Last week there were alarming headlines when the fuselage of a new model of Boeing's 777 airliner split while undergoing a stress test.
Boeing got an unexpected jolt in September when engineers in Everett put the new 777X airframe through an extreme test of its structural strength. Just as the test approached its target stress level, an explosive depressurization tore through the fuselage.
Boeing has kept the details secret, but photos obtained by the Seattle Times show that the extent of the damage was greater than previously disclosed and earlier reports were wrong about crucial details.
The test plane is a complete write-off, its fuselage skin ripped wide open just behind the wing. A passenger door that blew out and fell to the factory floor was a secondary impact of the initial rupture, which was located far below the door.
The relatively good news for Boeing is that because the test failed so explosively at just 1% shy of meeting federal requirements, it will almost certainly not have to do a retest. Regulators will likely allow it to prove by analysis that it’s enough to reinforce the fuselage in the localized area where it failed.
There's more at the link, including details of the test that led to the failure and photographs of the damage. Interesting reading for aviation and engineering buffs.
The thing is, such testing is normal (as the linked article points out in smaller print, further down the text). To suffer such a catastrophic failure is a nasty surprise to those nearby, but that's what the test is designed to induce, if necessary. The fuselage and wings were already 99% of the way to successful completion of the test when the failure occurred, at a point far past the stresses that could conceivably be experienced during normal flight. That's why Boeing appears unruffled by the failure, and will probably be allowed to demonstrate via calculation that it's added enough strengthening to affected areas to gain that extra 1% of safety margin.
The news media simply don't have the technical expertise any longer to adequately evaluate such events, largely because they don't want (or can't afford) to spend the money to employ specialist journalists who can understand and interpret them correctly. I can remember when an "aviation correspondent" was actually qualified for his position in any one of a number of ways - former military pilot, former airline pilot, engineering background, whatever. They knew whereof they spoke, and therefore they spoke with some authority. Anyone from those backgrounds would have understood that this "failure" was, in fact, a deliberately planned experiment, and the "problem" was, in fact, a demonstration of considerable success.
Nowadays, in aviation as in almost every other field of activity, the journalist(s) concerned are likely to be media studies graduates, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing", as the Bard would put it. They don't understand the subject, so they mistake a legitimate engineering test (and its result) for a disaster. It wasn't.
Which leads us to consider their political