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Flight Data

April 25, 2013
I'm hoping this isn't the flight board when I travel tomorrow.

I’m hoping this isn’t the flight board when I travel tomorrow.

I’m getting ready to fly tomorrow, heading to SQL Saturday #175 in Fargo, ND. I have a morning flight, to give me a little time in the afternoon to go see the woodchipper. That’s if I don’t have any delays. I am planning on working in the airport and on the plane, so I won’t be less productive if there are, but I might not get the chance to see the famous machine from the movie.

I’ll have a quick turnaround after this trip as well, coming home for a little over 24 hours before I turn around and head to the UK for meetings at Red Gate next week and SQL Bits XI next weekend. I’m hoping that none of the airlines have data issues since those can severely impact my travel times. Last week American Airlines had computer issues, and while United hasn’t had any in awhile, my fingers are crossed that this won’t be the weekend their systems go down.

We have gotten so computerized with many of our transportation systems that problems can interrupt service, usually just causing annoyances, but there is a potential for lives to be lost. Since we don’t often know why the systems fail, it’s hard to know to what extend we have poor coding issues, improper secure development, incorrect configuration, employees susceptible to social engineering or something else. We even had a computer failure in space, though I’m sure the astronauts weren’t annoyed by the alert.

These days it becomes increasingly hard to roll back to manual processes, not because of the complexity of the systems, but also because the knowledge on how the processes should work is being lost as employees leave the company. This means more delays, but hopefully not important safety rules being ignored or forgotten. I know the airlines have invested heavily in IT, and flights record a lot of data, but I hope they’ve done so in a distributed fashion. Lots of caching, fault tolerance, and most importantly, communication to allow their operations to proceed when the real world interferes.

Steve Jones


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