Closing the Circle on the Polish Airplane Crash

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This news is now several days old, but for completeness' sake, given previous discussions here, it seemed worth mentioning. The cockpit transcripts from the heartbreaking crash that killed so much of Poland's leadership in April were released late last week, and they appear to confirm what seemed likely from the start. The plane crashed because the pilots attempted to land in impossibly bad weather conditions (meaning: they couldn't see the runway through the mist or fog), and the very importance and power of the political delegation on board may have increased pressure on the pilots to try.   

The transcripts provide no indication that Poland's "aging aircraft fleet" contributed to the problem in any way, despite widespread initial Western press speculation to that effect -- nor that there was any kind of suspicious or conspiratorial element in the crash, despite ongoing (and understandable, given the darkly freighted history of the Katyn crash site) Polish speculation on that theme. It was a "normal" accident, born of a mistake -- rationally easier to accept as a probable cause, but probably emotionally harder for Poles than if there were some external "reason" for such a national tragedy. This is so sad. 

Previously on this question here, here, here, and again 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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