Could Boeing’s latest failure, the botched launch of its Starliner space vehicle, be what the company needs to finally head in the right direction? At the least, Boeing should take it as a lesson – imperfect as it may be – in how to respond to a crisis.
Boeing’s newest problem came Friday, following a perfect liftoff of the spacecraft. An error in setting an internal clock caused the Starliner to mistime a subsequent engine firing. Instead of a rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station, the unmanned craft became stuck in an unplanned orbit.
The misstep came in the same week as Boeing announced a temporary halt to production of its much-maligned 737 MAX airliner. Hundreds of the planes have been grounded since March after two of the model were involved in crashes related to software failures. And, airlines started telling customers this week not to expect the 737 MAX jets to return to service until at least June.
If there is a silver lining to the Starliner event – along with the fact that no one was injured – it was that Boeing accepted responsibility up front.
Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division, joined NASA officials and others at a news conference shortly after the misfire to explain what went wrong. Chilton was quick to praise NASA and United Launch Alliance, which provided the Atlas V rocket that launched the Starliner.
Chilton also laid out what happened. “The vehicle was not on the right timer,” he said, simply. “We don’t know why it wasn’t.” No throwing anyone else under the bus.
This differs markedly from what happened after the 737 MAX crashes, where Boeing was slow to accept any responsibility and tried to shift at least some of the blame to others.
The reason for the change in Boeing’s approach may be at least two fold.
First, the whole world was watching. It was clear the launch went perfectly, and the problem occurred with Boeing’s vehicle. It was hard for Boeing to deny responsibility. But it could have delayed its response. That’s what happened last spring when Elon Musk’s SpaceX took two weeks to admit that what it called an “anomaly” involving a ground test of its space crew capsule was really a fiery explosion that destroyed it.
Just as important, probably, was that Boeing has partners whose reputations also are on the line – especially NASA and its administrator, Jim Bridenstine. As the first “non-technical” person to lead NASA, the appointment of the former Texas congressman was controversial.
Bridenstine took pains early on to draw a not-so-subtle distinction between this incident and the 737 MAX. Before three minutes had elapsed in the news conference, he said:
“I want to be very clear about this. We as an agency and our partners at Boeing and [United Launch Alliance] have committed that when there is something that is a challenge we will be very clear and transparent about it, and we will share information as early as possible. We have done that and will continue to do that. It is important for us to build trust with the American taxpayers so that we can continue to do these magnificent things.”
Bridenstine’s comments would have been better had he not opened by saying, “Today, a lot of things went right,” and pushed that narrative a little too much. While true, it came across as trying to manage the news. And, it felt like an unintended/unfortunate dis of the doomed MAX pilots when Bridenstine talked about how the Starliner mishap might not have happened had there been trained astronauts aboard to take over the controls.
But, Bridenstine was out there at the news conference. He didn’t stand behind any NASA spokespeople. This kind of event calls for seeing the person in charge.
Maybe this is the lesson Boeing needs. When you mess up, admit it and fix it. Don’t try to wait it out or blame someone else.
Boeing has failed mightily over the last year to repair its reputation. It has – to its detriment – tried to convince investors the 737 MAX fix would be easy and quick. It wasn’t and hasn’t. It has run full-page newspaper ads and attempted other PR efforts to push along regulators. That has resulted in criticism from the Federal Aviation Administration and others. It even installed a new public relations vice president.
No one is sure what is ahead for Boeing, but it would be a good sign if they admit what a big mess it is in and that it will take a long time to fix it. It’s not like everyone else doesn’t know it already.
A baby tyrannosaurus fossil found in central Alberta is helping the scientific community get a better understanding of how the dinosaur species developed at an early age.
University of Alberta PhD student Mark Powers was a part of the research team that found a claw from an embryo near the village of Morrin, about 270 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, a few years ago. The fossil, which dated back roughly 71.5 million years ago, was notable as it captured the dinosaur while still in early development.
The claw, about a centimetre long, was paired with another fossil, a jawbone, which was discovered in the ’80s in the United States.
Powers said researchers have a good grasp of tyrannosaurus during its teenage to adult years but there are few records of what they were like while very young. He said the smallest identifiable tyrannosaur on record is usually already three to four years old.
“We didn’t know anything about them hatching or their first year,” Powers said. “Finding these two specimens shows that they are around, and it gives us a search image to search for more babies. It helps to fill in the entire sequence of growing for a tyrannosaurus. We had a good idea of teenagers and later, but we had no idea about the babies.”
Bird feeders have become a source of pandemic joy for bird lovers in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, but they could be leading to an illness in birds including the pine siskin, a very small songbird species.
The Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. says its hospital has admitted more than 78 pine siskins earlier in the month due to what appears to be a potential outbreak of salmonellosis. On Vancouver Island, the Greater Victoria Wild Animal Rehabilitation Clinic has taken in about 50 pine siskins showing signs of disease.
Many of them have since died.
While the disease is still being confirmed, the B.C. SPCA is asking people to temporarily take down their bird feeders to help control the spread of salmonella.
Andrea Wallace, the manager of wild animal welfare at the B.C. SPCA, says bird feeders are a way that disease can spread very quickly among among the birds.
“Bird feeders are a congregation point where birds will come and feed close together in an unnatural environment,” Wallace said to host Kathryn Marlow on CBC’s All Points West.
“If you think about how birds would naturally forage for food, they are distributed over a wide area and they are not coming into contact with each other so closely.”
So far, Wallace says, it’s only really been pine siskins that have been affected by the illness — and she’s says it’s not entirely clear why.
“It is really disheartening to see so many of them coming into care this year. We had absolutely nothing like this last year or even the year before, so it’s pretty alarming when its happening in these kind of numbers.”
Some symptoms of an infected bird include lethargy, difficulty breathing and a puffed-up appearance.
“These birds can be very lethargic and not respond to predators. They can also become disoriented and hit windows,” Wallace said.
If you do encounter an infected bird, Wallace says you can get the bird to a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Wear gloves and use a blanket before picking up the bird, and place it in a fabric-lined, well-ventilated box for transport.
“One thing we don’t want is these birds to be out in the wild and suffering unnecessarily and also potentially infecting other animals.”
The BC SPCA is asking you to remove your bird feeders for the time being.
The organization says it’s because a deadly salmonella outbreak that has spread throughout the province, especially on South Vancouver Island.
“2021 has gotten off to a rough start for pine siskins on southern Vancouver Island and the rest of the province with a deadly outbreak of salmonella,” says Andrea Wallace, manager of wild animal welfare.
So far in January, the BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) has admitted 43 pine siskin birds with many of them showing signs of disease but few surviving.
“Salmonella is a severe and contagious disease so we’re asking people to temporarily remove, or at the very least clean, their bird feeders and birdbaths to prevent further spread of the disease,” says Wallace.
The BC SPCA is asking that if you don’t bring your bird feeders and birdbaths inside, that you:
Regularly cleaning your feeder
Discard any remaining seed before cleaning
Wash feeder with soap and water – use a bottle brush for small spaces
Wash feeder again with a 10% bleach solution
Rinse and air-dry completely
Fill with fresh seed
If you see sick birds at your feeder or in the area, immediately remove or clean your bird feeders to help curb the disease.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.