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That's RAD

Friday, May 25, 2007

Back in February, JetBlue flight operations were shut down by a winter ice storm and a series of bad decisions. Some passengers stewed inside airplanes for 11 hours as the planes were stuck on the airport tarmac. Baseline tells the story of the JetBlue meltdown through the eyes of CIO Charles Mess.

There are more than a few interesting software stories inside the article. For instance, the checked baggage of enraged passengers was piled to the ceiling inside the JFK airport. JetBlue had no software in place to match passengers to their luggage. Time to call in the .NET developers:

A technology team … was dispatched to the airport to help out with the effort.

Over three days, programmers cobbled together an application using a Microsoft SQL database and handheld devices from Symbol Technologies that could scan a bag tag and identify the passenger. Agents could then access the database to provide passengers with information on the location of their lost luggage.

Isn't this a developer's fantasy? There you are, wallowing in code for the weekly TPS reports. Suddenly, you are whisked away into a riot scene and told to build something real quick for operation "Save the Samsonite". I wonder if "dispatched" means "flown by a sleek black helicopter with jet turbines on the side", because that would be like totally Tom Clancy.

Later in the article we find out that one of JetBlue's new initiatives is to:

Enhance the new lost-bag tracking system so it can become a core application.

Ah, this proves one of the fundamental laws of software development: It doesn't matter what constraints were in place when you cobbled the code together – it will end up in production for at least 5 years.