The item posted a few minutes ago on this site, which is part of the 'China Takes Off' special coverage we are featuring this month, is drawn from the introduction to my book China Airborne, whose official pub date is a week from today. Also: the current issue of Popular Science has a nice (in my view) excerpt from the book describing how China is planning to cope with the environmental consequences of its aerospace boom.
A few words to put this excerpt in context. It describes my wild-and-woolly first encounter with the world of small-plane flight in China, soon after I moved there in 2006. The larger point of the book is to ask whether the whole roiling, exciting, fast-changing, uncontrollable Chinese "miracle" of the past generation will lead the country to a further level of technological and economic sophistication -- or limits of various sorts are now coming into view. That is, it's a "China Takes Off" question. This section gives a glimpse of an area where China's government strategists and individual visionaries (and boosters and idealists) are trying hardest, and fastest, to remake their country's fortunes -- and their own.
A word to aviators: the last part of this excerpt describes how Peter Claeys, my friend who was "pilot in command" for this flight, and I reacted when the instrument-landing beam at Zhuhai airport momentarily failed. I have deliberately put the description in slow-mo terms. In reality, no more than two or three seconds passed between an indication of trouble and our glimpse through the clouds. Claeys's hand was on the throttle instants away from pushing it full-forward for the "go missed" procedure. But three seconds of chronological time felt like about ten years of emotional time, which is why I have described it the way I did.