The 99.9% Rule: Founded in 1944, NDTA will be celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2019. To commemorate this milestone event, we will be publishing a series of articles selected from our archives that will highlight important events in our Association's history.

Author:Leffler, Lori

Most people who read magazines or newspapers have occasionally thought about sending a message to the "Letter to the Editor" column about something they particularly liked or disliked. Some folks that are really supportive (or the opposite) of the article will actually send a letter. But for the most part the effort ends up in the "to do later" file. As the DTJ Editor for many years, I saw both positive and negative responses. But, requests for copies of a piece called "The 99.9% Rule" by LTG Kenneth Wykle, USA (Ret.), our former NDTA President, were numerous. It was taken from a presentation during an MTMC (SDDC's predecessor) Symposium. Some of the most interesting points are highlighted below.

We often think that 99.9 percent accuracy is good enough. Being right 99.9 percent of the time is a pretty good record, but sometimes impossible to achieve. For instance, the baseball player who gets a hit 99.9 percent of the times he's at bat can be assured of a place in the baseball hall of fame. With that kind of batting average, he would command a salary that would evoke envy from a Texas oilman. In the game of baseball, getting a hit 40 percent of the time is great. But what about fielding? Is catching the ball 40 percent of the time acceptable? No!

If you are a golfer, consider how you would feel if whenever you played a round of golf you were assured of a par on every hole 99.9 percent of the time. Ninetynine point nine percent isn't too shabby, is it?

On the other hand, how many of you would have gotten on the plane to fly out here if the airline pointed out they only guaranteed a safe arrival 99.9 percent of the time? That would mean eighteen major crashes per day in the world. Or suppose you had to undergo heart surgery and the doctor assured you he had a 99.9 percent success rate--would you be as pleased as you were with your golf game score? At that rate, doctors would operate on the wrong patient 500 times each week.

Federal Express [FedEx] has estimated that if their accuracy rate was only 99.9 percent, they would be losing 2,000 packages every night. And at 99.9 percent, the United States Post office would lose 17,000 pieces of mail per hour.

So while we might think of 99.9 percent accuracy as being good, it's all relative. There's a true story--it happened back in 1968--to a pilot for Japan Airlines who was flying from Tokyo to San Francisco. As he was beginning his approach into San Francisco, he lost all communications with the...

To continue reading