World o' Flight Updates: NYT Mag, Gliders, Yeshivah of Flatbush, Solar Impulse

Thumbnail image for MissouriFlood.jpg

Have been off the grid for several days, seeing sights like the one above: flooded farmland this past weekend in the Missouri River basin just west of St. Louis. Herewith a series of sky-related updates.

1) 'The Plane Was About to Crash.' Except it wasn't. Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the NY Times, takes another look at the fantasized New York Times Magazine story whose author, Noah Gallagher Shannon, I interviewed last week. Good to see an official response.

2) Paragliders vs. Bulldozers, Round 2. In March I mentioned the showdown between, on the one side, the adventurer / hang-glider / paraglider community that has viewed a particular mountain near Salt Like City as one of the best soaring spots in the world, and on the other side a minerals company that is beginning to dismantle that very mountain to turn it into construction gravel. Earlier I quoted one of the gliders about the site, which is known as Point of the Mountain:

Hang-gliding and paragliding are still relatively unknown to the public. Imagine general aviation pilots losing Oshkosh, surfers losing Maui, climbers losing Yosemite, skiers losing Vail... much of the general public would grasp the significance. The Point is like that for free-flight pilots.
The anti-bulldozer group has now produced another video (original one here) arguing that the mountain-removal work is creating a new dust-borne silicosis threat to residents in the area. The video below has some dramatic footage, and its main argument is this: Until now, most of the mining in the area has been at ground level or below, in pits. This new work involves bulldozing away the tops of mountains, which allows far more dust and pollutants to be carried away by the usually fierce local winds, much of it blown straight toward major cities. Judge for yourself:



For the record, after the first episode I asked the company for its reply but so far haven't heard anything. 

3) Yeshivah of Flatbush vs. Southwest Airlines. Two weeks ago I mentioned the latest frayed-nerves-while-flying episode, in which 100-plus high schoolers from Yeshivah of Flatbush were ordered off a Southwest Airlines flight because, according to the crew, they were refusing to sit down, turn off cell phones, and generally behave. Or maybe this was an act of anti-Semitism.

At the request of Yeshivah's leaders, the school's executive director, Rabbi Seth Linfield, conducted an inquiry into what happened. One of the school's alums sent me the report (which is available publicly, in PDF form, here) with this note:

All students and alumni (myself included) were just sent this thorough report on the YoF deplaning incident. You may find it interesting. The story seems to be of another massive overreaction; however, Linfield sounds evenhanded in terms of trying to understand the reasons for that overreaction...

One more thing: Although a puff piece, it's also more thorough than I imagined. The story rings true to me, anyway, and I don't say that about everything I've ever received from an alumni association, much less this one.

The report really is an interesting addition to the literature of "the way we live now, miseries of travel dept." Two illustrations from its tick-tock reconstruction:

6. By all accounts, the gate area before boarding was chaotic. Flight 345, the first flight out from New York to Atlanta on Monday morning, is essentially a "commuter" flight. Southwest/AirTran had significantly overbooked flight 345, with at least 50 passengers, many of them full-paying frequent fliers, told that they could not get off the standby list and would have to wait for the next flight at 8:10am. [JF note: This flight was scheduled for 6:00am. After the students' eviction, the wait-list passengers were able to get on the plane.]

7. At approximately 5:30am, the 101 students, accompanied by seven chaperones, began to board the plane. The seven chaperones had a median experience of 15 years in leading student trips. One of the chaperones is a military veteran with special forces training. Another one is a certified EMT.

And:

27. One student suggested to CNN and in social media posts than anti-Semitism may have animated Southwest's decision. That assertion was repeated in many media outlets and seemed to be the primary driver of the story's "pickup."

28. We categorically affirm that anti-Semitism did not play any role in Southwest's decision, however misguided it may have been. When our chaperones spoke with CNN, they expressly noted this point. This is the position of Yeshivah of Flatbush and its trustees, officers and faculty.

4) Solar Impulse. I've meant to say something about the heartening cross-country flight of this solar-powered craft over the past month. You can read a nice Washington Post appreciation here, and see more at the Solar Impulse home site. And here is a nice video:

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

Elsewhere on the web