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Since the 1970's the calculation revolution instigated by the use of computer analysis has given the engineer quicker and more accurate answers. Computer analysis can even solve some problems of highly redundant structures that were practically impossible to calculate in the past.

The merits of using computer hardware and software are not disputed; however, "Murphy's law" is always operative everywhere and mistakes do happen in design. An engineer who only knows how to do inputs to computer analysis may not know whether or not the output is correct (the garbage-in and garbage-out process!). An engineer is not a robot or a machine; ingenuity comes from the engineer, not the machine. Unfortunately, industries ignore engineers to pursue the necessary experience due to cost considerations. But, engineers cannot learn valuable experience from computers; the computer is just a beautiful tool and is not everything!

A second issue is work experience; in particular, engineers now spend most of their time in front of computer screens and the importance of communication with colleagues from other disciplines, i.e. team work is overlooked. Engineers are losing the opportunity to gain needed experience from the "old timers". The end result is that industries gradually lose the most valuable experience, which will pass away along with the retiring engineers of the "old school". Industries should ask retiring engineers to write down their valuable experience in report form before they leave so that valuable experience will be passed on to those who follow. Industry management spends too much effort on figuring out how to save on costs, but, in the long run, they lose the bases of experience, and will end up as big losers. If this situation is not remedied soon, the aircraft manufacturing industries as well as other industries will walk into backlash.

Another issue concerns aging aircraft, an issue that has been debated since Aloha Airlines' old B737 aircraft disaster, but as yet nobody, including the aircraft manufacturers and users, wants to define the flyable life of the aircraft, i.e. limit flight hours or years of service, whichever is more appropriate. From the structural engineer's standpoint, we realize that any metallic structure has its own fatigue life, just like the human body, and no life can go on forever, even with vigilant maintenance work. When a vehicle becomes too old, even excellent maintenance is of no use. If the aircraft has problem in midair, it will fall and, unlike ground vehicles, cannot stop to wait for rescue.

The ultimate goal of the aircraft manufacturers and the government certifying agency should be to determine a standard for a reasonable and affordable life span for aircraft to reduce peril to passengers. This should be done now, before more lives are lost.


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