After reading the story of Air force scandal, it is kind of

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       After the careful reading of “Aircraft brake scandal”, I asked myself “What is

ethics?” and “Where is the justice?” I found that the result of this story is unacceptable

because everybody who was involved in the design of A7D brake got no punishment

from this unforgivable, intentional cause of A7D airplane’s crash. Kermit Vandivier

works as a newspaper reporter. Searle Lawson was hired by LTV and worked for A7D

project. I don’t understand why LTV can still trust Mr. Lawson after this air crash, even

though he is a good engineer. Russell Line, Manager of the Goodrich Technical Services

Section, and Robert Sink, project manager of the Goodrich, even got promotions to upper

positions. The others, such as John Warren who designed the four-disk brake, are still in

the same positions without any punishment having been mentioned in this story.

       From my ethical point of view, I think, except for Ralph Gretzinger, the test lab

supervisor, all the people who were involved the A7D project are responsible for any

“accidents” that resulted when pilots tested the brake. Ralph Gretzinger is the one who

did not agree with the whole “fraud test data” thing from the beginning. Mr. Gretzinger

also did internal whistle-blowing by talking to Russell Line about the whole thing even

though he had been beaten down. Also I think that Mr. Vandivier finally wrote down the

“not qualified” as the conclusion of the report because of Ralph Gretzinger’s attitude that

made some influence on Kermit Vandivier.

       Unlike Searle Lawson, who just turned twenty-six and had been out of school

only one year when he had this job in Goodrich, Mr. Vandivier is older and has more

experience in working in the test laboratory; he should make a right and ethic decision

about what he should or should not do. However, when he read the test logs and saw the

unusual notation about the brake pressure, he realized the brake pressure had been
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deliberately miscalibrated. After he talked to the related people, he chose to compromise

because he had several important financial obligations, such as mortgage payments, both

to himself and his family. In addition, he believed that he would have to either resign or

be fired; the report would be written by someone anyway, even if he refused to make

false test data and reports. As to Searle Lawson, he did internal whistle-blowing when he

found out the problem of the design of the four-disk brake. Moreover, he designed a new

brake by using five disks which would overcome the problem caused by the original

design. However, Mr. Lawson was probably too young to hold his own moral standard

within a huge environment where it was filled with the authorized people, his boss and

supervisors, who had a big influence on him to modify his moral and business ethic

standard in order to fit into the working environment. Although both Kermit Vandivier

and Searle Lawson reported to their boss or supervisors when they found the problem,

they did not try the external whistle-blowing before the incidents occurred.

        John Warren is the one who designed the four-disk brake, and when Mr. Lawson

reported the problem to Warren about his design, Mr. Warren rejected the suggestion that

the four-disk brake was too light for the job. The reason that Mr. Warren could not accept

the fact of his serious error in his calculations was, not only because he knew that his

superior had already told LTV that the preliminary tests were successful, but because the

mistake had been caught by a younger, inexperience person. Another unbelievable

character in this scandal is Russell Line who was the senior executive of Goodrich. When

Mr. Vandivier tried to discuss the dangerousness of flight test on the brake with Mr. Line,

he asked Mr. Line if his conscience would bother him if something happened resulting in

death or injury to the test pilot.
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       I cannot believe that Mr. Line said “…I have no control over this. Why should my

conscience bother me?” There is an old saying in China, “Even if I didn’t kill them by my

very own hand, they did die because of me.” For me, I believe it is morally wrong to

issue a qualification report based on the unsafe tests even if the tests had been authorized

by the legal regulation such as Ford’s Pinto test, not to mention that qualification report is

based on a false test data. However, most people who are involved in this aircraft brake

scandal believe in “what-he-doesn’t-know-won’t-hurt-him” philosophy; that’s why the

whole thing went that far.

       According to Kohlberg’s moral development theory, Mr. Line obviously fit into

the stage 3: interpersonal concordance orientation:

          “Right action is conformity to what is generally expected in one’s

          role as a good son, daughter, brother, friend, and so on. Doing what

          is right is motivated by the need to be seen as a good performer in

          one’s own eyes and in the eyes of others.”

Mr. Line believed that he should not worry about things over which he had no control

and he believed he had no control over this. Mr. Vandivier and Mr. Lawson probably fit

into the early version of stage 4: law and order orientation:

          “The person is now able to …define individual roles and obligations,

          and he or she can separate the norms generated by this system from

          his or her interpersonal relationships and motives.”

So, when serious incidents occurred, they decided to go to outside of the organization to

seek help about the unavoidable-wrongdoing within the organization. In my opinion in
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terms of moral development, Mr. Gretzinger has reached between the late stage 4, law

and order orientation, and early stage 5: social contract orientation. In the stage 5:

            “[T]he person no longer simply accepts the values and norms of the

            groups to which he or she belongs. Instead the person now tries to

            see situations from a point of view that impartially takes everyone’s

            interests into account.”

Mr. Gretainger dared to fight with his supervisor about the wrongdoing that

happened in the laboratory by giving up the current job.

       Of course, when I am not the one who has to make the decision of choosing

between job and self-conscience, I can strictly criticizing the people who have to make

that kind of life-time decision. Also I know that criticizing Mr. Vandivier and Mr.

Lawson would be unfair when I or anyone else is not in their situation. Besides, the study

shows “blowing the whistle is often a brave act of conscience that can carry heavy

personal costs.” I am not sure if I can do such brave act of conscience myself in the same

situation. But still I believe all the people in this air force brake case are “morally

responsible” for those injuries which were caused by the flight test because they knew

that false qualification report will cause the injury or even the death of the pilots on the

plane. A person is morally responsible for the act if they can foresee injurious effects and

they still knowingly and freely performed the act which was morally wrong. In this case,

I feel that Mr. Vandivier should have chosen the moral values of honesty and respect for

life over the non-moral value of keeping his well-paid, pleasant, and challenging job. It is

not wrong to act on self-interest, however, it is wrong to choose self-interest over

morality.
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       “People are not always morally responsible for their wrongful or injurious acts”

when those acts are performed out of their ignorance or out of their inability. However,

none of the people who were involved in the A7D brake design can fit into the excusing

condition because they all knew the dangerous of four-disk-brake, and they made a false

test data on purpose. Therefore, they “deliberately” created ignorance about the

dangerousness of the brake. Under the pressure coming from the people in authority, Mr.

Vandivier and Mr. Lawson prepared the “qualification report” by making up the false test

data. Therefore, I think Mr. Vandivier and Mr. Lawson can probably fit into the

mitigation factors category in order to lessen their moral responsibility. Even though they

were under pressure to make the false report, Mr. Vandivier and Mr. Lawson went to the

FBI after the first accident of flight test, so that they could minimize their involvement of

wrongdoing.

       Also there are some people who object to the view that ethical standards should

be applied to the behavior of people in business organizations, I think the ethical

standards should be applied in the business organizations. In this aircraft brake case,

making a false test data which had a big role in causing pilot death during the flight test is

unforgivable, even if the organization is based on the profit-pursuit.

       At the end of this story, Goodrich gained the A7D contract by trying to

compensate for the mistake they made on the qualification report and the four-disk brake

instead of promising to replace the brake with a new, improved, five-disk brake without

any extra charge. However, how can we measure the life of pilots who died during the

flight test? How can the loss of life be compensated?
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       For me, I will take this case as a very negative impact on readers and society

because the outcome for the people who were involved in the aircraft brake scandal has a

happy ending. Goodrich finally still got the contract of A7D project, and all the people

who were involved in the false data test didn’t get their deserved punishment but some of

them even got the promotions. What if there was someone, we say, for example, like Mr.

Vandivier or Mr. Lawson, who actually whistle blew the company’s wrongdoing to

outside organizations before they issued the qualification report and he got fired because

of the whistle-blowing. If the whistle-blower could foresee the future, he would choose to

do the false test data and report instead of whistle-blowing because he and others are

going to have a bright future waiting for them anyway, such as in the actual outcome of

this story: Mr. Vandivial is a newspaper reporter; Mr. Lawson becomes the project leader

in LTV. Then I believe whoever the whistle-blower was would feel he was really

“stupid.”

       However, it is actually hard to say who is more responsible for A7D’s incidents

and who is not because Mr.Vandivial is the one who made the statements. I don’t think

that is fair enough to speak for all the people only by Mr. Vandivial’s point of view, such

as the temper he described about Mr. Warren and personality of Mr. Sink. Since Mr.

Vandivial can make a false report in the brake test data, I don’t think we are naive enough

to believe what he said in his statement if there is nothing or no one (such as Mr. Warren,

or Mr. Sink) else who can provide opposite information about the whole situation. But

still, no matter who made the statement as long as he involved in this A7D’s design and

fraud report, then he is, definitely, morally and legally responsible for the incident of the

airplane’s crash.

				
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