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Wearing Murphy’s thinking cap

Wearing Murphy’s thinking cap

If I am told to suggest one quote, it would be from Edward A. Murphy Jr whose quote is popularly known as Murphy’s law.

Murphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong“. Let us decipher with examples.

As an aviation enthusiast Graduate Engineer, one may seek a career in design or production or assembly or aircraft maintenance or documentation. All these verticals can have Learnings from Murphy’s law.

As a service provider, one should think that his customer (end user) can go wrong if the service provider gives him a chance to go wrong. So, while providing instructions, the user should be precise and incorporate all the required details.

With an analogy, we can understand this better.

In a gas fueling station, there is always a possibility, one may refuel a Petrol Car with Diesel!

The fueling station and the fueling hose manufacturer should ensure the end user does not make any mistake. How can this be achieved?

Option 1. Color coding on the hose. Different colors for Petrol, Diesel and CNG and to maintain uniform standards across the nation.

Option 2. The dispenser spout for petrol can be circular and for diesel, it can be triangle and accordingly, the car manufacturer should design the fuel tank mouth.

Option 3. Clear instructions at the Gas station.

Option 4. Clear Instructions on the car.

Option 5. Clear instructions in the instructions catalogue.

Murphy states that, “If there is an option to make a mistake, my customer would do so. My job is to eliminate that possibility to avoid accidents”.

As a design engineer, I may have to make design changes accordingly.”

Whatever be the profession, one must be mindful of the error or ambiguity by the end user. This is a proactive approach to eliminate accidents.

We have heard of the proverb “bread always falls on the buttered side”. If something goes awry, the worst possible outcome often happens. Murphy’s law is intended to avoid such consequential errors which is crucial in the Aviation industry.

Let’s consider an aviation example.

British Airways Boeing B787 collapsed at the nose landing gear (NLG) while parked due incorrect installation of the NLG downlock pin. Pin was intended to be installed to lock the NLG but was inserted in the apex pin inner bore of the NLG lock link assembly.

To understand the above accident, one can imagine a peg inserted in a hole to avoid the movement or rotation of the nose landing gear. Now, if there are more than one hole, Murphy’s law states that there is a possibility that the end user might insert the peg in the wrong hole!

As a designer, wearing Murphy’s cap, the solution could be to make holes with different shapes. This reminds me of the famous idiom, “square peg in a round hole”.

Now, to fix to this issue,

Option 1: Apex pin inner bore should have a cap.

Option 2: Permanently fill the bore hole with a sealant.

Well, in this case, as this incident is associated with an Airworthiness directive (AD), options will not work. Modification should be performed in accordance with the instructions of AD (or AMOC).

Engineering graduates from Mechanical stream are suggested to read the FAA recommendations about the above incident and understand the relevance of the Airworthiness directive (AD 2019-23-07) associated with the above incident.

ADs are available online and can be downloaded. Follow the below link.


To understand what an Airworthiness directive is, read the below article.

One must constantly work to eliminate the risk to have a safe working environment.

 Things to Ponder.

Wearing Murphy’s thinking cap, one should think that the end user will make a mistake and hence must ensure all precautions are taken and all details are specified accordingly.

There can be the possibility that, always thinking about the negative probability of the end user making mistakes might gradually lead to a negative attitude and affect behavioral psychology. So, one should be mindful to understand that Murphy’s thinking cap is only to eliminate the error and nothing beyond. This becomes an important part of the aircraft maintenance engineer course.

A stitch in time saves nine, wearing Murphy’s thinking cap saves lives. 

by Sumanth Eswar

Ex Assistant Manager-Technical Services, Jet Airways

14 years of industry experience in various sections under Engineering and Maintenance department such as Engineering Planning, Technical Services Engineering including Structures, Cabin Maintenance, Airframe and Systems, Base Maintenance, Powerplant, Reliability, Aircraft Weighing, Rotable Management. Years of Safety Office experience and was a surveyor for Aircraft Insurance