Weiner’s Laws

Aviation Week recently ran an article listing 15 laws developed by Earl Weiner, an aviation safety pioneer I had not previously heard of. Some of them will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s worked with computers for any length of time, while some are aviation-specific. All of them are worth pondering, though. I have long experience with computers that do exactly what you tell them to, but coupling such computers to the controls of an airplane mean that if you are ignorant or careless about how you interact with the computer, you may end up with a bent airplane.. or dead. (For example: AA 965, AF 447). Worth considering every time I sit down to prepare for a flight, and especially worth thinking about as we wait for the NTSB to release more details on the Asiana 214 crash. In the meantime, a partial solution: know your autopilot.

(and no, I don’t know why numbers 1-16 are blank either!)


(Note: Nos. 1-16 intentionally left blank)

  1. Every device creates its own opportunity for human error.
  2. Exotic devices create exotic problems.
  3. Digital devices tune out small errors while creating opportunities for large errors.
  4. Complacency? Don’t worry about it.
  5. In aviation, there is no problem so great or so complex that it cannot be blamed on the pilot.
  6. There is no simple solution out there waiting to be discovered, so don’t waste your time searching for it.
  7. Invention is the mother of necessity.
  8. If at first you don’t succeed… try a new system or a different approach.
  9. Some problems have no solution. If you encounter one of these, you can always convene a committee to revise some checklist.
  10. In God we trust. Everything else must be brought into your scan.
  11. It takes an airplane to bring out the worst in a pilot.
  12. Any pilot who can be replaced by a computer should be.
  13. Whenever you solve a problem you usually create one. You can only hope that the one you created is less critical than the one you eliminated.
  14. You can never be too rich or too thin (Duchess of Windsor) or too careful what you put into a digital flight guidance system (Wiener).
  15. Today’s nifty, voluntary system is tomorrow’s F.A.R.


Filed under aviation

2 responses to “Weiner’s Laws

  1. In aviation safety, assumption is the mother of death.

Leave a Reply to Peter Russell Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.