The Search for Answers

Aircraft’s disappearance prompts
questions on technology,
ways to improve safety

Questions about the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and theories of its demise will linger for months—perhaps years.

Questions, however, go beyond what exactly happened to the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people that night in March. Are changes in flight operations and technology needed to improve aviation safety? What can win back the confidence of some air travelers dismayed by the mystery? What steps should be taken to assist in future crash investigations?

"Accidents are rare, but the current search for MH370 is a reminder that we can never be complacent on safety," said Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). "It may well [be] a long time before we know exactly what happened on that flight. But it is already clear that we must never let another aircraft go missing in this way."1

IATA has formed a task force to make recommendations on how to improve aircraft tracking by the end of the year. Perhaps a beefed-up satellite-based navigation system can help better track airplanes, the Air Line Pilots Association said.

The National Transportation Safety Board already had been researching a new system that would uplink data about a plane’s location, direction, equipment functions and about 30 other parameters to orbiting satellites, which would beam the data back to the ground for storage. In the event of a crash, that data could be easily accessed and analyzed for clues.2

"In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief that an aircraft could simply disappear," Tyler said. "We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish."3

Tyler also said he wants "urgent action and careful analysis" to produce worldwide standards intended to help transmit the position of commercial aircraft regardless of where they fly. The group also wants to study how to guarantee tracking couldn’t be disabled under any circumstances.4

Other discussions on changes to flight procedures and technology include:

Real-time streaming of flight data—The Canadian company Flyht Aerospace Solutions has a device that can automatically monitor aircraft-in-flight data such as location, altitude and performance, and send updates every five to 10 minutes. The system—which costs about $100,000 per installation—can be programmed to recognize when something goes wrong and begin live-streaming of data.

"We would know where the aircraft has gone, where it is, and we would have information on what had happened in the meantime," said Flyht director Richard Hayden.5

Cockpit monitoring and security—Cameras in the cockpit would allow investigators to see and hear all that happens in the cockpit and clarify who is at the controls. Some opponents, however, worry this measure would be an invasion of the pilots’ privacy and may affect how they perform.

Shortly after the disappearance of Flight 370, Malaysian Airlines increased security in and around the cockpit. An extra crew member is now added to the cockpit when one of the plane’s two pilots takes a bathroom break so there are always two officers at the plane’s controls. A crew member also must stand guard at the cockpit door when it is opened to provide the pilots a meal.6

Better locator beacons—The limited battery life for the underwater locator beacons hampered search efforts to find Flight 370 and its flight recorders. The aircraft’s pinging beacon device was intended to last about 30 days. For years, regulators and the airline industry have undertaken efforts to increase the beacon battery life to 90 days and require the pingers to be attached to aircraft airframes, making it easier to locate wreckage. In addition, a next generation of pingers can emit sound that can be heard six to 10 miles away.7

Improvements in passenger screening—Two passengers on Flight 370 had boarded with false papers. This initially raised speculation of a possible terrorist link, but it was later determined the two were asylum seekers bound for Europe.

"It is important to remember that airlines aren’t border guards or policemen," Tyler said. "Whether or not there is a security dimension to this tragedy, that two passengers could board an aircraft with fake passports rings alarm bells."8

Many other changes to flight operations and aviation activities are being debated: increasing capacity for data and voice recorders; using transponders that detach from a downed aircraft on impact and float; mandating software upgrades for airplanes’ satellite systems; and finding ways to encourage more international cooperation and data sharing.

"No matter how safe or secure we make the air transport network, these types of events remind our entire sector that no effort is ever enough, no solution is ever a reason to stop seeking further improvement," said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, council president of the International Civil Aviation Organization.9

—Compiled from wire reports


  1. Rob Stott, "Air Transporters Urge Better Tracking in Wake of Missing Flight 370," Associations Now, April 3, 2014, http://associationsnow.com/2014/04/air-transporters-urge-better-tracking-wake-missing-flight-370.
  2. Ray Sanchez and Tom Cohen, "Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Could Spur Air Safety Changes," CNN, March 21, 2014, www.cnn.com/2014/03/21/world/asia/airplane-safety-changes.
  3. Eileen Ng and Nick Perry, "Industry Group Seeks Continuous Flight Tracking," Associated Press, April 1, 2014, www.myfoxal.com/story/25124970/industry-group-seeks-continuous-flight-tracking.
  4. Andy Pasztor and Jon Ostrower, "Support Grows to Make Jets Tamper-Proof," Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304819004579485942374582308.
  5. Sanchez and Cohen, "Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Could Spur Air Safety Changes," see reference 2.
  6. Richard Shears and Jill Reilly, "Malaysian Airlines Introduce Anti-Hijacking Measures," Daily Mail Online, April 1, 2014, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2593997/dramatic-measures-improve-safety-malaysian-airlines-planes-revealed-australia-deploys-flying-air-traffic-controller-prevent-mid-air-collision-crowded-search-skies.html#ixzz2yoqefjfr.
  7. Danielle Wiener-Bronner, "Will Flight 370 Change the Future of Flying?" MSN News, April 3, 2014, http://news.msn.com/world/will-flight-370-change-the-future-of-flying.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Aimee Turner, "ICAO Convenes Flight Tracking Summit," Air Traffic Management, April 8, 2014, www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/04/icao-convenes-flight-tracking-summit.


Automakers Set SR
Guidelines for Suppliers

An unprecedented agreement has been reached among 14 global automakers on a set of standards outlining expectations for suppliers on key responsibility issues including human rights, environment, working conditions and business ethics.

Two leading corporate responsibility business associations, the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Europe—the facilitator of the European Automotive Working Group on Supply Chain Sustainability—recently announced the agreement.

Automakers involved in the initiative include BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC., Daimler, Fiat S.p.A., Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda, Jaguar/Land Rover, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Scania, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo Cars and Volvo Group.

To establish the guiding principles, AIAG and CSR Europe worked with the 14 automakers to find the common points of agreement among the companies. Individual auto companies may have their own standards, codes and policies that supersede the common guiding principles.

"We built on the guidelines that AIAG and its member companies had established, expanding the principles and messages so they would apply to the broadest possible range of suppliers. This allows us to drive the sustainability agenda in the automotive sector even further," said Stefan Crets, executive director at CSR Europe.

For more information, visit www.aiag.org/staticcontent/press/index.cfm.

Short Runs

A NEW QUALITY management systems standard on laboratory internal audit programs has been released by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute. QMS15-A—Laboratory Internal Audit Program; Approved Guideline provides guidance on how a laboratory can ensure it meets applicable requirements for quality system essentials assessments. For more information, visit www.clsi.org.

A NEW MEASUREMENT from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) rates user website experience across 33 different consumer industries, offering a first-of-its-kind index of website satisfaction at national, sector and industry levels. Inaugural results show aggregate website satisfaction is 78.2 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, which stands 2% higher than overall customer satisfaction for all measured companies (76.7). For more information, visit www.theacsi.org/news-and-resources.

MAY 31 is the deadline to submit paper proposals for the Quality Function Deployment Institute’s 26th Symposium on QFD, to be held Dec. 5 in Charleston, SC. For details, visit www.qfdi.org/call_for_papers_form.html.

EXCELLENCE CANADA, a not-for profit quality and organizational excellence organization, will host its 30th annual Performance Excellence Summit and Canada Awards for Excellence conference Oct. 30 in Toronto. For more information, visit www.excellencesummit.ca.

THE AMERICAN PRODUCTIVITY & Quality Center (APQC) has been named to the 2014 list of "100 Companies That Matter in Knowledge Management," presented by KMWorld magazine. This is the fourth time APQC has appeared on the list. For more information, visit www.apqc.org/apqc-among-100-companies-matter-knowledge-management-2014-0.

THE AMERICAN STATISTICAL Association has added a new preparatory level to its voluntary, individual statistician accreditation program. Called Graduate Statistician (GStat), the new entry-level accreditation is designed for individuals who have attained the education requirements necessary for the professional statistician level but do not possess the experience and expertise required. For more information, visit www.amstat.org.

THE 20TH INTERNATIONAL Conference of the Israel Society for Quality will take place Nov. 18-20 in Tel Aviv. The conference will focus on organizations creating customer-centric cultures. Abstracts for presentations are due May 31. For more information, visit www.isas.co.il/quality2014.

THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION for Food Protection will hold its annual meeting Aug. 3-6 in Indianapolis. The event will feature sessions on current and emerging food safety issues, the latest science, and innovative solutions to new and recurring problems. Visit www.foodprotection.org/annualmeeting for more details.

THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Nneka Mobisson-Etuk, has been named to the World Economic Forum’s "Young Global Leader" class of 2014. Mobisson-Etuk leads IHI efforts with partnerships in Africa to reduce maternal, infant and under-5 mortality. IHI is an independent, not-for-profit organization that works to improve healthcare quality and make health systems more efficient and cost effective. For more details about Mobisson-Etuk, visit www.ihi.org/about/news/pages/default.aspx.

ELEVEN U.S. HOSPITALS have been recognized for their user-friendly websites that promote transparency of safety and quality measures. The awards were presented by the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission, a nonprofit organization promoting healthcare quality by accrediting healthcare organizations, and the Leapfrog Group, a business group seeking improvements in the safety, quality and affordability of healthcare. For the complete list of hospitals and more information about the awards, visit www.urac.org/press-room/media-center.

THE 12TH AUSTRALASIAN Conference on Mathematics and Computers in Sport will be held June 25-27 in Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory in Australia. The event brings together sports scientists, mathematicians and statisticians who want to learn more about the use of computers in sports, statistics and statistical modeling in sports, and applying these concepts to improve coaching and individual performance. For more information, visit www.anziam.org.au.

By the Numbers


The number of professional certifications ASQ issued in the United States last year as part of its partnership with the Manufacturing Institute. The partnership is designed to help fill advanced manufacturing positions. ASQ and 14 other leading organizations representing multiple industry sectors offer skills certification programs within the partnership program. Since 2011, 294,478 certifications have been issued by all partners. For more information, visit www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2014/20140325-train-next-generationy.html.

ASQ News

ASQ QUALITY INSTITUTE For the second year in a row, ASQ is offering a series of introductory quality courses July 14-16 in Milwaukee. The classroom-based training will cover topics such as corrective and preventive action, cost of quality implementation, lean and auditing. For more information about specific courses and special offers, visit www.asq.org/mke.

NEW CASE STUDY ASQ’s Knowledge Center has released a new case study about Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and how it used quality tools and methods to make the cleaning procedure at its salt facility in St. Louis more efficient. Read more at http://asq.org/2014/04/lean/clean-approach-saves-money.pdf.


Select Speaker Sessions
To Be Streamed Live

For the first time, you can watch a select number of speaker sessions from this year’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement through a live-stream video feed.

Through ASQ TV, three conference sessions can be accessed on smartphones, tablets and computers by those unable to attend the conference May 5-7 in Dallas.

After the conference, the same three sessions will be available for viewers on demand. The speakers to be featured in this new offering are:

Bob Pence, CEO of Freese and Nichols Inc., an engineering, architecture and environmental science firm with locations in Texas and North Carolina. He was at the organization’s helm when it became the first engineering/architecture firm to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2010. Live streaming of his presentation will be from 12:15-1:15 p.m. CST Monday, May 5.

Alicia Boler-Davis, senior vice president, global quality and global customer experience, at General Motors Co. (GM). Her previous GM positions were U.S. vice president, customer experience, and vice president, global quality and U.S. customer experience.

She is also the first African-American woman to be appointed to the position of plant manager at a GM vehicle manufacturing plant. Live streaming of Boler-Davis’ presentation will be from 1:15-2:15 p.m. CST Tuesday, May 6.

Simon T. Bailey, a leadership expert who provides tips, tools and techniques on how to release potential in what he calls the world’s most important asset—people. He is the former leader of the Disney Institute and founder of Brilliance Institute Inc. Live streaming of Bailey’s presentation will be from 9:15-10:15 a.m. CST Wednesday, May 7.

To register for the live events or to access the video sessions on demand, visit http://videos.asq.org/live. Each session costs $15 for ASQ members and $30 for nonmembers.

For more about the three-day conference, visit http://wcqi.asq.org.

Finalists Named For Team Awards

Forty global teams from 14 countries have been selected as finalists in the 20th annual International Team Excellence Award Process.

The teams will be part of the quality impact sessions and live team case study presentations May 5-7 at ASQ’s annual World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas.

The finalists will showcase their creative, innovative solutions and organizational cost-savings. Conference attendees can observe team project presentations at ASQ’s annual event.

For a complete list of the finalists and their project summaries, visit http://wcqi.asq.org.

ASQ Journal Spotlight

QP occasionally highlights an open-access article from one of ASQ’s seven other journals. This month, read "Estimating the Change Point of Correlated Poisson Count Processes," which appeared in April’s edition of Quality Engineering (QE).

To access the article, click on the "Current Issue" link on QE’s website: http://asq.org/pub/qe/2014/vol26-no1/index.html. From there, you also can find a link to information about subscribing to the quarterly publication.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: David Foxx.

RESIDENCE: St. Augustine, FL.

EDUCATION: MBA from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso.

FIRST JOB RELATED TO QUALITY: Foxx’s keen interest in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of processes, products and services drove him to his engineering degree and other opportunities to pursue those interests. He says his "best aligned opportunity" out of college was leading the total quality management deployment at General Dynamics Electronics Division.

CURRENT JOB: President of DSF Consulting and Foxx Solutions.

PREVIOUS JOB: Among other noteworthy accomplishments, he mentored 32 product development teams in the development of the design, assembly and operations of the General Dynamics’ Advanced Launch System. Foxx also worked at Handgards, which makes products for the food service industry, gave him the opportunity to return to a small company and to develop products, handle a variety of responsibilities and work with his father. He also developed "design for excellence in currency" for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Member of the quality review board for ASQ Quality Press; helped develop the Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt certifications; held numerous chair positions in various sections; spoke at several ASQ dinners and conferences; International Team Excellence Award judge.

OTHER ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS: Board member of Deming User Group in San Diego and a senior member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

RECENT HONORS: In supporting improvement in government, Foxx was recognized by the Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Information Service and U.S. Army Program Executive Officer Enterprise Information Systems. He also has been recognized by many commercial organizations, including E&J Gallo Winery. Foxx was included in the 2013 class of ASQ fellows.

PUBLISHED WORKS: Co-author of The Lean Handbook—A Guide to the Bronze Certification Body of Knowledge (ASQ Quality Press, 2012).

PERSONAL: Married to Mary J. Foxx. Two children.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Remodeling his home and golfing.

QUALITY QUOTE: With much focus and marketing about methods, tools and approach preferences, it is most important to remember that quality is about people.

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