In (Further) Praise of Float Planes

I mentioned over the weekend that I hate noisy leaf blowers but love noisy float planes. I offered my own rationale for the double standard, but I am heartened by confirming testimony from someone who lives under a major float plane flight pattern. Ron Russell, of the Seattle area, writes:

Our house overlooks Kenmore Air Harbor at the north tip of Lake Washington. We keep a sailboat in the marina right next to them, and we're out rowing single sculls several mornings a week as they take off and land around us.

I probably hear as many floatplanes as anyone who doesn't fly them for a living. And no, they don't bother me. The sound of Beavers and Otters taking off in the bright mornings kind of defines summer here. Compared to motorcycles, trucks, loud parties, or other semi-urban annoyances, it's music.

While I'm at it, and still in the "devices that make noise and fly"* category, via reader TC, a Twitter-picture feed from astronaut Douglas Wheelock, who is at this moment in space. The pictures are here, and the mission web site is here. Below, a picture of the Aurora as seen from space.


Bonus: After the jump, the sad truth about limiting leaf blowers, from an urban planning professor. (*And, yes, I realize that spacecraft make noise when they're taking off, not while they're in orbit.)

From an urban planning professor at a major university, on the anti-leafblower struggle:

When you are King you should ban leaf blowers. You will need the monarchy to enforce the ban, however, as many cities already restrict or outlaw their use. (See this post from the LA Times for an example. )

Also in Los Angeles, the city attempted to require catalytic converters on the machines in the early 2000s. But as with hybrid taxis in NYC, there are problems with cities enacting anti-pollution legislation. One of the problems was the opposition of US Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, who happens to represent the state where Briggs & Stratton Corp. makes (or at least made) the little, obnoxious and awful two-stroke engines that power the blowers. Details of his opposition here.
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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.


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