Jan 31Liked by James Fallows

Awesome ongoing requirements for private pilots! I was spared such possible rigor, when I scored zero on a depth perception test after two years in the AFROTC. I am thankful that, so far, I’m not required to take an eye test for my driver’s license.

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Jim, Nice job on the IPC. For those who aren't pilots, I can them that the exercises you went through take a high degree of skill and are mentally and physically draining. I'm sure you slept well, but were justifiably satisfied in completing the Instrument Proficiency Check.

Also, you've done your typically superlative job of making all this understandable to non-pilots. There is so much beauty in what we do - not just in the act of piloting, but in the commitment to lifelong learning, proficiency, focused decision-making and so forth.

I love the quotes from Sully and St. Exupéry. I have his book "Wind, Sand & Stars" on my night table.

So, I thought I'd share my favorite aviation quote. The author is unknown to me, but I love this sentiment:

"The ultimate responsibility of the pilot is to fulfill
 the dreams of the countless millions of earthbound
 ancestors who could only stare skyward ...and wish."

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

I greatly enjoy all the aviation posts, this one perhaps the most. With respect though, I truly don't understand the "doubt" about the imminence of fully self-driving cars. Are you aware of the data demonstrating ZERO deaths or injuries in millions of miles driven with Tesla's FSD? It seems illogical to presume that, within the next 1-2 years this technology won't be vastly superior to the best human driver in virtually all situations. In fact, I think your very next anecdote demonstrates the opposite of self-driving skepticism. Allowing the tower to remotely control the aircraft in the most congested and dangerous part of the flight is the equivalent wanting FSD to be in control in those situations. Dismiss me as a member of the cult of Musk, the data is becoming overwhelming that Tesla has solved the self-driving car. Thanks again for the whole Substack - it's always educational!

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

Thank you for sharing your happy day with us!

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters (goodreads quotes) :

“Not every situation can be foreseen or anticipated. There isn’t a checklist for everything.”

“We all have heard about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. They act courageously or responsibly, and their efforts are described as if they opted to act that way on the spur of the moment... I believe many people in those situations actually have made descisions years before.”

“Everyone’s reputation is made on a daily basis. There are little incremental things—worthwhile efforts, moments you were helpful to others—and after a lifetime, they can add up to something. You can feel as if you lived and it mattered.”

“The transcripts of our conversation also show how Patrick’s choice of phrasing was helpful to me. Rather than telling me what airport I had to aim for, he asked me what airport I wanted. His words let me know that he understood that these hard choices were mine to make, and it wasn’t going to help if he tried to dictate a plan to me.”

“From everything I saw, knew, and felt, my decision had been made: LaGuardia was out. Wishing or hoping otherwise wasn’t going to help.”

“....all of us have to find the courage to leave the shore. That means leaving the crutch of our lifelong complaints and resentments, or our unhappiness over our upbringing or our bodies or whatever. It means no longer focusing negative energy on things beyond our control. It means looking beyond the safety of the familiar.”

“In so many areas of life, you need to be a long-term optimist”

“People had been losing their jobs in large numbers. Home foreclosures were up. Life savings had been decimated. A lot of people felt like they had been hit by a double bird strike in their own lives. But Flight 1549 had shown people that there are always further actions you can take. There are ways out of the tightest spots. We as individuals, and as a society, can find them.”

“My mom wore white gloves and a hat. I was in a sport coat and slacks. That’s how people traveled then. In their Sunday best.”

“Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”

― Chesley B. Sullenberger

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I have my doubts about self driving cars. Like nuclear fusion, it's a promise that never arrives. And if it does, I fear the main thing it would accomplish would be to allow silicon valley to monetize automotive transportation, as described by Shoshana Zuboff of the Harvard Business School. And at huge cost in carbon emissions


and greatly increased cost of getting around

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Jan 28·edited Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

Great explainer for the general public and excellent for instrument pilots both actual and aspirational (like me). Speaking of the landscape making sense from 2,500 feet, I'll post some time about how one flight over Northern Virginia had an instantaneous and profound effect on my work as the artistic director of a theater company. Coming attractions...

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

Very enjoyable piece! For years, I’ve explained to non-pilot friends that 80% of my flying is to remain proficient for the other 20%. That ratio is getting more favorable since I moved from renting to ownership (SR22T) but no matter what the actual “mission” is for a given flight, the constant background objective (and much of the appeal) for me is to feel like a better, smarter, and safer pilot upon landing than than when I took off. Sometimes its only “smarter”, and “better” is the job for the next flight :)

Incidentally, I keep my copy of Our Towns handy as a go-to list of places to fly with my wife & we have crossed off a few already!

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

James, if you ever get that beautiful Cirrus near KHND (hint, you already are) I'll buy lunch.

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

Thanks for this, Jim. It brings back happy reminders of when you and Deb flew into the Chester International Airport. Jake and I will not forget meeting you there, nor will Patty ever forget the visit.

I passed this on to my friend, Tom Cordingley, who flies his plane over our house almost every morning. His brother is Bill, a member of our class.

Thanks, too, for a definition of “under the hood” that’s new to me. I’ll add it to the other meanings for inspiration when I play my tune of the same name!

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

I really envy your flying James. You may recall I was, at one time, an instrument flight instructor with aspirations, and abandoned it for law school. Family and lack of funds prevented me from getting back into it. And the hurdles now of proving fitness from detached retina procedure, and prostate cancer, and a history of anxiety/depression are just too large to surmount.

So I vicariously fly with you. Thanks for sharing.

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows

This is fascinating, James. Thanks for sharing! I remember a day we flew into Chicago (commercial) and looking out the window counting the planes I could see either coming or taking off––out my window, I saw 7 and was amazed.

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The Northeast has TEC routes as well, listed by destination in the AF.D. But they aren't really managed by communicating with towers only, leaving the regional ATC to talk to the airliners, which was the original idea. As you know from the Washington area, ATC takes control fairly quickly when you leave the hands of even a medium-sized airport's tower. I think this is a result of cutbacks in the support available at the smaller airports' towers, but anyway, keeping up with all of this is one of the reasons for the emphasis on constant training. There are parts of flying that are "just like riding a bicycle," but that's not all of it. Congratulations on staying ahead of the game.

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Jan 28Liked by James Fallows


great picture of the happy pilot!

thanks for sharing your fun day!

“The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth. For centuries, highways had been deceiving us. They shape themselves to man’s needs and run from stream to stream.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer and aviator, 1900-1944.

"This quote comes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1939 book Terre des Hommes, which was subsequently published in English under the name Wind, Sand and Stars. The book is a meditation on flight and the nature of humankind, and in this quote he is describing the new perspective one gets after lifting off the ground in an airplane. For Saint-Exupéry, traveling on the surface involves pre-worn paths, including roads, that don’t expose us to the places on earth untouched by the influence of humankind. When we fly in an airplane, we break free from these pre-worn paths and we can move in any direction and over almost any terrain. It’s part of a longer passage, which follows " (Written By Christopher James Botham) :

The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth. For centuries, highways had been deceiving us. We were like that queen who determined to move among her subjects so that she might learn for herself whether or not they rejoiced in her reign. Her courtiers took advantage of her innocence to garland the road she traveled and set dancers in her path. Led forward on their halter, she saw nothing of her kingdom and could not know that over the countryside the famished were cursing her. Even so have we been making our way along the winding roads. Roads avoid the barren lands, the rocks, the sands. They shape themselves to man’s needs and run from stream to stream.

Passage taken from de Saint-Exupéry, Antione. Wind, Sand and Stars. Translated by Lewis Galantiere. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1992. 63.

What is On Verticality?
On Verticality is a blog that explores the human need to escape the surface of the earth through vertical means, and our complex relationship with verticality throughout our history. From our first vertical act of standing upright to our conquering of the skies through flight and skyscraper construction, much of our efforts through history have been to escape the surface we exist on. The human struggle with verticality is eternal, ubiquitous, and has been fought by every member of our species who has ever lived. https://www.onverticality.com/about

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