Northwest Quantum Nexus unites pioneers on the weird frontier of computing

Northwest Quantum Nexus unites pioneers on the weird frontier of computing

11:25am, 18th March, 2019
Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory plan to employ quantum computing to develop new materials for chemical applications. (Microsoft Azure via YouTube) Experts in the weird and woolly field of quantum computing tend to concentrate on one slice of the challenge, whether it’s developing hardware, algorithms or applications — but in the region that’s home to Microsoft and Amazon, the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a new consortium is going after the whole stack. We’re not talking about pancakes or sandwiches here. We’re talking about the, which is aiming to widen a network of quantum connections for researchers, developers and business leaders. The group, led by Microsoft Quantum, PNNL and UW, is having its inaugural summit this week at the university. Quantum computing goes in a direction that’s different from the classical computing techniques that have ruled the tech world for decades. In contrast to the on-or-off, one-or-zero bits of today’s digital computers, tomorrow’s quantum computers juggle fuzzy “qubits” that can be one-and-zero simultaneously until the result is read out. Researchers say the technique could potentially crack types of problems that classical computers couldn’t touch, even if they ran their algorithms for the lifetime of the universe. Over the next five years, the field will be getting a $1.2 billion boost in federal funding, thanks to the . And that flood of funding and attention is energizing computer scientists across the country. The Northwest Quantum Nexus aims to build a cluster for quantum research and development in Washington state, Oregon and British Columbia that’s analogous to the Midwest’s , the Boston area’s or . “We have a nice juxtaposition of all the same ingredients for quantum expertise as well as all of the ingredients that make this a real hotbed for the tech industry,” , director of PNNL’s Advanced Computing, Mathematics and Data Division, told GeekWire last week. “Together, that’s a perfect storm for making this thing feasible.” , general manager of in Redmond, Wash., said the Nexus has a “unique focus.” “Other centers are focusing on different aspects of quantum information science,” she said. “If you think of the stack for a quantum computer, we have algorithms and software at the top, then we have materials and the qubit design at the bottom. What we’re doing with the Nexus is that sandwich. We’re focusing on the sandwich elements to drive development on the other aspects, to drive scalability and accelerate the field.” Although the Northwest Quantum Nexus is just getting started, the Pacific Northwest has been a nexus for quantum information science for a long time. at its Redmond headquarters, and it’s . Just this month, the company to forge connections with startups and developers who are dialed into the Q# programming language and Microsoft’s . The Nexus and the Network provide complementary channels for building the infrastructure for quantum computing. PNNL, meanwhile, has been working to apply quantum computing principles to the development of exotic materials. Those efforts take advantage of computational chemistry tools such as the . Last year, for a quantum computing chemistry project. The University of Washington has a whole range of research areas that can take advantage of quantum principles, ranging from the purely theoretical to applied engineering. The different threads of research have recently been knit together into an initiative called . The University of Washington’s Kai-Mei Fu, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Nathan Baker and Microsoft’s Krysta Svore are among the organizers of the Northwest Quantum Nexus. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) All three keystone partners see the Nexus as a way to kick things up a notch by expanding public-private partnerships. “We’re not going to be able to address these research questions without multidisciplinary teams,” Baker said. “So some of what the Nexus needs to be doing is making connections. As a region, we want to be able to make it easier for the members of those multidisciplinary teams to find each other, find research problems, find opportunities and go after them.” For example, UW offered its first undergraduate-level class in quantum computing this quarter, with Microsoft computer scientists doing the teaching. , a UW associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering who’s also the co-chair of QuantumX, sees signs of a “whole paradigm shift in education.” “Most computer science departments don’t have people working in quantum information, and that has to change,” she said. “We need the brightest minds working in the field to take full advantage of the ‘quantum advantage.’ ” One of the best-known applications for quantum computing is in the security realm, either to crack encryption codes or to open the way for new methods of secure communications. That angle has gotten a lot of attention from the and from a . But Svore said the Nexus is focusing on other applications. “We don’t believe that the big commercial application is to go break codes, right?” she said. “We believe the big applications are to bring forward quantum solutions for businesses, quantum solutions for…” “… Materials science,” Fu said. “… Better batteries,” Baker added. “That’s the area,” Svore said. “Another unique focus for the Nexus is sustainability, , better materials. …” “Very Northwest,” Fu chimed in. “Yeah,” said Svore, laughing.
Jeff Bezos’ mysterious MARS conference gears up — and so do celebrity tweets

Jeff Bezos’ mysterious MARS conference gears up — and so do celebrity tweets

1:06am, 18th March, 2019
This picture of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos taking a stroll with a SpotMini robot dog went viral during last year’s MARS conference. What will he do this year? (Jeff Bezos via Twitter) If it’s March, it’s time for MARS: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ annual invitation-only festival celebrating Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space is ramping up in Palm Springs, Calif., and attendees are already starting to spread the word about the sights and insights. As usual, we’re on the outside looking in, based on tweets with the and reports from those closer to the scene at The Parker Resort. We know that “Star Wars” star Mark Hamill is at MARS because he shows up in the background of a selfie tweeted out by gravitational-wave researcher Chiara Mingarelli: When Luke Skywalker photobombs your selfie… you’re at — Dr Chiara Mingarelli (@Dr_CMingarelli) And we know that retired NASA astronaut Story Musgrave, one of the spacewalking saviors of the Hubble Space Telescope, is also in attendance — thanks to a couple of tweets from game developer Robin Baumgarten: Wobbling with astronaut Story Musgrave, nbd
Jeff Bezos’ mysterious MARS conference gears up — and so do the geeky tweets

Jeff Bezos’ mysterious MARS conference gears up — and so do the geeky tweets

11:33pm, 17th March, 2019
This picture of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos taking a stroll with a SpotMini robot dog went viral during last year’s MARS conference. What will he do this year? (Jeff Bezos via Twitter) If it’s March, it’s time for MARS: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ annual invitation-only festival celebrating Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space is ramping up in Palm Springs, Calif., and attendees are already starting to spread the word about the sights and insights. As usual, we’re on the outside looking in, based on tweets with the and reports from those closer to the scene at The Parker Resort. We know that retired NASA astronaut Story Musgrave, one of the spacewalking saviors of the Hubble Space Telescope, is in attendance — thanks to a couple of tweets from game developer Robin Baumgarten: Wobbling with astronaut Story Musgrave, nbd
Sources: Paul Allen’s family foundation plans to add advisers, with Steve Ballmer among prospects

Sources: Paul Allen’s family foundation plans to add advisers, with Steve Ballmer among prospects

9:11am, 15th March, 2019
Sources say Jody Allen is reshaping the leadership team for the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in the wake of last October’s death of her brother, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (Allen Institute / Kevin Cruff Photos) Five months after the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the billionaire’s sister is taking steps to put her own stamp on a family foundation thought to hold at least $750 million in assets. Sources tell GeekWire that Jody Allen, co-founder of the , is bringing fresh blood to the charitable organization. Among the names being mentioned as potential additions to the foundation’s board or to an advisory panel are former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nancy Peretsman, managing director of the New York investment bank Allen & Co. Three sources discussed the transition on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. No principals in the process — ranging from representatives of the foundation and the Allen family’s holding company, Vulcan Inc., to representatives of Ballmer and Peretsman — were willing to provide comment. Changes in emphasis have already come to light in the form of , and organizational shifts at the and But based on the reports from sources, the transition to the post-Paul era is likely to take months longer, if not years. Most aspects of Paul Allen’s legacy are staying constant: For example, the research institutes that Paul Allen created — focusing on subjects ranging from neuroscience to cell science to artificial intelligence — are said to be on solid footing for years to come. That’s largely due to arrangements that Allen made before his . In the past, the family foundation was exclusively directed by Paul and Jody Allen and people who worked for them. show the two Allens as the foundation’s sole directors. The organization’s officers and managers were all Vulcan executives, with the exception of assistant secretary Allen Israel, who was Paul Allen’s personal lawyer. The same forms list the foundation’s net assets as $756 million, with $43.4 million paid out for charitable purposes during 2016. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports a wide range of charitable programs — including efforts to monitor climate change’s effects on glaciers, on the world’s oceans and on coral reefs. It backed the , which , and is continuing to focus on employing high-tech tools for wildlife conservation. Combating homelessness, promoting arts and culture, and encouraging health innovations are also part of the foundation’s portfolio. Last year, the foundation to get a homeless resource center off the ground in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood. It has a rich history of . And just this week, it kicked off a challenge program aimed at . Widening a family foundation’s circle of advisers is a classic phase of organizational evolution, particularly after a major transition like the death of a founder, said Benjamin White, an Atlanta-based estate attorney who specializes in family-based philanthropy but isn’t familiar with the Allen family’s detailed circumstances. “If you want the foundation to continue for a very long time, you’ve got to get outsiders involved,” White told GeekWire. The shift suggests that the foundation could plot a future course distinct from that of Vulcan Inc.’s for-profit ventures. Ballmer and Peretsman may not have a direct business relationship with Vulcan Inc., but they’re not total outsiders, either. Peretsman worked with Paul Allen on a series of investment ventures going back more than two decades, including investments in and . She was named in Paul Allen’s as an alternate personal representative in case Jody Allen couldn’t take on that role. Ballmer, meanwhile, got to know Paul Allen during their time together at Microsoft. Allen in his 2011 autobiography “Idea Man,” but in the years that followed, the two billionaires became close friends. When news of Paul Allen’s death broke last October, Ballmer was one of the . “Paul was a truly wonderful, bright and inspiring person — and a great friend,” he wrote. “I will miss him.” In his post-Microsoft career, Ballmer built up years of expertise running his own family charity, the , and getting involved in civic projects such as . (Ballmer and USAFacts are partnering with GeekWire on a podcast and video series called ) He even credits Paul Allen, who bought the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, with getting him involved in the sports world through his . “He used to yell at me, ‘Steve, you got to do it, it will fire you up,’ ” . “That too changed my life for the better.” If Ballmer takes on a role with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, he’ll be in a position to return his friend’s favor.
‘We are bringing S3XY back’: Tesla’s Elon Musk introduces Model Y crossover SUV

‘We are bringing S3XY back’: Tesla’s Elon Musk introduces Model Y crossover SUV

12:55am, 15th March, 2019
Tesla CEO Elon Musk checks out the newly unveiled Model Y. (Tesla via YouTube) Tesla CEO Elon Musk finished spelling out an all-electric acronym by lifting the veil on the Model Y, a crossover SUV that’s due to hit the market in the fall of 2020. “We are bringing ‘sexy’ back, quite literally,” he told hundreds of Tesla fans who gathered for the Hollywood-style unveiling at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, Calif. Musk didn’t quite literally lift a veil to reveal the new model. Instead, he built up the suspense by giving an “extended history lesson” about Tesla’s decade-long history of vehicle production, starting with the Tesla Roadster and moving on to the Model S, Model X, Model 3, the Semi truck and the remade Roadster. Along the way, Musk explained the ins and outs of his naming convention, including the fact that he couldn’t use the name “Model E” because Ford had it trademarked. “Ford killed SEX,” Musk joked. As he described the vehicles, each model was driven into the spotlight. Finally it was the Model Y’s turn. Cheers and whoops went up from the crowd as a shiny blue car pulled into its place alongside the Model S, 3, X. Y completed the acronym. The car looks as much like the Model 3 as Tesla’s Model X SUV looks like the Model S sedan. The similarities between the designs are intentional, because that commonality is expected to speed development — thus avoiding the “production hell” that marked the Model 3’s birth. A chart projected on the screen with Tesla CEO Elon Musk in an inset image shows the basic statistics for different versions of the Model Y. Click on the image for a larger version. (Tesla via YouTube) Musk laid out the basic statistics for four variants of the Model Y: The Standard Range model will be the cheapest, carrying a price tag of $39,000 and offering a maximum range of 230 miles and top speed of 120 mph. The $60,000 Performance model will be the most expensive variant, with a 280-mile range and a 150 mph top speed. The $47,000 Long Range model is projected to go 300 miles on a charge, while the Dual Motor AWD version prices out at $51,000. Tesla says the three more expensive versions will be ready for delivery in the fall of 2020, while the Standard Range model will go on the market in the spring of 2021. Orders are . All four variants will have a panoramic glass roof, 66 cubic feet of interior space and can seat up to seven, Musk said. “It has the functionality of an SUV but it will ride like a sports car,” he said. Some analysts wonder whether the promise of the Model Y will hurt sales of the Model 3, as buyers decide to wait for the newer model. Musk insisted that Model 3 sales would rise dramatically over the next year, making the sorts of optimistic projections that when he put them in a tweet. “We’ve made 550,000 vehicles, something like that,” he said. “Twelve months from now, we will have made about a million vehicles.” Musk was even more optimistic about Model Y sales. “I’m confident that of any midsize SUV, it’ll be the one you want,” he said. “I think it’ll probably sell … I think we’ll probably do more Model Y’s than S, X and 3 combined, most likely. So there you have the S3XY presentation.” On other topics: Musk said ramping up production of the Model 3 and dealing with controversies ranging from a to a made for a rough year. “2018 felt like aging five years in one,” he said. He indicated that battery production for the Model 3 has stabilized to the point that Tesla can start ramping up production of electricity-generating solar roof tiles and Powerwall home-battery installations. “This is definitely going to be the year of the solar roof and the Powerwall,” Musk said. Referring to one of his other day jobs as CEO at SpaceX, Musk half-jokingly said “we will be driving a Tesla on Mars” in 10 years. “I think we actually could.”
With Tesla as its model, MagniX revs up electric motors to revolutionize airplanes

With Tesla as its model, MagniX revs up electric motors to revolutionize airplanes

9:50pm, 14th March, 2019
MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski shows off a drum-sized, 350-horsepower electric motor that will soon be hooked up to an airplane propeller at the company’s lab in Redmond, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) REDMOND, Wash. — An electric-propulsion company called MagniX shifted its headquarters from Australia to Redmond just a few months ago — but it’s already revving up for takeoff. The venture, owned by Singapore-based , is on track to conduct its first flight tests with an all-electric motor installed in a converted plane by the end of the year, CEO Roei Ganzarski told GeekWire this week during a tour of MagniX’s digs. The two-story office space in Redmond already houses more than 15 employees, and Ganzarski plans to hire 20 more in the next three months, mostly in engineering. Roughly 50 more employees are working at MagniX’s facility in Arundel, about 40 miles south of Brisbane on Australia’s Gold Coast. MagniX’s baby sits on a test stand in the Redmond facility’s lab: a round electric motor that weighs about 110 pounds and is small enough to fit inside a carry-on bag. Looks can be deceiving, however: That drum-sized Magni 250 motor can churn out 350 hp. The Magni 250’s specifications make it possible to power an eight- to 15-passenger airplane like the Cessna Caravan. And MagniX is gearing up to produce a 220-pound version, the Magni 500, which will put out 750 hp at 1,900 rpm. That’s even more suited to replace internal combustion engines in existing planes. “Welcome to electric aviation,” Ganzarski said. He compared MagniX’s position in the aviation industry to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s position in the automotive industry. “Look back seven years at electric cars,” Ganzarski said. “No one said it could be done. Everyone pooh-poohed Elon Musk at Tesla. ‘There’s not enough batteries, you won’t get the range, it’s not as good as a traditional car.’ And he had the vision to say, ‘No, we’ll make it happen, and that will start the ripple effects.’ Lo and behold, it did. Every car manufacturer has an electric car.” MagniX’s business plan calls for starting small: Ganzarski said he already has an airplane manufacturer lined up to install MagniX’s electric-propulsion system into Cessna-class airplanes, plus an operator that’s primed to fly the converted aircraft on routes with a range of roughly 100 miles. “We’re not talking about a 737 or a private jet,” he said. “They fly short distances. Look at a FedEx feeder, look at a look at a . … These are all 10-, 20-, 30-minute flights.” Just as the Tesla Roadster blazed the trail for Tesla’s Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y, those short-range flights could blaze a trail for low-cost, zero-emission flights that take advantage of thousands of underused regional airports in places like Moses Lake and Ellensburg, Wash. Ganzarski said electric aviation could bring a 70 to 80 percent reduction in flight costs. And if that comes to pass, it could open up whole new opportunities in air transportation. “If it’s that cheap to fly to Ellensburg, guess what? Maybe Amazon could do two-hour shipments to Ellensburg, instead of five-day shipments on a truck,” Ganzarski said. “Think about an airfield in Redmond or Issaquah, and Ellensburg. Suddenly Ellensburg could be a suburb of Seattle.” Could it really happen? And is MagniX the company to do it? The business model that Ganzarski has in mind is similar to what Kirkland, Wash.-based Zunum Aero is pursuing for its hybrid-electric aircraft. Zunum Aero won big-name backing from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures, but it closing its next financing round. Ganzarski argues that MagniX has two advantages on its side: First, the company is going with an all-electric approach rather than Zunum’s more complex hybrid propulsion system. He drew another analogy to the auto industry: “If I’m selling hybrid today, I’m selling history.” The second advantage has to do with MagniX’s funding. Because it’s wholly owned by the Clermont Group, Ganzarski doesn’t have to worry about raising venture capital. “We are not a traditional startup,” he said. “We are not venture-backed, we are a fully funded company. Which means that I, as a CEO, and our company can focus on our long-term goal.” That goal, Ganzarski said, has everything to do with connections. “We’re both completely aligned on the vision of prosperity and connecting communities,” he said. “They also know that this isn’t an 18-month return. This isn’t an app that we’ll sell to somebody in 18 months and get an exit. This isn’t about that. This is about building a generational business that will have a positive impact on society. “None of us have options in the company,” Ganzarski said. “We’re not here because we think that one day we’ll be rich. We’re here with a mission. We want to be able to tell our grandkids that they’re all flying on clean, low-cost aircraft because of what we did in 2018 and 2019.”
Paul Allen’s Petrel research ship finds out where USS Wasp’s WWII odyssey ended

Paul Allen’s Petrel research ship finds out where USS Wasp’s WWII odyssey ended

5:26pm, 13th March, 2019
One of the USS Wasp’s five-inch guns looms out of the murk of the Coral Sea. (Photo courtesy of Paul Allen’s R/V Petrel / Navigea) The USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier that saw service during World War II from Iceland to Guadalcanal, has been located lying 14,000 feet deep in the Coral Sea 77 years after its sinking. It’s the latest find chalked up to the R/V Petrel, a research vessel whose expeditions have been funded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his estate. The Petrel has been plying the waters of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding seas for years, to document the resting places of historic shipwrecks and conduct scientific studies. The Wasp was found on Jan. 14 with the aid of a sonar-equipped autonomous underwater vehicle and a camera-equipped remotely operated vehicle. The Wasp was commissioned in 1940 and began service on the Atlantic front, providing defensive fighter cover for U.S. Army planes landing in Iceland. It also played a support role in Operation Calendar and Operation Bowery, two U.S.-British campaign aimed at defending the island bastion of Malta against German and Italian air raids. When the Wasp accomplished its mission and headed back to the British Isles, Prime Minister Winston Churchill messaged his thanks for the aircraft carrier’s double duty. “Who said a wasp couldn’t sting twice?” he wrote. From Iceland to Guadalcanal, the played a pivotal role on multiple fronts during WWII. Here's just a little bit about the aircraft carrier's significance. — Vulcan Inc. (@VulcanInc) The ship’s final mission was to serve as an escort for the 7th Marine Regiment, which was heading to Guadalcanal with reinforcements for the pivotal battle there in 1942. On Sept. 15, 1942, four torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck the Wasp and set the ship ablaze. Within minutes, the Wasp was engulfed in flames, but Capt. Forrest P. Sherman held off on abandoning ship until he was satisfied that no survivors were left aboard. Forty-five aircraft went down with the ship, and some of them show up clearly in the R/V Petrel’s video of the underwater wreck site. But most of the 2,248 men of the Wasp got off safely. Fewer than 200 men died, and 366 were wounded. For more about the USS Wasp and its discovery, check out and .
FAA grounds Boeing 737 MAX jets, citing ‘new evidence’ from Ethiopia crash site

FAA grounds Boeing 737 MAX jets, citing ‘new evidence’ from Ethiopia crash site

2:51pm, 13th March, 2019
An artist’s conception shows a Southwest Airlines 737 MAX taking to the air. (Boeing Illustration) The Federal Aviation Administration today ordered the temporary grounding of Boeing’s next-generation 737 MAX jets, due to “new evidence” collected at the site of Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash as well as satellite data. “The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorder,” the FAA : statement on the temporary grounding of 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in a U.S. territory. — The FAA (@FAANews) Southwest Airlines operates , American Airlines has 24 MAX 8’s and United Airlines has 14 MAX 9’s, accounting for nearly 300 daily flights in all. Today’s announcement, which affects all 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S territory, came after scores of other nations took similar measures. The move was signaled in advance by President Donald Trump, and came just hours after Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said 737 MAX planes would be barred from arrivals, departures and overflights in Canada. Garneau said satellite data suggested there were similarities between the flight profiles for the 737 MAX 8 involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people on Sunday and a , killing 189 people. In both cases, the pilots reported control difficulties just after takeoff, and the planes nose-dived shortly afterward. Garneau said the satellite readings were not conclusive, and he shied away from saying definitively that the crashes were related. “But it is something that points possibly in that direction, and at this point we feel that that threshold has been crossed and that is why we are taking these measures,” he said. Air Canada operates 24 of the 737-8 jets, while WestJet has 13 of the planes and Sunwing has four. Air Canada said that it was but that there may be delays. Preliminary findings from the Lion Air investigation focused on an automatic flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS. The system is designed to keep the 737 MAX from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but investigators said spurious sensor data may have caused the MCAS to put the Lion Air plane into an unwarranted dive. Boeing has laid out a procedure that pilots can use in such a scenario to switch off the MCAS system; however, that procedure wasn’t followed by the Lion Air pilots. The FAA says Boeing is due to upgrade the MCAS software next month. Today’s FAA announcement marked a rapid about-face: On Tuesday, the agency that it saw “no basis to order grounding” 737 MAX airplanes, and that no other civil aviation authorities had furnished data that would warrant further action. The 737 MAX is the latest incarnation of Boeing’s best-selling jet, and the company insists that the planes are safe. But in a , Boeing said it supported the decision: “Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined — out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft. ” ‘On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,’ said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, chairman of the Boeing Company. ” ‘We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.’ “Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.” Check back for updates to this developing story, first published at 10:49 a.m. PT March 13.
Canada grounds Boeing 737 MAX jets in wake of Ethiopia crash, isolating U.S.

Canada grounds Boeing 737 MAX jets in wake of Ethiopia crash, isolating U.S.

1:18pm, 13th March, 2019
Air Canada joins the list of carriers grounding their 737 MAX planes. (Air Canada Photo) Canada today joined scores of nations in suspending flights of Boeing 737 MAX jets, out of concern that two catastrophic 737 crashes might be related. The move by Transport Minister Marc Garneau leaves the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration increasingly isolated in its stance that the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets are airworthy and that no further safety measures are needed at this time. Boeing 737-8 and 737-9 planes are barred from arrivals and departures in Canada, and will not be allowed to fly over the country until further notice, Garneau said. Air Canada operates 24 of the 737-8 jets, while WestJet has 13 of the planes and Sunwing has four. Air Canada said that it was but that there may be delays. Garneau said satellite data suggested there were similarities between the flight profiles for the 737-8 involved in an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people on Sunday and a , killing 189 people. In both cases, the pilots reported control difficulties just after takeoff, and the planes nose-dived shortly afterward. Garneau said the satellite readings were not conclusive, and he shied away from saying definitively that the crashes were related. “But it is something that points possibly in that direction, and at this point we feel that that threshold has been crossed and that is why we are taking these measures,” he said. With Canada having blocked Boeing 737 Max planes from its airspace, the US has the only remaining ones, with nearly 50 currently in use. — Jillian Stampher (@JillianStampher) Preliminary findings from the Lion Air investigation focused on an automatic flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS. The system is designed to keep the 737 MAX from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but investigators said spurious sensor data may have caused the MCAS to put the Lion Air plane into an unwarranted dive. Boeing has laid out a procedure that pilots can use in such a scenario to switch off the MCAS system, but that procedure wasn’t followed by the Lion Air pilots. The FAA says Boeing is due to upgrade the MCAS software next month. Concerns about a potential link between the two fatal crashes have led to widespread groundings of the 737 MAX, the latest incarnation of Boeing’s best-selling plane. China and the European Union have been joined by nations ranging from Mexico to Oman. On Tuesday, the FAA issued a statement saying that it saw “no basis to order grounding” 737 MAX airplanes, and that no other civil aviation authorities have furnished data that would warrant further action: UPDATED Statement regarding 737 MAX. — The FAA (@FAANews) Boeing said it had no new guidance to offer to 737 MAX operators. “We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets.” The black-box recorders from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have been recovered, but there’s no word yet about what was found in the cockpit recordings or flight data.
Study tracks China’s ‘startling’ challenge to America in artificial intelligence research

Study tracks China’s ‘startling’ challenge to America in artificial intelligence research

9:10am, 13th March, 2019
BigStock Photo China wants to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030 — but by Seattle’s , or AI2, suggests that Chinese researchers are on track to take the lead well before that. The analysis is based on a tally of the most impactful research papers in the AI field, as measured by AI2’s academic search engine. “If current trends continue, within five years, China will surpass us in terms of the top, highest-impact papers,” the institute’s CEO, Oren Etzioni, told GeekWire. “The other thing to realize is that citations are what you might call a lagging indicator, because the paper has to be published, people have to read it, and they have to write their own paper and cite it.” Thus, the analysis is likely to understate China’s current influence in AI research, Etzioni said. “The bottom line is, Chinese AI research is startling in quantity and quality,” he said. AI2’s findings are consistent with what tech analysts have been saying over the past year or two. Last year, found that 48 percent of the $15.2 billion invested in AI startups globally in 2017 went to China, with just 38 percent going to U.S. startups. Oren Etzioni is the CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) That’s just the start: China’s State Council has by 2030 — and put that expertise in the service of what’s becoming a . Etzioni said the AI2 analysis shows that research in artificial intelligence has grown dramatically over the past three decades, from 5,000 published papers in 1985 to 140,000 in 2018. Over that time, there have been many studies tracking the progress of AI research, but Etzioni said Semantic Scholar provides new perspective. “First of all, this is the most up-to-date result, because we’ve analyzed papers through 2018,” he said. “Secondly, what’s unique is we looked at this notion of most-cited papers, because we’re after impact.” The analysis shows that, in terms of sheer volume of research papers, China surpassed the U.S. back in 2006. Since then, China’s trend line has gone through ups and downs (and ups), but never fell below the U.S. totals. Semantic Scholar told a different story when it came to the top 50 percent, the 10 percent and the top 1 percent of academic studies, as measured by citation counts. Those charts show a gradual decline in the percentage of papers attributed primarily to U.S. authors, and an accelerating rise in the Chinese percentage. The Chinese Academy of Sciences led the list of China’s research institutions when it came to citations, followed by Nanyang Technological University, Tsinghua University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. If the trend lines are extended, China should surpass the United States this year for the top 50 percent, next year for the top 10 percent, and by 2025 for the top 1 percent. This chart shows the market share for the top 1 percent of AI papers, as determined by citation impact. Extending the trend lines suggests that Chinese researchers will produce more of the “cream of the crop” in AI research by 2025. (AI2 Graphic / Field Cady / Oren Etzioni) China’s AI rise has already sparked concerns in Washington, D.C., leading to the establishment of a as well as a at the Pentagon. The White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2020, , would set aside $208 million for the AI center. Etzioni argued that the federal government’s AI strategy should put more emphasis on basic research. “We need to stop what the Trump administration has been doing, which is using various ways to discourage immigration of students and scholars into this country,” he said. “We need more of those talented people, like we always have. AI2 is highly international, and that’s been a huge boon for us.” Setting aside more money for basic research in AI will also be essential, Etzioni said. Last month, President Donald Trump , and this week’s budget proposal made . But those documents didn’t provide specifics. “We need those specifics,” Etzioni said. “And we need them even sooner than we had thought.” Authors of the AI2 analysis, ” are Field Cady and Oren Etzioni. The researchers used to classify AI papers for the purpose of the study. Check the full analysis for details about the methodology.
Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite reassurances from FAA

Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite reassurances from FAA

2:34pm, 12th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) Update for noon PT March 12: The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suspended all flight operations of Boeing 737 MAX jets in EU countries in the wake of , even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy. EASA said it issued its own airworthiness directive “as a precautionary measure,” and suspended all 737-8 and 737-9 flights into, out of or within the European Union. The suspension follows this morning’s decision by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to suspend operations and ban 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice. “EASA is continuously analyzing the data as it becomes available,” the European Union’s safety agency . “The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident.” A growing number of nations are suspending 737 MAX operations, in light of the fact that the 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal accidents in the past five months. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa killed all 157 people aboard, while the crash of a Lion Air 737-8 in Indonesia killed 189 last October. Both accidents occurred just minutes after takeoff, and involved a catastrophic nose dive. Preliminary results from the Lion Air investigation suggest that , and the Ethiopian pilots reportedly told flight controllers before the crash that But investigators say it’s too early to connect the two crashes. On Monday, the FAA saying that 737 MAX 8 jets remained airworthy, and no U.S. carriers have discontinued using the planes. But the European suspension is likely to raise the pressure on the FAA to take action or at least provide additional information. Airlines in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea and other locales have also grounded 737 MAX jets, either in response to regulatory orders or on their own. Sens. , D-Mass., and , R-Utah, joined California Democrat Dianne Feinstein in calling for suspension of U.S. flights. Boeing is cooperating with investigators in Ethiopia. , the company said “we understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets,” but noted that the FAA “is not mandating any further action at this time.” Boeing shares slumped more than 6 percent in afternoon trading, after a 5 percent drop on Monday. Previously: The Federal Aviation Administration responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged on Monday that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Monday’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. touching upon the design changes and revisions in training procedures, as well as the recommended cockpit procedures for dealing with MCAS problems. “It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time,” Boeing said in the statement. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 5:32 p.m. PT March 11.
Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite FAA’s reassurances

Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite FAA’s reassurances

2:03pm, 12th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) Update for noon PT March 12: The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suspended all flight operations of Boeing 737 MAX jets in EU countries in the wake of , even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy. EASA said it issued its own airworthiness directive “as a precautionary measure,” and suspended all 737-8 and 737-9 flights into, out of or within the European Union. The suspension follows this morning’s decision by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to suspend operations and ban 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice. “EASA is continuously analyzing the data as it becomes available,” the European Union’s safety agency . “The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident.” A growing number of nations are suspending 737 MAX operations, in light of the fact that the 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal accidents in the past five months. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa killed all 157 people aboard, while the crash of a Lion Air 737-8 in Indonesia killed 189 last October. Both accidents occurred just minutes after takeoff, and involved a catastrophic nose dive. Preliminary results from the Lion Air investigation suggest that , and the Ethiopian pilots reportedly told flight controllers before the crash that But investigators say it’s too early to connect the two crashes. On Monday, the FAA saying that 737 MAX 8 jets remained airworthy, and no U.S. carriers have discontinued using the planes. But the European suspension is likely to raise the pressure on the FAA to take action or at least provide additional information. Airlines in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea and other locales have also grounded 737 MAX jets, either in response to regulatory orders or on their own. Sens. , D-Mass., and , R-Utah, joined California Democrat Dianne Feinstein in calling for suspension of U.S. flights. Boeing is cooperating with investigators in Ethiopia. , the company reviewed the safety measures that were put in place in the wake of last October’s crash and noted that “the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time.” Boeing shares slumped more than 6 percent in afternoon trading, after a 5 percent drop on Monday. Previously: The Federal Aviation Administration responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged on Monday that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Monday’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. touching upon the design changes and revisions in training procedures, as well as the recommended cockpit procedures for dealing with MCAS problems. “It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time,” Boeing said in the statement. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 5:32 p.m. PT March 11.
MIT computer scientists troll Donald Trump over tweet about planes becoming ‘too complex to fly’

MIT computer scientists troll Donald Trump over tweet about planes becoming ‘too complex to fly’

1:32pm, 12th March, 2019
President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One during a visit to Key West, Fla., in 2018. (White House Photo) In the wake of Sunday’s fatal Boeing 737 MAX airplane crash in Ethiopia, President Donald Trump took computer scientists to task today for making airplanes “too complex to fly.” And the computer scientists struck back. It all took place on Twitter, of course. To be fair, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders extended “our prayers to the loved ones, friends and family of those killed in the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302” during Monday’s press briefing, and said the administration was offering “all possible assistance.” But Trump didn’t exactly take a sympathetic stance in this morning’s tweets: Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are…. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) ….needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) The crash investigation is just getting started, and experts say it’s too early to determine whether a software glitch, hardware failure, human error, intentional sabotage or other factors are at fault. It’s true that after last October’s crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jet in Indonesia, investigators focused on an automatic flight control system as potentially playing a role. But it’s not yet clear whether there’s a connection to Sunday’s crash. Boeing, not MIT, developed the flight control systems for the 737 MAX. But that didn’t stop MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory from jumping into the fray: We're very happy to help. But maybe we can keep the pilots, too?
Britain and other nations ground Boeing 737 MAX jets despite FAA’s reassurances

Britain and other nations ground Boeing 737 MAX jets despite FAA’s reassurances

10:57am, 12th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) Update for 8:25 a.m. PT March 12: Britain and other nations grounded more Boeing 737 MAX jets today in the wake of , even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority took the further step of banning 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice. because “we do not currently have sufficient information” from the crashed plane’s flight data recorder. Airlines in more than a dozen countries have suspended 737 MAX operations, in light of the fact that the 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal accidents in the past five months. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa killed all 157 people aboard, while the crash of a Lion Air 737-8 in Indonesia killed 189. Both accidents occurred just minutes after takeoff, and involved a catastrophic nose dive. Preliminary results from the Lion Air investigation suggest that , and the Ethiopian pilots reportedly told flight controllers before the crash that But investigators say it’s too early to connect the two crashes. On Monday, the FAA saying that 737 MAX 8 jets remained airworthy, and no U.S. carriers have discontinued using the planes. But British aviation authorities said they would be guided by the European Aviation Safety Agency as well as industry regulators around the globe. Airlines in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea and other locales grounded the jets as well, either in response to regulatory orders or on their own. Sens. , D-Mass., and , R-Utah, joined California Democrat Dianne Feinstein in calling for suspension of U.S. flights. Boeing is cooperating with investigators in Ethiopia. , the company reviewed the safety measures that were put in place in the wake of last October’s crash and noted that “the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time.” Boeing shares slumped more than 6 percent in morning trading, after a 5 percent drop on Monday. Previously: The Federal Aviation Administration responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged on Monday that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Monday’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. touching upon the design changes and revisions in training procedures, as well as the recommended cockpit procedures for dealing with MCAS problems. “It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time,” Boeing said in the statement. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 5:32 p.m. PT March 11.
FAA tells airlines Boeing 737 MAX jets are airworthy but says changes are coming

FAA tells airlines Boeing 737 MAX jets are airworthy but says changes are coming

7:59pm, 11th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) The Federal Aviation Administration today responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Today’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave)
China and 3 other nations suspend Boeing 737 MAX flights after crash in Ethiopia

China and 3 other nations suspend Boeing 737 MAX flights after crash in Ethiopia

11:46am, 11th March, 2019
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam visits the accident scene. (Ethiopian Airlines Photo via Twitter) Update for 9:27 a.m. PT March 11: Airlines in China and three other countries have suspended flights of their Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets in light of Sunday’s catastrophic crash in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Airlines reported today that both of the “black boxes” from the 737-8 that crashed — the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder — . However, as saying that one of the recorders was partially damaged. “We will see what we can retrieve from it,” the official told AP. Sunday’s crash killed all 157 people aboard the plane, including . Many of those workers were in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the second fatal accident involving the 737-8 model in less than five months. The earlier crash. , China’s Civil Aviation Administration said it was issuing its suspension notice “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft, and they all occurred in the takeoff phase.” The agency said it would consult with Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and let Chinese airlines know when flights can be resumed. Separately, Ethiopian Airlines, which has four 737 MAX 8’s remaining after Sunday’s crash, said it would Indonesia for inspections. And Cayman Airlines said it was “until more information is received.” Boeing is participating in the Ethiopia crash investigation but said it had no new guidance for airplane operators: Breaking: In statement to CNN, Boeing says no new safety guidance planned for now on : “At this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.” — Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) The crash forced the at its factory in Everett, Wash. “Boeing is deeply saddened by the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident and our focus is on supporting our customer,” company spokesman Paul Bergman said in an email. “In light of this, we are postponing the 777X external debut on March 13 and the related media events. We will look for an opportunity to mark the new plane with the world in the near future.” was down more than 7 percent in midday trading. Previously: Ethiopian Airlines said one of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets crashed Sunday, just minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa’s airport en route to Nairobi, Kenya, killing all 157 people aboard. It was the second fatal crash involving a recently delivered 737 MAX 8, following the last Oct. 29. Although it’s too early to speculate about the cause, the fact that two recently delivered 737 MAX 8 jets have been involved in catastrophic accidents during an early phase of flight is drawing attention from analysts. that the crash “is raising more intense questions — and speculation than usual after a crash because it comes in the wake of the Lion Air 737-8 crash last year.” “But be cautious about drawing conclusions at this stage,” Leeham’s Scott Hamilton wrote. “Until the black boxes are recovered, information is limited.” At a news conference in Ethiopia, Tewolde GebreMariam, the group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, also counseled caution. He said Boeing and Ethiopia’s Accident Investigation Bureau would take part in the crash investigation. The U.S. National Transportation Board said it was , with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and GE. Kenyan investigators were on their way as well. In a statement, Boeing said it was extended its sympathy and confirmed that it would send a technical team to assist in the investigation. Ethiopian Airlines said Flight 302 was , representing 35 nationalities. Eight Americans were said to be aboard. the flight had arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, earlier in the day from Johannesburg, South Africa, and headed out for Nairobi at 8:38 a.m. local time, flown by a senior captain with more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours. GebreMariam said the pilot reported difficulties just after takeoff from Bole International Airport. The pilot reportedly sought, and was given, permission to return to the airport — but contact was lost at 8:44 a.m., six minutes into the flight. The plane smashed into the ground violently in an area about 20 miles to the southeast, near the town of Bishoftu. A showed GebreMariam at the crash scene, surrounded by wreckage and disturbed earth. At first blush, the circumstances seem similar to those of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. In that case, pilots reported difficulties maintaining level flight on their 737 MAX 8 just minutes after takeoff. Soon afterward, the plane took a high-speed, catastrophic dive into the Java Sea. The suggest that an automatic flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, may have played a role in that incident. The MCAS system is a safeguard that’s meant to keep the 737 MAX from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but investigators surmised that the system was getting spurious data from sensors that measure air flow over the wings. Boeing says pilots have a procedure that can quickly resolve such an issue, but that procedure was not followed by the Lion Air pilots. The Lion Air accident focused heightened attention on the MCAS system, raising pilots’ awareness about the control issue and how to resolve it. Records show that the plane involved in Sunday’s crash had its first flight and was added to Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet in . It was among, out of a ordered in 2014. The airline said the plane “underwent a rigorous first check maintenance” in February. In his , Hamilton said investigators are likely to consider a wide range of factors, including the MCAS issue plus mechanical failure, human error, weather conditions and potential sabotage. “It should be noted that Ethiopian is considered one of the best airlines in the world and the best in Africa,” he wrote. “It’s got a good safety record and service is considered very good. This is in contrast to the spotty safety record of Lion Air.” This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 12:47 p.m. PT March 10.
China tells airlines to suspend Boeing 737 MAX flights after fatal crash in Ethiopia

China tells airlines to suspend Boeing 737 MAX flights after fatal crash in Ethiopia

9:51pm, 10th March, 2019
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam visits the accident scene. (Ethiopian Airlines Photo via Twitter) Update for 7:45 p.m. PT March 10: Chinese officials asked domestic Chinese airlines to suspend flights of their Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, in light of today’s catastrophic crash in Ethiopia. The crash, which killed all 157 people aboard the plane, was the second fatal accident involving the 737-8 model in less than five months. The earlier crash killed 189 people on a Lion Air flight in Indonesia. , China’s Civil Aviation Administration said it was issuing the suspension notice “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft, and they all occurred in the takeoff phase.” The similarities led officials to declare the suspension “in line with the management principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks.” The agency said it would consult with Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and let Chinese airlines know when flights can be resumed. Separately, Cayman Airlines said it was “until more information is received.” The crash forced the at its factory in Everett, Wash. “Boeing is deeply saddened by the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident and our focus is on supporting our customer,” company spokesman Paul Bergman said in an email. “In light of this, we are postponing the 777X external debut on March 13 and the related media events. We will look for an opportunity to mark the new plane with the world in the near future.” Previously: Ethiopian Airlines said one of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets crashed today, just minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa’s airport en route to Nairobi, Kenya, killing all 157 people aboard. It was the second fatal crash involving a recently delivered 737 MAX 8, following the last Oct. 29. Although it’s too early to speculate about the cause, the fact that two recently delivered 737 MAX 8 jets have been involved in catastrophic accidents during an early phase of flight is drawing attention from analysts. that today’s crash “is raising more intense questions — and speculation than usual after a crash because it comes in the wake of the Lion Air 737-8 crash last year.” “But be cautious about drawing conclusions at this stage,” Leeham’s Scott Hamilton wrote. “Until the black boxes are recovered, information is limited.” At a news conference in Ethiopia, Tewolde GebreMariam, the group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, also counseled caution. He said Boeing and Ethiopia’s Accident Investigation Bureau would take part in the crash investigation. The U.S. National Transportation Board said it was , with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and GE. Kenyan investigators were on their way as well. In a statement, Boeing said it was extended its sympathy and confirmed that it would send a technical team to assist in the investigation. Ethiopian Airlines said Flight 302 was , representing 35 nationalities. Eight Americans were said to be aboard. the flight had arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, earlier in the day from Johannesburg, South Africa, and headed out for Nairobi at 8:38 a.m. local time, flown by a senior captain with more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours. GebreMariam said the pilot reported difficulties just after takeoff from Bole International Airport. The pilot reportedly sought, and was given, permission to return to the airport — but contact was lost at 8:44 a.m., six minutes into the flight. The plane smashed into the ground violently in an area about 20 miles to the southeast, near the town of Bishoftu. A showed GebreMariam at the crash scene, surrounded by wreckage and disturbed earth. At first blush, the circumstances seem similar to those of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. In that case, pilots reported difficulties maintaining level flight on their 737 MAX 8 just minutes after takeoff. Soon afterward, the plane took a high-speed, catastrophic dive into the Java Sea. The suggest that an automatic flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, may have played a role in that incident. The MCAS system is a safeguard that’s meant to keep the 737 MAX from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but investigators surmised that the system was getting spurious data from sensors that measure air flow over the wings. Boeing says pilots have a procedure that can quickly resolve such an issue, but that procedure was not followed by the Lion Air pilots. The Lion Air accident focused heightened attention on the MCAS system, raising pilots’ awareness about the control issue and how to resolve it. Records show that the plane involved in today’s crash had its first flight and was added to Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet in . It was among, out of a ordered in 2014. The airline said the plane “underwent a rigorous first check maintenance” in February. In his , Hamilton said investigators are likely to consider a wide range of factors, including the MCAS issue plus mechanical failure, human error, weather conditions and potential sabotage. “It should be noted that Ethiopian is considered one of the best airlines in the world and the best in Africa,” he wrote. “It’s got a good safety record and service is considered very good. This is in contrast to the spotty safety record of Lion Air.” This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 12:47 p.m. PT March 10.
157 die in Ethiopian crash, marking second loss of Boeing 737 MAX jet in five months

157 die in Ethiopian crash, marking second loss of Boeing 737 MAX jet in five months

3:09pm, 10th March, 2019
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam visits the accident scene. (Ethiopian Airlines Photo via Twitter) Ethiopian Airlines said one of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets crashed today, just minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa’s airport en route to Nairobi, Kenya, killing all 157 people aboard. It was the second fatal crash involving a recently delivered 737 MAX 8, following the last Oct. 29. Although it’s too early to speculate about the cause, the fact that two recently delivered 737 MAX 8 jets have been involved in catastrophic accidents — during the same phase of flight — is drawing attention from analysts. that today’s crash “is raising more intense questions — and speculation than usual after a crash because it comes in the wake of the Lion Air 737-8 crash last year.” “But be cautious about drawing conclusions at this stage,” Leeham’s Scott Hamilton wrote. “Until the black boxes are recovered, information is limited.” At a news conference in Ethiopia, Tewolde GebreMariam, the group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, also counseled caution. He said Boeing and Ethiopia’s Accident Investigation Bureau would take part in the crash investigation. The U.S. National Transportation Board said it was , and Kenyan investigators were on their way as well. In a statement, Boeing said it was extended its sympathy and confirmed that it would send a technical team to assist in the investigation. Ethiopian Airlines said Flight 302 was , representing 35 nationalities. Eight Americans were said to be aboard. the flight had arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, earlier in the day from Johannesburg, South Africa, and headed out for Nairobi at 8:38 a.m. local time, flown by a senior captain with more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours. GebreMariam said the pilot reported difficulties just after takeoff from Bole International Airport. The pilot reportedly sought, and was given, permission to return to the airport — but contact was lost at 8:44 a.m., six minutes into the flight. The plane smashed into the ground violently in an area about 20 miles to the southeast, near the town of Bishoftu. A showed GebreMariam at the crash scene, surrounded by wreckage and disturbed earth. At first blush, the circumstances seem similar to those of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. In that case, pilots reported difficulties maintaining level flight on their 737 MAX 8. Just minutes after takeoff, the plane pitched into a catastrophic dive. The suggest that an automatic flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, may have played a role in that incident. The MCAS system is a safeguard that’s meant to keep the 737 MAX from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but investigators surmised that the system was getting spurious data from sensors that measure air flow over the wings. Boeing says pilots have a procedure that can quickly resolve such an issue, but that procedure was not followed by the Lion Air pilots. The Lion Air accident focused heightened attention on the MCAS system, raising pilots’ awareness about the control issue and how to resolve it. Records show that the plane involved in today’s crash had its first flight . It was among, out of a that were ordered in 2014. The airline said the plane “underwent a rigorous first check maintenance” in February. In his , Hamilton said investigators are likely to consider a wide range of factors, including the MCAS issue as well as mechanical failure, human error and weather conditions. “It should be noted that Ethiopian is considered one of the best airlines in the world and the best in Africa,” he wrote. “It’s got a good safety record and service is considered very good. This is in contrast to the spotty safety record of Lion Air.”
Boeing will offer biofuel for jet deliveries, and Alaska Airlines says ‘Fill ‘er up’

Boeing will offer biofuel for jet deliveries, and Alaska Airlines says ‘Fill ‘er up’

9:24pm, 8th March, 2019
Alaska Airlines says it will take a biofuel fill-up from Boeing when its 737 MAX jets are delivered. (Alaska Airlines Photo) Boeing says it will begin offering airlines and operators the chance to have their jets powered by biofuel when they take off for their new homes, and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is the first to sign up for the option. The program was unveiled today, in the wake of this week’s t in Seattle. Boeing and Alaska Airlines were among the event’s sponsors. Like the summit, Boeing’s new option is aimed at advancing the use of aviation biofuels, which studies have shown can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent on a typical flight. “This is another step in our decade-long journey to encourage the adoption of sustainable fuels and help commercial aviation earn its license to keep growing,” Sheila Remes, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice president of strategy, . “We have great customers such as Alaska Airlines that have made good progress in adopting the use of biofuels. We hope this new option will make it easier for them and others to demonstrate our industry’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.” The biofuel option will be available for customers accepting new airplanes at Boeing’s delivery centers in Seattle and Everett, Wash. Boeing says it also plans to use biofuels for some of its flight tests at Seattle’s Boeing Field, and is working to offer the option at its South Carolina Delivery Center as well. Alaska Airlines says it will use a blend of biofuel and traditional fuel when it takes delivery of three Boeing 737 MAX airplanes this year. on airline flights, but now the arrangement is going beyond the experimental stage. “We congratulate our partners at Boeing for operationalizing a drop-in sustainable aviation jet fuel option,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of external relations. “We’re excited to not only take advantage of the first biofuel delivery, but to continue working together to advance and scale mainstream adoption of sustainable fuel and other practices to enhance the aviation industry’s ability to do good.” Read more: The biofuel will be produced from agricultural waste at refinery in Paramount, Calif., and blended with traditional jet fuel for commercial use. Texas-based, which supported Boeing’s evaluation of biofuels in its ecoDemonstrator flight test program, will ship the biofuel blend to Boeing’s delivery centers. Boeing has worked with partners around the globe to boost the use of sustainable aviation fuel. It supported the first commercial aviation test flight to use biofuel, , and helped get biofuel approved for regular commercial use in 2011. The potential feedstocks for biofuels include forestry and agricultural waste, Brazilian sugar cane, used cooking oil and a variety of plants. One project in which Boeing was involved using seawater-tolerant salicornia plants. The Port of Seattle has set a goal of using biofuel for 10 percent of the jet fuel on airplanes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by 2028. That could translate into a plan to fuel every plane taking off from Sea-Tac with a 10 percent biofuel blend.
Who’ll serve as AI’s watchdog? Experts trade suggestions at AI2 policy workshop

Who’ll serve as AI’s watchdog? Experts trade suggestions at AI2 policy workshop

8:40pm, 7th March, 2019
Seattle University’s Tracy Kosa, the University of Maryland’s Ben Shneiderman and Rice University’s Moshe Vardi take questions during an AI policy workshop at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, moderated by AI2 CEO Oren Etzioni. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) Do we need a National Algorithm Safety Board? How about licensing the software developers who work on critical artificial intelligence platforms? Who should take the lead when it comes to regulating AI? Or does AI need regulation at all? The future of AI and automation, and the policies governing how far those technologies go, took center stage today during a policy workshop presented by Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2. And the experts who spoke agreed on at least one thing: Something needs to be done, policy-wise. “Technology is driving the future — the question is, who is doing the steering?” said Moshe Vardi, a Rice University professor who focuses on computational engineering and the social impact of automation. Artificial intelligence is already sparking paradigm shifts in the regulatory sphere: For example, when a Tesla car owner was killed in a 2016 highway collision, the National Transportation Safety Board at the company’s self-driving software. (And there have been such for the NTSB to investigate since then.) The NTSB, which is an , may be a useful model for a future federal AI watchdog, said Ben Shneiderman, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland at College Park. Just as the NTSB determines where things go wrong in the nation’s transportation system, independent safety experts operating under a federal mandate could analyze algorithmic failures and recommend remedies. One of the prerequisites for such a system would be the ability to follow an audit trail. “A flight data recorder for every robot, a flight data recorder for every algorithm,” Shneiderman said. He acknowledged that a National Algorithm Safety Board may not work exactly like the NTSB. It may take the form of a “SWAT team” that’s savvy about algorithms and joins in investigations conducted by other agencies, in sectors ranging from health care to highway safety to financial markets and consumer protection. Ben Shneiderman, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, says the National Transportation Safety Board could provide a model for regulatory oversight of algorithms that have significant societal impact. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)) What about the flood of disinformation and fakery that AI could enable? That might conceivably fall under the purview of the Federal Communications Commission — if it weren’t for the fact that a provision in the 1996 Communications Decency Act, known as , absolves platforms like Facebook (and, say, your internet service provider) from responsibility for the content that’s transmitted. “Maybe we need a way to just change [Section] 230, or maybe we need a fresh interpretation,” Shneiderman said. Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who focuses on AI policy, noted that the Trump administration isn’t likely to go along with increased oversight of the tech industry. But he said state and local governments could play a key role in overseeing potentially controversial uses of AI. Seattle, for example, that requires agencies to take a hard look at surveillance technologies before they’re approved for use. Another leader in the field is New York City, which has to monitor how algorithms are being used. Determining the lines of responsibility, accountability and liability will be essential. Seattle University law professor Tracy Kosa went so far as to suggest that software developers should be subject to professional licensing, just like doctors and lawyers. “The goal isn’t to change what’s happening with technology, it’s about changing the people who are building it, the same way that the Hippocratic Oath changed the way medicine was practiced.” she said. The issues laid out today sparked a lot of buzz among the software developers and researchers at the workshop, but Shneiderman bemoaned the fact that such issues haven’t yet gained a lot traction in D.C. policy circles. That may soon change, however, due to AI’s rapid rise. “It’s time to grow up and say who does what by when,” Shneiderman said. Odds and ends from the workshop: Vardi noted that there’s been a lot of talk about ethical practices in AI, but he worried that focusing on ethics was “almost a ruse” on the part of the tech industry. “If we talk about ethics, we don’t have to talk about regulation,” he explained. Calo worried about references to an “AI race” or use of the term by the White House. “This is not only poisonous and factually ridiculous … it leads to bad policy choices,” Calo said. Such rhetoric fails to recognize the international character of the AI research community, he said. Speaking of words, Shneiderman said the way that AI is described can make a big difference in public acceptance. For example, terms such as “Autopilot” and “self-driving cars” may raise unrealistic expectations, while terms such as “adaptive cruise control” and “active parking assist” make it clear that human drivers are still in charge. Over the course of the day, the speakers provided a mini-reading list on AI policy issues: by Shoshana Zuboff; by Cathy O’Neil; a white paper distributed by IEEE; and an oldie but goodie by Charles Perrow.