AN AIRCRAFT ENGINEER UPHOLDS TEST STANDARDS

September 29th, 2012
Jim Thomas

In 1961 engineer John Doe (name disguised at his request) was employed in the test laboratory at Lockheed Aircraft at Marietta Georgia. Lockheed was then a supplier of aircraft for the military. He was the youngest and least experienced of his co-workers.

At the time, those who designed the parts in question and those charged with testing them comprised a single operations unit.

Doe’s duties included testing of aircraft parts, as well as assistance with drafting reports of the test results.  A piece of electrical paneling came in for testing. The device contained a series of circular openings, tiny holes for transmission of electrical current. When Doe ran the test some openings failed. While a limited number were allowed, in his judgment too many had failed.

When he informed those who had designed the panel, they rejected his opinion. They concluded the failures were merely random, in numbers allowed by test standards. They proceeded to report them as random failures. After all, they were more experienced than he.

Doe weighed the hard evidence and his choices. After much deliberation, he elected to by-pass his immediate superiors and co-workers. He provided the Department Head his own assessment of the test results. After reviewing them the man immediately agreed. He rejected the random test and promptly divided the designer-test unit, each with separate and distinct responsibilities. At a meeting of the entire department he said, “We were fortunate that the one with the least experience had integrity.”

Questions:

Do you agree with the opinion and actions of the Department Head?

Was there a lack of integrity by anyone?

How do you see the outcome?



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