Michael_Curator writes "It's no secret that commercial airplanes are heavily computerized, but as the mystery of Air France Flight 447 unfolds, we need to come to grips with the fact that in many cases, airline pilots' hands are tied when it comes to responding effectively to an emergency situation. Boeing planes allow pilots to take over from computers during emergency situations, Airbus planes do not. It's not a design flaw — it's a philosophical divide. It's essentially a question of what do you trust most: a human being's ingenuity or a computer's infinitely faster access and reaction to information. It's not surprising that an American company errs on the side of individual freedom while a European company is more inclined to favor an approach that relies on systems. As passengers, we should have the right to ask whether we're putting our lives in the hands of a computer rather than the battle-tested pilot sitting up front, and we should have right to deplane if we don't like the answer."
I used to work on container ships. Every vessel I was on could achieve at least 25kts, and some 26kts during sea trials. The engine was being loaded more than the design limits though, so the maximum we could achieve day to day was 24-24.5kts. We frequently did do this and could sustain it for a Pacific or Atlantic crossing. There were no real reliability problems, but fuel and cylinder oil lubrication went up massively. The planners clearly thought it was worth it though. Warships can do much higher speeds - like you say, 30+kts isn't uncommon. However, the warships I have looked at have their already quite poor range halved by changing from 20kts to 30kts. We could circumnavigate the globe at full speed without refuelling. Also because of the gas turbines warships use, they need to run on marine diesel oil, rather than the heavy fuel oil that slow speed diesel engines run on. MDO is about 4 times as expensive as HFO. So warships cost more to run. So, we frequently found ourselves making journeys faster than warships. I'm not saying they couldn't have caught up if they wanted to, but they didn't.