After another week of speculation about the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370 the big question isn’t so much ‘what happened?’ as ‘why didn’t someone think of inventing some sort of advanced technology to locate any flight, no matter what goes wrong, no matter where it ends up?’
Did no-one think of it? Or did they deliberately reject that thought?
Every single design decision is an allocation of time, talent, money and resources; whatever you spend on one thing can’t be spent elsewhere. That’s why designers must ask questions like:
Do we need planes that are easier to find… or planes that are harder to lose?
One design choice is smarter than the other: you don’t have to solve a problem if you can prevent it happening in the first place.
Weigh up the choices: improved tracking and communications might make planes easier to locate but they won’t reduce the chances of disaster… whereas improved reliability, security and safety systems will protect our aircraft AND THEREBY lower the need for better recovery technology.
Of course, none of that helps poor people on MH370, wherever they are.
But let’s not forget why this event is such big news; because it’s so rare.
It’s not that designers don’t think about these things.
It’s that they think twice about them.