Política española: ¿Una salida digna para casi todos?

La hay:

  1. El PSOE puede conseguir gobernar y, además, distanciarse de Podemos y evitar ser fagocitado ya o en unas elecciones que se convoquen porque nadie consiga la investidura.
  2. Ciudadanos, después del patinazo de la campaña, puede aparecer como quien ha logrado el gran acuerdo y, de paso, como los más razonables y los más centrados. Por añadidura, tendrían la función de vigilar al gobierno resultante en el cumplimiento de los compromisos establecidos. En caso de incumplimiento, el PP siempre podría prestar su apoyo a una moción de censura.
  3. El PP…puede hacer una jugada maestra: Abstenerse pero a cambio de algo: Que el PSOE retire inmediatamente su apoyo a los gobiernos municipales y autonómicos que le ha regalado a Podemos. En algunos casos podría significar que algunos de esos gobiernos volverían al PP y, además, el PSOE escenificaría más el distanciamiento reduciendo el riesgo.

¿Quiénes serían los perjudicados? Podemos, que está apostando a unas nuevas elecciones porque las encuestas les auguran subida de escaños y los nacionalistas, que tendrían mucho más difícil el chantaje.

Es así de fácil. Falla sólo una cosa: Rajoy. Como en la película de Amenábar, está muerto pero no lo sabe y, como le ocurrió a Stalin, nadie se atreve a decírselo dentro de su partido.


Big Aviation is still a game of two players

And one of them, Airbus,  is celebrating its birthday.

Years ago, three major players were sharing the market but, once McDonnell Douglas disappeared, big planes were made by one of them. Of course, we should not forget Antonov, whose 225 model is still the biggest plane in the world, some huge Tupolev and Lockheed Tristar but the first ones never went out of their home markets while Lockheed Tristar could be seen as a failed experiment from the manufacturer.

Airbus emphasizes its milestones in the timeline but, behind these, there is a flow marked by efficiency through I.T. use.

Airbus was the first civilian planes manufacturer having a big plane with a cockpit for only two people (A-310) and Airbus was the first civilian plane manufacturer to introduce widely fly-by-wire technology (the only previous exception was the Concorde). Finally, Airbus introduced the commonality concept allowing pilots from a model to switch very fast to a different model keeping the rating for both.

Boeing had a more conservative position: B757 and B767 appeared with only two people in the cockpit after being redesigned to compete with A-310. Despite the higher experience of Boeing in military aviation and, hence, in fly-by-wire technology, Boeing deferred for a long time the decision to include it in civilian planes and, finally, where Boeing lost the efficiency battle was when it appeared with a portfolio whose products were mainly unrelated while Airbus was immerse in its commonality model.

The only point where Boeing arrived before was in the use of twin planes for transoceanic flights through the ETOPS policy. Paradoxically the ones in the worst position were the two American companies that were manufacturing three engine planes, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed instead of Airbus. That was the exception because, usually, Boeing was behind in the efficiency field.

Probably -and this is my personal bet- they try to build a family starting with B787. This plane should be for Boeing the A320 equivalent, that is, the starter of a new generation sharing many features.

As a proof of that more conservative position, Boeing kept some feedbacks that Airbus simply removed like, for instance, the feeling of the flight controls or the feedback from autopilot to throttle levers. Nobody questionned if this should be made and it was offered as a commercial advantage instead of a safety feature since it was not compulsory…actually, the differences among both manufacturers -accepted by the regulators as features independent of safety-  have been in the root of some events

Little-size Aviation is much more crowded and, right now, we have two new incomers from Russia and China (Sukhoi and Comac) including the possibility of an agreement among them to fight for the big planes market.

Anyway, that is still in the future. Big Aviation is still a game of two contenders and every single step in that game has been driven by efficiency. Some of us would like understability -in normal and abnormal conditions- to be among the priorities in future designs, whatever they come from the present contenders or from any newcomer.

Published in my Linkedin profile

A comment about a good reading: Air Safety Investigators by Alan E. Diehl

Some books can be considered as a privilege since they are an opportunity to have a look at an interesting mind. In this case it’s the mind of someone who was professionally involved in many of the air accidents considered as HF milestones.

The author, Alan Diehl, has worked with NTSB, FAA and U.S. Air Force. Everywhere, he tried to show that Human Factors had something important to say in the investigations. Actually, I borrowed for my first sentence something that he repeats once and again: The idea of trying to get into the mind of the pilot to know why a decision was made.

Probably, we should establish a working hypothesis about people involved in an accident: They were not dumb, nor crazy and they were not trying to kill themselves. It would work fine almost always.

Very often, as the author shows, major design and organization flaws are under a bad decision driving to an accident. He suffered some of these organization flaws in his own career by being vetoed in places where he challenged the statu quo.

One of the key cases representing a turning point for his activity but, regretfully, not for Aviation Safety in military environments happened in Gulf war: Two F15 planes shooted two American helicopters. Before that, he tried to implement CRM principles in U.S. Air Force. It was rejected by a high rank officer and, after the accident, they tried to avoid any mention of CRM issues.

 Diehl suffered the consequences of disobeying the orders about it as well as whistle-blowing some bad Safety related practices in the Air Force. Even though those practices represented a big death toll that did not make a change.

As an interesting tip, almost at the end of the book, there is a short analysis of different reporting systems, how they were created and the relationship among them. Even though, it does not pretend to be an important part in the book, it can be very clarifying for many people who can get lost in the acronyms soup.

However, the main and more important piece of the book is CRM related: Diehl fought hardly to get CRM established after a very well-known accident. It involved a United DC-8 in Portland, who crashed because it ran out of fuel while the pilot was worried about the landing gear. That made him delay the landing beyond any reasonable expectation.

It’s true that Portland case was important as well as Los Rodeos and Staines cases were also very important as major events to be used as inputs for the definition of CRM practice. However, and that is a personal opinion, something could be lost related with CRM: When Diehl had problems with Air Force, he defended CRM from a functional point of view. His point, in short, was that we cannot admit the death toll that its absence was provoking but…is CRM absence the real problem or does it have much deeper roots?

CRM principles can be hard to apply in an environment where power distance is very high. Once there, you can decide if a plane is a kind of bubble where this high power distance does not exist or there is not such a bubble and, as someone told me, as a pilot I’m in charge of the flight but the real fact is that a plane is a barracks extension and the higher rank officer inside the plane is the real captain. Nothing to be surprised if we attend to the facts under the air accident that beheaded the State in Poland. “Suggestions” by the Air Force chief are hard to be ignored by a military pilot.

Diehl points out how in many situations pilots seem to be inclined to play with their lives instead of keeping safety principles.  Again, he is right but it can be easily explained: Suppose that the pilot, in the flight that crashed with all the Polish Government onboard, rejects the “suggestion” and goes to the alternate airport. Nothing should have happened except…the outcome for the other option is not visible and everyone should find reasons to explain why the pilot should have landed in the place where he tried to do it. His career should be simply ruined because nobody would admit the real danger under the other option.

Once you decide, it’s impossible to know the outcome of the alternate decision and that makes pressure especially hard to resist. Then, even if restricted to the cockpit or a full plane, CRM principles can be hard to apply in some organizations. Furthermore, as Diehl suggests in the book, you can extend CRM concepts well beyond the cockpit trying to make of it a change management program.

CRM, in civilian and military organizations, means a way to work but we can find incompatibilities between CRM principles and organizational culture principles. Management have to deal with these contradictions but, if the organizational culture is very strong, it will prevail and management will not deal with the contradictions. They will simply decide for the statu quo ignoring any other option.

Should have CRM saved the many lost lives because of its absence? Perhaps not. There is a paradox in approaches like CRM or, more recently, SMS: They work fine in places where they should be less required and they don’t work in places where its implementation should be a matter of urgency. I’m not trying to play with words but establish a single fact and I would like to do so with an example:

Qantas, the Australian airline, has a highly regarded CRM program and many people, inside and outside that Company, should agree that CRM principles meant a real safety improvement for the Company. Nothing to oppose but let me show it in a different light:

Suppose for a moment that someone decides removing all the CRM programs in the world because of…whatever. Once done, we can ask which companies should be the most affected because of that. Should be Qantas among them? Hard to answer but probably not. Why?

CRM principles work precisely in the places where these principles were already working in the background. Then, CRM brings order and procedures to a previous situation that we could call “CRM without CRM program”, for instance, a low power distance where the subordinate is willing to voice any safety concern. In this case, the improvement is clear. If we suddenly suppress the activity, the culture should keep alive these principles because they fitted with that culture from the very first moment and before.

What happens when CRM principles are against organization culture? Let me put it in short: Make-up. They will accept CRM as well as they accept SMS since they both are mandatory but everyone will know the truth inside the organization. Will CRM save lives in this organizations, even if they are enforced to implement it?

A recent event can answer that: Asiana accident in San Francisco happened because a first officer did not dare to tell his captain that he was unable to land the plane manually (of course, as usual, many more factors were present but this was one of them and extremely important).

Diehl clearly advocates for CRM and I believe he is right and with statistical information who speaks about safety improvement. My point is that improvement is not homogeneous and it happens mainly in places that were already willing to accept CRM principles and, in a non-structured way, they were already working with them.

CRM by itself does not have the power to change the organizational culture in places that reject its principles and the approach should be different. A very good old book, Critical Path Renewal by Beer, Eisenstat and Spector explains clearly why change programs don’t work and they show a different way to get the change in organizations who reject it.

Anyone trying to make a real change should flee from change programs even if we agree with the goals but one-size-fits-all does not work. Some principles, like the ones under CRM or SMS, are valid from safety point of view but, even though everyone will pay lip service to the goals, many organizations won’t accept the changes required to get there. That is still a hard challenge to be completed.

Published originally in my Linkedin profile

Air Safety and Hacker Frame of Mind

If we ask anyone what a hacker is, we could get answers going from cyberpiracy, cyberdelincuency, cybersecurity…and any other cyberthing. However, it’s much more than that.

Hackers are classified depending of the “color of their hats”. White hat hacker means individual devoted to security, black hat hacker means cybercriminal and grey hat hacker means something in the middle. That can be interesting as a matter of curiosity but…what do they have in common? Furthermore, what do they have in common that can be relevant for Air Safety?

Simonyi, the creator of WYSIWYG, warned long ago about an abstraction scale that was adding more and more steps. Speaking about Information Technology, that means that programmers don’t program a machine. They instruct a program to make a program to be run by a machine. Higher programming levels mean longer distance from the real thing and more steps between the human action and the machine action.

Of course, Simonyi warned of this as a potential problem while he was speaking about Information Technology but…Information Technology is now ubiquitous and this problem can be found anywhere including, of course, Aviation.

We could say that any IT-intensive system has different layers and the number of layers defines how advanced the system is. So far so good, if we assume that there is a perfect correspondance between layers, that is, every layer is a symbolic representation of the former one and that representation should be perfect. That should be all…but it isn’t.

Every information layer that we put over the real thing is not a perfect copy -it should be nonsense- but, instead, it tries to improve something in safety, efficiency or, very often, it claims to be improving both. However, avoiding flaws in that process is something that is almost impossible. That is the point where problems start and when hacker-type knowledge and frame of mind should be highly desirable for a pilot.

The symbolic nature of IT-based systems makes its flaws to be hard to diagnose since their behavior can be very different to mechanic or electric systems. Hackers, good or bad, try to identify these flaws, that is, they are very conscious of this symbolic layer approach instead of assuming an enhanced but perfect representation of the reality below.

What means a hacker frame of mind as a way to improve safety? Let me show two examples:

  • From cinema: The movie “A beautiful mind”, devoted to John Nash and showing his mental health problems shows at a moment how and why he was able to control these problems: He was confusing reality and fiction until a moment where he found something that did not fit. It happened to be a little girl that, after many years, continued being a little girl instead of an adult woman. That gave him the clue to know which part of his life was created by his own brain.
  • From Air Safety: A reflection taken from the book “QF32” by Richard de Crespigny: Engine 4 was mounted to our extreme right. The fuselage separated Engine 4 from Engines 1 and 2. So how could shrapnel pass over or under the fuselage, then travel all that way and damage Engine 4? The answer is clear. It can’t. However, once arrived there, a finding appears crystal-clear: Information coming from the plane is not trustable because in any of the IT-layers the correspondance reality-representation has been lost.

Detecting these problems is not easy. It implies much more than operating knowledge and, at the same time, we know that nobody has full knowledge about the whole system but only partial knowledge. That partial knowledge should be enough to define key indicators -as it happens in the mentioned examples- to know when we work with information that should not be trusted.

The hard part of this: The indicators should not be permanent but adapted to every situation, that is, the pilot should decide about which indicator should be used in situations that are not covered by procedures. That should bring us to other issue: If a hacker frame of mind is positive for Air Safety, how to create, nurture and train it? Let’s use again the process followed by a hacker to become such a hacker:

First, hackers look actively for information. They don’t go to formal courses expecting the information to be given. Instead, they look for resources allowing them to increase their knowledge level. Then, applying this model to Aviation should suppose a wide access to information sources beyond the information provided in formal courses.

Second, hackers training is more similar to military training than academic training, that is, they fight to intrude or to defend a system and they show their skills by opposing an active enemy. To replay a model such as this, simulators should include situations that trainers can imagine. Then, the design should be much more flexible and, instead of simulators behaving as a plane is supposed to do, they should have room to include potential situations coming from information misrepresentation or from situations coming from automatic answers to defective sensors.

Asking for a full knowledge of all the information layers and their potential pitfalls can be utopic since nobody has that kind of knowledge, including designers and engineers. Everybody has a partial knowledge. Then, how can we do our best with this partial knowledge? Looking for a different frame of mind in involved people -mainly pilots- and providing the information and training resources that allow that frame of mind to be created and developed. That could mean a fully new training model.

Published originally in my Linkedin profile

El fiasco de Ciudadanos explicado a Albert Rivera

Parece ser que Albert Rivera ha encargado una auditoría para averiguar por qué sus resultados electorales han estado muy por debajo de lo esperado.

Déjeme ahorrar el gasto de la auditoría explicándoselo de forma muy sencilla. Más aún: Quien se lo dice se encuentra entre los que el día de las elecciones creían que, a pesar de las muchas incertidumbres asociadas a su partido, era la única opción lógica y, a pesar de sus resultados, lo sigo creyendo:

Votar al PP de Rajoy o al PSOE de Sánchez basados en la doctrina del voto útil es demasiado para algunos estómagos delicados y decantarse por partidos de conducta fascistoide, sean de izquierdas o derechas, es todavía peor. ¿Qué pasó entonces y qué consecuencias tendría que sacar?

En primer lugar, Ciudadanos venía en una posición de privilegio. Nadie, salvo UPyD, había estado en un Parlamento del ámbito que fuera negándose a comulgar con las ruedas de molino nazionalistas que los grandes partidos sí habían tragado. Eso les honra pero ahí empieza el problema real:

Cuando alguien se asocia “contra” algo,  y realmente hay muchas cosas en España contra las que asociarse, no es un partido sino que es algo que podría denominarse plataforma ciudadana. Nadie en Cataluña les votó por su programa de gobierno sino por su oposición al nazionalismo pero, cuando se extendieron a toda España, trataron de convertirse en un partido político como opción de gobierno. Grave error.

¿De verdad cree, señor Rivera, que quien le ha votado lo ha hecho por el atractivo de unos cuantos académicos sacados del armario y ventilados para que se les fuera el olor a naftalina y puestos a pergeñar un programa político y económico que no tenía pies ni cabeza?

No lo crea. Quien le ha votado pensaba en el tiempo en que ustedes se comportaban como una plataforma ciudadana e intentaba defender algunos elementos básicos que deberían ser transversales a cualquier partido que se autodenomine democrático. Por ejemplo, cualquier partido democrático debería defender la independencia de la justicia, las listas abiertas, la reforma del sistema electoral o la desaparición de los innumerables aforados existentes en España ¿verdad?

¿Cree que realmente necesitaba presentar un programa de gobierno más allá de esos principios básicos o es que le atacó repentinamente la ambición de convertirse en el inquilino de la Moncloa?

¿Cree que sus ambigüedades y sus apariciones con Pablo Iglesias con la excusa de los “nuevos emergentes” le favorecieron? Pues no lo crea.

Tampoco crea que lo de acochinarse en tablas cuando una de sus candidatas dijo algo absolutamente coherente sobre la infame ley de violencia de género -que consagra la desigualdad en razón de sexo- le favoreció. ¿Por qué no defendió sus planteamientos en lugar de esconderse?

El PP de Rajoy le ha tendido todas las trampas que ha podido porque prefería tener enfrente a un stalinista y presentarlo como el coco en lugar de tenerle a usted. Eso era esperable; lo que no era tan esperable es que usted haya caído en todas ellas. La vanidad le ha podido.

¿Qué ocurrirá ahora? Si no hay nuevas elecciones y ustedes trabajan bien, tienen una oportunidad. Si hay nuevas elecciones, su paso a la nada va a ser mucho más rápido que el de Rosa Díez porque para muchos -entre los que seguiré sin contarme- prevalecerá la doctrina del voto útil.

#20D Incertidumbre sí. Indecisión no

Ciertamente hay motivos para la incertidumbre. No sólo no sabemos qué puede pasar tanto en los resultados como en las posibles alianzas posteriores sino que tampoco tenemos muy claro que van a hacer los que decidamos votar.

Excluyo de cualquier posible indecisión a aquéllos que, financiados y apoyados por las dictaduras más repugnantes del mundo, ahora vienen a dar lecciones. Por mucho que quieran borrar su pasado, al mejor estilo orwelliano, éste sigue estando ahí y es el que dice quiénes son porque todavía no se estaban intentando maquillar.

¿Qué ocurre con las opciones que, con todas las limitaciones que hacen al caso, podríamos considerar democráticas? Las maniobras de unos y otros han enturbiado bastante el terreno.

Albert Rivera, de Ciudadanos, dijo al principio que no apoyaría a Rajoy y más tarde añadió que no apoyaría a Sánchez. La reacción de éstos, en el mejor estilo nazionalista, ha sido identificar a sus partidos con ellos mismos y dar por supuesto que iba a pactar con el otro y abrirle la puerta a fuerzas claramente fascistas en su modo de actuar.

Sin embargo, Rivera en ningún momento dijo que no pactaría con el PP -lo ha hecho en Madrid- ni que no pactaría con el PSOE -lo ha hecho en Andalucía- por lo que la negativa a apoyar a los cabezas de lista de cada uno de los partidos no tiene por qué hacerse extensiva al partido en su conjunto.

¿Se puede votar razonablemente al PP? Sí, pero el PP de Rajoy apareció con dos banderas: Regeneración de la vida política y acabar con el sectarismo de la etapa ZP derogando las medidas de corte más sectario de éste. No hizo ninguna de las dos cosas y, además, subió los impuestos hasta límites inconcebibles y, por cierto, a los que es más fácil esquilmar. Después de eso ¿Se puede votar razonablemente al PP de Rajoy incluso aunque se coincida con el ideario del PP? Creo que no.

¿Se puede votar razonablemente al PSOE? Sí, pero el PSOE de Sánchez es pura continuidad del PSOE más sectario que ha existido en la época moderna y recuerda demasiado al de Zapatero. Por si quedaban algunas dudas, ha traído de la mano a gente cuyas credenciales democráticas no son dudosas sino inexistentes y llegó al extremo de declinar en Madrid la oferta de gobernar el Ayuntamiento incondicionalmente para, en lugar de eso, entregar el Ayuntamiento a destacados miembros de esos grupos. ¿Se puede votar razonablemente al PSOE de Sánchez? Lo visto hasta ahora demuestra claramente que no.

Hasta aquí, parece que lo que dice el líder de Ciudadanos tiene sentido pero ¿nos podemos fiar de él? Lo único que sabemos es que tiene una larga trayectoria en la lucha contra el nazionalismo y, en ese terreno, supera ampliamente a ambos partidos mayores pero ¿qué más? Han crecido por aluvión, lo que sin duda ha dado entrada a mucho oportunista que hará que no tarden en surgir episodios de corrupción y muchos de los programas están cogidos con pinzas más pensando en no ofender a nadie que en plantear una opción con consistencia interna. ¿Tienen razón PP y PSOE cuando les acusan de no tener ninguna experiencia de gobierno? Desde luego pero a ambos, especialmente al PSOE, se les puede preguntar qué experiencia de gobierno tenían cuando consiguieron la mayoría absoluta en 1982? Ninguna…y al principio no fue mal del todo. Cuando consideraron que aquello era su cortijo y empezaron a manejarlo como tal las cosas cambiaron.

¿Incertidumbre sobre qué haría Ciudadanos si fuera clave para la formación de gobierno? Toda. Sin embargo, en este momento parece que hemos llegado a una situación en que la incertidumbre es preferida a las certezas. Sabemos perfectamente qué podemos esperar de Rajoy, Sánchez y no digamos de Iglesias y ésa puede ser una buena razón para optar por lo menos conocido.

RENFE: Un ejemplo de pésimo servicio y falta de capacidad de respuesta



El pasado miércoles tuve que hacer un viaje que implicaba un trasbordo de tren en la estación de Madrid-Chamartín.

RENFE se jacta en su publicidad de la puntualidad de los trenes de alta velocidad y, en general, suelen llegar a su hora pero en esta ocasión no fue así. Puede ocurrir y, siempre que ocurra con poca frecuencia, es una contingencia que debe ser admitida por el viajero. Otra cosa distinta es cómo su incapacidad de respuesta a esa sencilla contingencia no sólo no corrige sino que agrava los problemas producidos:

La hora de llegada del tren de alta velocidad estaba establecida en las 7:50. Si el tren era puntual, tenía tiempo suficiente para alcanzar al otro tren que salía a las 8:00, máxime si, como todo viajero frecuente sabe, RENFE se reserva un pequeño colchón de unos minutos y la hora de llegada real suele ser cuatro o cinco minutos anterior a la hora informada. Aunque no hubiera sido así, había tiempo y el siguiente tren salía hora y cuarto después. La elección, por tanto, estaba clara.

Cuando el tren comenzó a pararse por causas no explicadas, vi que tal vez no llegase al tren pero, una vez que recuperó su marcha normal, se hizo evidente que sí podía llegar aunque muy justo de tiempo…y aquí empezó la parte divertida:

Lo primero que hice es buscar al interventor del tren para buscar información sobre la vía de salida de mi otro tren. De esa forma, en lugar de pasar por el vestíbulo y perder dos o tres minutos vitales podía ir por el paso subterráneo bajo las vías y llegar. El interventor estaba convenientemente escondido en una de las cabinas de mando y no hubo forma de hacer contacto con él.

Probé otra opción: El teléfono 902 de RENFE que, para mayor sorna, atienden como “RENFE contigo” donde, tras dificultades para contactar con ellos, dijeron que ellos no tenían ese tipo de información.

Aunque salí el primero del tren, no había en el andén ningún panel que indicase el tráfico en las otras vías y, aunque estaba viendo mi tren en otra vía, no sabía en cuál estaba. Entré por el paso subterráneo pero tampoco allí había ningún panel ni ninguna información sobre cuál era el tren que estaba estacionado justo arriba con lo que salí a un andén equivocado. Volví a entrar al paso subterráneo y llegué al andén correcto justo para ver el tren salir delante de mí.

La historia no acaba aquí. Al ir al área de “Agresión al Cliente” para que me cambiasen el billete, una persona con más aspecto de trabajar en una funeraria que atendiendo a clientes vivos me informó de dos puntos:

  1. Debido al tipo de tarifa que llevaba, a pesar de que el hecho de perder el tren era 100% imputable a RENFE, no me podían cambiar el billete sino que tenía que comprar uno nuevo.
  2. Esto no ocurriría si hubiera dejado entre la llegada del primer tren y la salida del segundo un intervalo de…¡¡¡UNA HORA!!!. Supongo que cuando RENFE hace su publicidad acerca de la puntualidad de los trenes, omite pequeños detalles como éste.

Esto significó, además de perder el dinero de un billete debido a la incompetencia de RENFE, ir a la oficina de venta de billetes donde había una persona en la ventanilla y un montón de personas más de charla a dos o tres metros de los que atendían a los sufridos viajeros que hacían cola.

Aunque presenté la reclamación correspondiente, sea cual sea el resultado, la capacidad de respuesta de RENFE y su absoluta incapacidad para atender contingencias sencillas, quedó totalmente en evidencia.

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