His niece, a young woman traveling to Africa to get a job with a health agency, was one of the victims of the recent Boeing crash in Ethiopia. It now appears that this accident, along with a similar crash last year, was caused by the failure of fly-by-wire anti-stall software installed to overcome an imbalance in the airframe caused by adding larger, heavier engines to a previously stable design. Although the crew may have been unprepared to deal with this modification, it is not their fault. This change in the controls was not added to improve performance or economy, it was simply the result of saving money by modifying an existing aircraft rather than designing a new one. It was a kluge, an add-on, a jury rig meant to cover up a design flaw.
I’m not too familiar with aircraft design, but I do know a little about naval architecture, and I have been watching with alarm how modern cruise ships are abandoning well-proven, sea-kindly hull designs and going to cheaper-to-build and more economical (spell p-r-o-f-i-t-a-b-l-e) construction methods, hull shapes and weight distributions. The resulting boxy, flat-bottom, high-freeboard, top-heavy hulls are now kept stable in a seaway by add-on stabilizer fins controlled by software. There have already been several failures of these systems (in relatively benign sea conditions) leading to injury and damage. It is only a matter of time before one of these ships sinks or capsizes with the potential loss of thousands of lives.
The Boeing design was a modification of a stable aircraft leading to an increase in performance and economy, but resulting in a dangerously unstable aircraft depending on a retrofitted software fix to counteract the new, unsafe handling characteristics.
This is what happens when accountants start taking over from engineers.