Now for Something More Enjoyable

Our experiment in self-government is hitting a rough patch, the FAA has halted airport-repair projects around the country (and allowed the airlines to pocket the fees they're not paying to the FAA), and we have other causes for dismay.

On the other hand, here is a great video! It's been around for months, but even if you've seen it before it's worth re-noticing. And if it's new to you, all the better.

This is from a camera on the dashboard of a jet's cockpit as it makes an approach to LAX at dusk. It's on the "SADDE SIX Arrival," for flights coming in from the north (SF etc) and west (Hawaii etc). After the jump, the FAA navigation chart for that arrival.

What's great about this video is that it shows how being in the front of an airplane and looking forward can be so interesting, when sitting in the back of the airplane and looking out to the side can be so dull. This shot is speeded up to 10 times normal rate -- a 30-minute approach in three minutes, as if the plane were going 3500 miles per hour and touching down at 1500 mph. You probably wouldn't have this music playing in a real flight, either. But the three-D sense of movement through the air and above the ground is realistic and evocative.

Nathan Newton, who reminded me about the video, writes:

The video above may be mundane to you, but as a non-pilot I found it quite interesting. ... A friend who has flown this route many times offered the following comments: "They landed 24R, took the high speed taxiway AA, crossed 24L on AA without stopping (happens all the time with clearance), crossed E without stopping (again not unusual), then took AA to C to the gate. Once on C, it's unusual to have to stop unless there's an outbound ahead of you. Landing lights were turned off after crossing 24L (standard procedure). If you look closely you can see them go off. It was the taxi lights that he killed when the emergency vehicles approached. "

For the record, one of the charts the pilots would have been looking at:


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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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