Dear Ethix – Issue 56

Long-Range Air Travel

I enjoyed your Technology Watch column about air travel in the Sep/Oct ’07 issue of Ethix. Not only did I wear a coat and tie on my first flight (Seattle to San Francisco on a United B-720 — 40+ years ago), but my wife was not over-dressed wearing a hat and white gloves! So the airplanes have improved even if the dress code has not.

Like you, I have been very impressed with the technology that our former Boeing colleagues have folded into the new 787 airplane. There is however an ethics problem involved with the “halfway around the world” range capability that you cited. Recent studies by the students at Cranfield University in the UK (among others) have shown that the optimum range for a jet transport from a fuel-burned per passenger standpoint is about 3000 nm. Beyond that distance the airplane burns more fuel carrying the extra fuel required to go 7000 to 8000 nm than if it would make a fueling stop halfway to the destination. (This is based on a “cycled analysis” taking into account not only the extra takeoff and low-speed flying, but also the extra structural weight required to carry the added fuel weight.)

So … by having the capability to fly New York to Singapore nonstop, we save our time (admittedly a limited commodity), and arguably improve our comfort by burning more fuel (definitely a limited commodity), and add more greenhouse gases to the upper atmosphere. Are we being ethical by almost certainly decreasing the future quality of life for our grandchildren — and their children for our own benefit? What do you think?

Ron Bengelink,
Professor of Practice
Dept. of Mech. and Aerospace Engr.
Arizona State University
Phoenix, Ariz.

Editors note: It would seem that this solution would require building refueling areas in many places, such as Siberia for refueling planes from North America to Asia. I wonder if this wouldn’t also cause environmental problems. But you have raised a good point that needs to be a part of the mix.

Alternate Dispute Resolution Challenges?

The Conversation with Kendrick Melrose in your September/October issue contained in part some discussion of “alternate dispute resolution” as employed by Toro. I thought it appropriate to comment on one aspect, which seemed to run contrary to the usual thoughtful analysis of potential and actual ethical issues we are accustomed to in Ethix.

Alternative dispute resolution has been around for a long time and has many variations designed to fit the conflict resolution process to the situation and especially to the parties. It can provide an alternative to costly and sometimes poor resolutions arising out of litigation. Especially where long-term relationships are involved, the rigidity and winner/loser motivations of litigation serve the participants poorly. But, the topic is quite large, quite exhaustively analyzed within and without the legal community, and is not the principal focus of this comment. To the extent the article implies Toro is employing some new concept, that is not accurate and indeed some would see significant dangers to the Toro technique as described.

The idea of immediate dispatch of “a team, including paraglegals and an engineer, to visit the party” may be well intentioned. However, the obvious power imbalance should be a concern to any fair-minded analysis of the effort. I believe research would show that many companies faced with a product-liability suit have at one time in their history adopted a similar approach, not always with the best of intentions. Some sought to drive a quick settlement and have the injured party sign a legal release before that party had done his or her own analysis. I am not suggesting that is Toro’s intent. Perhaps the Toro team is also unique and and has an unusual ability to remain objective. It is certainly important to avoid and discourage frivolous lawsuits and greedy plaintiff lawyers. Courts have rules aimed at such abuses. The new “apology” trend is welcome, and I believe some legislative efforts have been made to protect those who apologize. But my comment is more narrow.

While not wanting to discourage efforts at good resolution of disputes, I was disappointed the potential ethical issues and potential unfair advantage were not at least recognized. Talking to customers, finding out what occurred and showing concern about injury should be encouraged. Reaching an early monetary settlement many times may be justified. Could it be this process is not always and not primarily in the best interests of the injured person and indeed is significantly tilted toward Toro?

J. Daniel Ballbach
Ascent Leadership, LLC
Seattle, Wash.

While ADR has been around for a long time, we believe Toro has been one of the first public companies to use it. Toro has always advised customers of their right to counsel, and in most cases, the injured party is accompanied by his or her attorney when we meet. We try to be very conscious of not overwhelming a customer in our dealings with them (we send one paralegal and one engineer at the most, and sometimes only one goes), and I can’t think of a single customer who has ever accused us of taking unfair advantage of the situation. We are also conscious of potential dangers with any system. While no system is perfect, what we have implemented (and only briefly described in the article) certainly beats treating an injured party as a mortal enemy over a period of two to three years during litigation. And we believe our accident investigation has been important for preventing further injuries.

– Ken Melrose