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Late last week, Indonesia's national airline Garuda migrated to a new $1.5 million [update: original post erroneously said $15 million] Integrated Operational Control System (IOCS) for the integrated management of flights, crew and passengers. Previously, these three functions executed in disparate systems.

However, the migration has not gone smoothly. As an airline press release today noted:

 "The new system monitors quite a large operation, comprising 81 jet airlines, 580 pilots, 2,000 cabin crew and 2,000 flights per week. Despite intensive preparations and simulations, the migration/transition process from old system to new system still encountered problems, such as mix up in the scheduling of cabin crew, which subsequently led to flight delays and cancellations."

According to this story over the weekend in the Jakarta Globe, one reason for the foul-ups was that there was "a problem during the database migration. Schedules of the cabin crew were not properly transferred" as a result. Another reported problem was that a computer cable was not plugged in during the migration.

Thousands of passengers have been stranded across Indonesia and elsewhere as numerous flights have been canceled and many more delayed. The Jakarta Post, for example, says that "more than 5,000 Indonesian hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia" have been left stranded because of the cancellations.

The airline promised when the problems first arose that everything would be back to normal by yesterday (Monday), but it is now promising that everything will be back to normal by Thursday.

Garuda's management better be right this time. The head of air transportation at the Transportation Ministry, Herry Bakti Gumay, said yesterday in the Jakarta Post that Garuda should revert to its old system(s) if things are not straightened out soon, while State Minister for State Enterprises Mustafa Abubakar said today in the Post that he plans to "impose a sanction" on the airline because of the on-going problems.

The Jakarta Post also reports that Pramono Anung, House Deputy Speaker from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), is suspicious of the reasons given for the problems. According to the story, he believes (without proof, he admits) that the foul up with the airline's IOCS is a deliberate attempt to drive down the share price of Garuda's initial public offering (IPO) which was planned for June of this year, then November, but now looks like February 2011.

The story reports Deputy Speaker Anung as believing that "... the company’s official explanation that a computer glitch in the company’s new IT system was behind the cancellations just did not figure."

Mr. Anung is quotes in the paper as saying,

"There is no way that the company officials couldn't be able to prevent the side effects of the switch [to the new computer system]."

Alas, if that explanation were only true.

I am afraid that this incident is more likely a simple cock-up than a complex conspiracy, as the many posts of airline IT system screw-ups from around the world such as this one on the Risk Factor blog routinely demonstrate.

[Update - Garuda said as of the Friday, the 26th of November, everything was back to normal. A story in Friday's Jakarta Post said that Garuda suffered "Rp 250 million (US$28,000) in losses and another Rp 2 billion in opportunity losses from canceling scores of flights."]

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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