Friday, August 6, 2010

Words of the Weasel Part 14

"Certification" as in "One of the failures is the lack of a certified technology that can be used to perform intricate inspections of palletized freight and cargo in unit loading devices used by the widebody aircraft that do most of the international flying."
This from an Aviation Week editorial in the August 2 edition.
I'm not sure what universe the editorial writers are living in. To obtain a cargo inspection system, you write a specification and then go out for bids to build them. Then you test the first article delivered to make sure it works in accordance with specifications. As long as you have money to pay the contractor, you have working equipment. If you don't have the money, you don't get the equipment, working or non working.
The specification might be a little difficult to write. You want to detect the smallest bomb buried deep in the densest and most opaque cargo imaginable. You probably have to call for construction of a test cargo pallet with simulated test bomb and require the machine to detect the test bomb some percentage of the time (90%, 99%, 99.9% and so on). Once the delivered machine meets spec, the contractor gets paid.
I don't know what the "certification of technology" phase means. Presumably the certification would read "Cargo inspection machines using Xray/Ultrasound/Microwave/YourFavoriteScienceFictionTechnology meet TSA requirements." Or words to that effect.
Except I don't believe in certifications. The only thing I believe is actual test results on real hardware. Which means you have to build the real hardware before you can test it. Which takes money.
What is really going on? Dunno, but it might be that nobody wants to pay real money to buy cargo inspection machines and fingers are being pointed to divert attention from the lack of money. Perhaps the Obama Porkulus bill could pay for them?

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