Our Tattered Infrastructure, Part 2108

By James Fallows
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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:
 
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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.... 

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By the way, seven million miles !? Whoa.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/08/our-tattered-infrastructure-part-2108/62208/