Bad week in small-plane news

A crash in East Palo Alto two days ago after an early morning take-off apparently in fog, killing three employees of the Tesla electric-car company; the notorious suicide/murder/terror crash in Austin yesterday; a landing in the wee hours this morning at LAX by a 23-year old student pilot who stole a Cirrus SR-22 airplane and flew it erratically all over the place.

The stolen plane, Cirrus N443CP*, in happier times:

Thumbnail image for 443cp.jpg

These are completely different situations -- weather-related accident; psychopathic crime; extremely reckless joyride/misconduct putting the joyrider himself at dire risk, respectively -- but they are sure to be linked in news stories by the rote/reflexive "this comes one day after an incident in which..." faux-logical connector.** There is nothing more to say about the Palo Alto crash than condolences to all affected. More tomorrow, when I am again at a computer, on the "security" and "terrorism" implications of the other two cases.
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* Why are Cirruses often in the news? Over the past ten years, they have become the biggest-selling model of small single-engine piston plane in the world. Something like 5,000 of them are now in operation, so if there is news about small airplanes, it often is news about a Cirrus.

** I made that sentence up, but sure enough, here is what the LA Times story says about the LAX case: "The incident comes one day after a 53-year-old pilot, who had been battling the Internal Revenue Service for decades, plowed his single-engine Piper Cherokee into a Texas building housing IRS offices, killing at least one worker. "

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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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