Greetings, Jim and Deb,

What a fascinating glimpse into some of the factors that pilots of small planes have to deal with! I'll never fly such an aircraft myself, but I can do so vicariously through you.

We're having a good summer at The Commons, almost back to pre-pandemic levels for gallery and rentals.

More later, Nancy

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Your narration and graphics are better weather-flying counsel than some of the training materials in our industry. The beauty of the experience never gets old. Nicely done! An ICON A5 amphibious water-flying experience awaits you and Deb when the time is right.

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Aug 28, 2022·edited Aug 28, 2022

Great piece. Loved Langewiesche's "Inside the Sky," too. (although the storm flying--on purpose!--yeesh.)

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You reminded me of a XC when I was a student pilot back in Oregon. After I'd been heading east over The Gorge for some time T-storms forced me to re-write my plan "on the fly". Next thing you know I'm pretty much lost over Oregon's high desert. I used the three Cs: climb, call, confess. A voice on the radio reassured me that my dead reckoning was near perfect, I just had a ways to go, put me right into Redmond. The rest of that flight involved another series of dramatic views and interesting clouds, and once back over Willamette Valley, ducking under solid overcast to follow I5 back home. All that training brought to bear in one memorable flight.

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Aug 26, 2022Liked by James Fallows

“Termination Shock,” by Neal Stephenson: An Excerpt :

...As Papa had explained to her long ago, there was a reason he had become a pilot. It was that when he was at the controls he had not merely the opportunity but the sacred obligation to focus solely on the machine that was keeping him and his passengers alive.

...Always fascinating to her was this slow inexorable zooming in. Twenty minutes ago she’d have found it difficult to pick out the greater Waco metropolitan area below the black-blue vault of the stratosphere, but now as they dropped through a hundred meters of altitude she could see, in the backyards of houses, blue swimming pools..

....Houston’s air was too hot to support airplanes. Oh, the queen’s jet could have landed there, given that, during the flight from Schiphol, it had converted ten thousand kilograms of fuel into carbon dioxide and dumped it into the atmosphere. Refueled, though, it could not safely take off until the heat wave broke. And what was going to break it was a hurricane.

...She felt a sense of freedom and clarity of mind while at the controls of an airplane during the descent and the preparations for landing. It was all a matter of operating the controls so as to keep certain numbers within certain ranges.

...At the same time they needed to pass vertically downward through the entire troposphere—the shell of air surrounding the earth, where weather happened—until the number on the altimeter matched whatever the altitude of Waco was. Again there were known procedures for achieving that, all of which needed to mesh with the series of turns dictated by those harried Texan air traffic controllers. The operation of the jet’s controls toward the systematic achievement of those objectives, the terse, pithy, but utterly calm exchanges with Johan and with the voices on the radio, all combined to put her into a state of being that the Dutch referred to as normal with the accent on the second syllable. A different thing altogether from the English “NORMal.”

In the distant past, kings had shown the world that they meant it by strapping on a sword and riding into war, putting their lives on the line. Getting behind the controls of a plane and pointing it at a runway was as close as one could reasonably come in the modern world to the same public blood oath.


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I flew into Telluride, CO, in a small plane many years ago. It was like flying into the heavens, or Mt. Olympus - absolutely and stunningly beautiful. Thank you for bringing back that memory. Glad you had a great flight.

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Great to read this, Jim. I've never flown, but I've flown "in", and always had great confidence in pilots and controllers. having toured throughout the world and flown hundreds and hundreds of times. Any shakiness I felt usually disappeared when I realized it wasn't my anxiety that was keeping the plane in the air! I even got so I enjoyed flying "among" the clouds. One of my coolest flying memories was seeing you and Deb fly in to the tiny Chester airport!

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Like your writing and your flying. It's nice to get away from the deluge of stories about the former guy.

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