Is it unethical for the company to reap the benefits of its own estimating error?

The following incident allegedly occurred in the aircraft industry.  A mechanical engineer from Company A had conducted tests of a certain aircraft tail assembly configuration in his companys wind tunnel and knew that devastating vibrations could occur with that configuration under certain circumstances, leading to destruction of the aircraft.  Later, at a professional meeting, Company As engineer heard an engineer from Company B, a competitor, describe a tail assembly configuration for one of Company Bs new aircraft which would run the risk of producing just the kind of vibrations which Company As engineer had discovered in his tests.  However, the engineer from Company B does not seem to be aware of this potential problem.  The engineer from Company A has an obligation, both as a matter of morals and of law, to maintain company confidentiality regarding Company As proprietary knowledge.  On the other hand, engineers are supposed to bear a responsibility for public safety and welfare.  If the engineer from Company A remains silent, Company B may not discover the possibility of the existence of destructive vibrations until a dreadful crash occurs, killing many people.

Tasks:   Discuss this casemakingsurethat among other things you address the following questions:

  i) What would you do if you were the engineer from Company A?

ii) What follow-up action would you take if your initial action was unsuccessful?

iii) What are the limits (if any) beyond which you would not go?

iv) Justify your reasoning by reference to the applicable clauses of the NSPE Code of Ethics.

PART V (a):    10 marks

Situation: An electrical contractor put together an estimate on an addition to a country club.  The bid that was submitted to the general contractor on this cost reimbursable contract was $2,160,000 that represented a combination of $960, 000 in labor and $1,200,000 in material costs. Before a formal sub-contract agreement was signed, the project got delayed due to financing complications.  The project was delayed for nearly a year.  Later the general contractor asked the electrical contractor if the firm was still interested in working on the project.  The response was that the firm was still interested, but that cost of materials had risen by $80,000 and that the bid should be commensurately be increased. This was accepted by the general contractor, who indicated that a formal subcontract agreement for $ 2,240,000 would be forth coming in the mail. Harry was the estimator was the estimator for the electrical contractor who negotiated this contract with the general contractor.  Harry was approached by Aaron, a fellow estimator, who was concerned about the contract pricing arrangement.  Aaron said that he had reexamined the estimate and discovered that the labor for one part of the project had been counted twice, resulting in an extra $60,000 in the bid.  Harry said that this was just fortuitous for the company.  The general contractor had accepted the original bid with the extra $60,000 in it and the new contract was no different.  Aaron was suggesting that the $80,000 increase in material cost should be balanced against the $60,000 inflated amount in the labor costs.  Harry did not agree.

Task:  Discuss this case. In particular how should this contracting company handle this dilemma?  Is it unethical for the company to reap the benefits of its own estimating error?  Which stipulations of the NSPE code of Ethics are applicable?

PART V(b):  10 marks

List at least five distinct attributes that you believe distinguish the professions from other occupations.

Is engineering a profession?  How does it fit the social-contract model of the professions?

What is the role of licensure in the engineering profession? How important  is the commitment to life-long learning in the engineering profession and why?