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Pilots warn on technology risk while chiding speculators

French cockpit crew representatives have highlighted the potential risks posed by increasingly advanced technology, while simultaneously urging restraint over speculation regarding the Boeing 737 Max accident in Ethiopia.

The caution emerged as French investigation authority BEA, supported by Ethiopian counterparts, formally commenced technical work on the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders from the aircraft, which were delivered to its facility in Paris on 14 March.

French pilots’ union SNPL states that air transport has previously suffered from accidents linked to the “extremely sophisticated” logic of computer technology intended to make flight operations safer.

“These systems…are developing so quickly that certification authorities are struggling to assess their side-effects,” it warns, particularly regarding crew training. The union adds that such systems, in turn, can depend on potentially “unreliable” sensors.

This pace of technological evolution, it says, makes the decision to implement a precautionary grounding of the 737 Max understandable.

Despite its warning over the potential impact of rapidly-advancing technology, SNPL is simultaneously pointing out that no specific contributors to the Ethiopian accident have been identified and no assumptions can be drawn over the cause of the crash.

“Technical investigations of air accidents and incidents contribute to making aviation safer every day,” says the union. “It is therefore appropriate to let the investigators act and refrain from any speculation about the circumstances of the loss of the [aircraft].”

SNPL says it is prepared to offer specialist technical knowledge to support the BEA’s analysis efforts.

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