GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument

89. The following appeared as part of an article in a daily newspaper.

The computerized onboard warning system that will be installed in commercial airliners will virtually solve the problem of midair plane collisions. One plane's warning system can receive signals from another's transponder - a radio set that signals a plane's course - in order to determine the likelihood of a collision and recommend evasive action.


Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.


In this argument the author reasons that the installation of computerized onboard-warning systems in commercial airliners will virtually eliminate the problem of mid-air plane collisions. The author's line of reasoning is that by enabling one plane to receive signals from another that reveal its course, the warning system will alert the crew to the likelihood of a collision and allow them to take evasive action. As a consequence, the problem of mid-air collisions will be solved.

The author's argument is questionable for two reasons.

In the first place, the author assumes that all mid-air collisions involve collisions between commercial airliners. This assumption is clearly mistaken. In fact, most mid-air collisions take place between private aircraft or between military aircraft and only rarely between commercial airliners. Equipping all commercial airliners with the warning system would only help to solve the problem of mid-air collisions between commercial airliners. It would not solve the problem of mid-air collisions between aircraft in general. To solve the latter problem all aircraft would have to be outfitted with the warning device.

In the second place, the installation of warning systems in aircraft would not by itself prevent mid-air collisions. In order to be an effective deterrent to mid-air collisions the system's information must be noticed and understood by persons capable of taking the appropriate evasive actions. Moreover, there must be agreement among all parties regarding what these actions should be. Consequently, in addition to installing the warning systems it will be necessary to train aircraft crews how to use the system and it will also be necessary for all aircraft to abide by commonly agreed upon evasive procedures.

In conclusion, the author's argument is unconvincing. While installing warning systems in commercial aircraft may reduce the number of mid-air collisions, it would not solve this problem. Moreover, installing warning systems in aircraft would only be effective in reducing mid-air collisions if there were standardized evasive procedures in place and aircraft crews were trained in these procedures as well as in the use of the system.

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