Our Tattered Infrastructure, Part 2108


A friend who has lived in Europe for many years sent this picture, taken out the window of the American Airlines Admiral's Club at Miami airport. More images of the same plane after the jump.

Of course a swapped-in nosecone with a different paint scheme is not a "safety" issue  -- any more than was the "speed tape" shown on a Chinese regional airliner a couple of months ago, here. But my friend writes that as soon as he glimpsed the plane, he took it as:

a metaphor (are only words metaphors?) for the current state of the airline industry.... By the way, I have accumulated over 7 million miles in the American Airlines Advantage program and was an original member when the program began, so I've watched the evolution of the airline for more than forty years. Since so much of my career has involved management of others -- both XXX and XXX [two companies he has led] each had more than 6,000 employees -- I've always been fascinated by the challenges of managing and motivating large numbers of people in various organizations. Contrast the spirit one immediately feels waking into an Apple Store in the experience of flying on a commercial airline and it's not hard to understand how the airlines began their descent long before they faced the problems of budget fares and high fuel costs.

On the brighter side, I do like American's retro-look livery for the rest of the plane, from the nosecone on back:

AND, after checking with a friend at AA, it turns out that there is a back story to the elegantly minimalist paint scheme on the airplane, known as "Astrojet" style to the airline. As explained here, here, and here, the plane painted in this retro style is part of a limited-edition commemoration of an American Airlines milestone. One more picture from the Admiral's Club shows the "Astrojet" in the foreground plus a plane in "normal" livery in the rear. So maybe they didn't happen to have spare nosecones in the special paint scheme. Still, a metaphor for something.... 


By the way, seven million miles !? Whoa.
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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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