripping the pin from his hand and sucking it into the engine.” According to Tribune, witnesses “heard a crunch and a winding down sound” and others “saw sparks coming from the engine.”

(Note that I changed the newspaper link above to reference Google’s cached copy of the article as the original is no longer online.)

We’ve talked about XML and aviation before in this blog (“Flying Documents, or Airplanes“). I believe that XML content servers like MarkLogic are going to have a big impact on the aviation industry. Why?

  • Because of the individual nature of each aircraft, flight and maintenance documentation is a giant custom publishing problem.
  • Because integrating silos of content (e.g., airframe documentation, airline operating procedures, FAA notices) is a content integration problem.
  • Because getting pilots or maintenance workers the precise information they need is a fine-granularity search problem (i.e., get me the paragraph, not the book or chapter)
  • Because the results of those fine-grained searches is often an a procedure that must be followed in exact detail — and those procedures can be marked up in XML and systematically walked through, in checklist fashion, by a simple application

And finally, because MarkLogic is really good at solving the above four problems.

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