Inspired by our March 2016 cover story by James Fallows, “How America Is Putting Itself Back Together,” readers share their best aerial photos from across the U.S. Submit your own via firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please provide the location, the story behind the photo, and the largest file size you have. Horizontal photos with a bit of the plane visible—a wing, the edge of a window—are ideal. Terms and Conditions here.)
Ideally we want to see part of the aircraft in these aerial photos, but this one from reader Rama is way too good to pass up:
Here’s a favorite of mine taken four years ago in the Outer Banks. This is Cape Lookout Lighthouse. The Light at Cape Hatteras gets all the attention, being the tallest in the U.S., but Cape Lookout Lighthouse is my favorite. The beauty of the Outer Banks and its lighthouses can be appreciated best from above. This was on a custom lighthouse tour that took us around six iconic lights of the OBX.
My family and I used to vacation once a year in nearby Duck when I was in middle school, so the Outer Banks looms large in my memory. If you, like Rama, have a great aerial photo from the OBX to share, or in general have a memorable view above your childhood vacation spot, please send: email@example.com (submission guidelines here).
This time, instead of a biplane over Kilaeua, it’s a helicopter over Kauai, specifically the Na Pali Coast, a chain of mountains in the northwest of Kauai. This picture shows a good example of the popup waterfalls you get after rain showers in the islands.
I’m really enjoying your America by Air feature and thought you might enjoy these pictures I grabbed during a Delta 837 flight from Atlanta to Honolulu. The flight takes off around 11 AM (EST) and everyone was asleep by the time things got exciting, around 1 PM (EST). At this point the entire flight is dark and silent except for my wide-open window and my excited squealing as we fly over the start of Glen Canyon (picture #1) on through southern Utah (#2). I think southern Utah is some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve seen from the air, not to mention the ground, and I definitely recommend grabbing a window seat on the left-hand side if you ever get to take this trip.
Federal officials, the states of Oregon and California, and the utility PacifiCorp signed a pair of agreements [on April 6] opening the way for removal of a whopping four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon through Northern California. [...] Congress authorized the [Glen Canyon Dam’s] construction on this day [April 11] in 1956, and about seven months later, then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower pressed a telegraph key in the Oval Office, sending the signal to blast a string of dynamite wedged in the side of a sinuous canyon. Boulders sprayed through the air at Arizona’s northern border, and workers began drilling a tunnel to temporarily redirect the flow of the Colorado River while they built the base of the dam. Monstrous Lake Powell filled in behind the 710-foot dam, drowning Glen Canyon’s otherworldly red-rock amphitheaters and slot canyons under its silty depths.
Does drone photography qualify for “America by Air”? This was taken on 3/29/2016 while I was flying for the Anniston Army Depot. (Don’t worry, the depot itself is out of frame, to the left—although eagle-eyed viewers may notice some M113 variants to the left.) The stand of cleared trees in the bottom left is to become a solar power site, which is why I was out there.
The mountain in the picture is Coldwater Mountain, site of silver-level mountain biking trails and a natural spring which provides much of the community its water. Although not visible, behind Coldwater Mountain lies Mount Cheaha, Alabama’s highest peak (the range it is a part of is visible in the background). On the other side of Coldwater are the cities of Anniston and Oxford, nestled in a valley.
The picture itself isn’t one of masterful composition, but both the colors and natural beauty strike me.
Lucas double-checked with the Army about posting and followed up:
They did clear the picture for publication and sent along some general information about the depot in case your readers wanted some additional information. I’ve quoted them here:
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Anniston Army Depot is a U.S. Army maintenance center and munitions storage site occupying more than 25 square miles of land. ANAD is the Department of Defense’s Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for combat vehicles, including assault bridging, artillery and small caliber weapons, and locomotives, rail equipment and non-tactical generators.
The installation operates mission and base operations functions under TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. It serves and supports a number of customers: active duty, reserve component, and joint service Soldiers and Marines; retirees; DoD civilians; families of servicemembers; contractors; and volunteers. ANAD is proud of its rich history, whereas this year marks its diamond anniversary—seventy-five years of dedication while playing a vital role in our nation’s defense mission.
And the depot continues to do amazing things! The Department of Defense has launched several initiatives to reduce its fossil fuel dependence by improving energy efficiency and shifting to renewable energy to meet operational and installation needs. Recently, the depot took an additional step to not only meet, but exceed the Army’s goals of renewable energy while enhancing national security. The Office of Energy Initiatives, Alabama Power Company and the depot, in coordination with General Services Administration Corp of Engineers and the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, are developing a solar project capable of producing up to 10 megawatt alternating current at the depot. This ground breaking takes place in April and commercial operation is expected in the fall.
Not sure if I’ve missed it, but with all the piston, turbo, jet, land, and seaplane [and blimp! and paraglider! and helicopter! and skyscraper!] photos, I don’t think I've seen one from a glider! Here’s one I took a few years ago over Boulder, Colorado, on aerotow behind a Super Cub on a winter afternoon. Note the critical instrument visible on the right: the humble yaw string.
Also known as a slip string, it’s a simple device for indicating a slip or skid in an aircraft in flight. It performs the same function as the slip-skid indicator ball, but is more sensitive, and does not require the pilot to look down at the instrument panel. Technically, it measures sideslip angle, not yaw angle, but this indicates how the aircraft must be yawed to return the sideslip angle to zero. It is typically constructed from a short piece or tuft of yarn placed in the free air stream where it is visible to the pilot.
The yaw string is considered a primary flight reference instrument on gliders, which must be flown with near zero sideslip angle to reduce drag as much as possible. It is valued for its high sensitivity, and the fact that it is presented in a head-up display. Even the most sophisticated modern racing sailplanes are fitted with yaw strings by their pilots, who reference them constantly throughout the flight.
I snapped this shot (using my phone) of the Charlotte skyline shortly after we had taken off on a flight to Tampa in January 2015. Not a very exciting story, but I thought it turned out to be a cool picture.
This is one of my favorites, taken six years ago while flying to the Dry Tortugas from Key West. We’re flying over the sea of mud, where the sea still holds the secrets of hidden treasures from Spanish shipwrecks in the area.
He adds, “You can see the shadow of our seaplane.” That detail really makes it. Speaking of plane shadows, here’s another one to add to our growingcollection:
This is from an RV-8 taking off from Rockland, Maine. I usually stow my camera during take-offs and landings, so I missed this shot when we arrived. I couldn’t wait to take off again before the light changed!
I asked her if she had a good photo handy of the tiny RV-8, “a tandem two-seat, single-engine, low-wing homebuilt aircraft sold in kit form by Van’s Aircraft.” Indeed she did:
Here is a view of the Missouri River, just north of Kansas City, that illustrates the runoff from a continental-sized glacier. The Missouri is “underfit,” meaning that the modern stream flows through a valley that was created by an ancestral river many times its present size.
The modern-day Missouri River, which has been channelized by a massive civil engineering project aimed at promoting navigation and flood control, is dwarfed by its valley, which cuts a massive scar across the middle of the country that in places is over 25 miles wide. Here it averages about 10 miles across.
As the last glacier receded, its melt-water would have filled the valley from rim to rim during the summer months. During the winter, its flow slowed down and a braided stream like the one in New Zealand left the valley mostly sand. Tremendous spring winds, created in part by the temperature variation over the diminished glacier to the northeast, created epic sandstorms that deposited several hundred feet of fine grained silt on the eastern border of the river valley. Ten thousand years of erosion have created the Loess Hills, a relatively unique geologic feature of sharp sided mounds without a rock anywhere.
Nick Knobil sends this photo taken over—or is it under?—Mt. Washington, New Hampshire:
I am the pilot. The photographer was the then 89-year-old Don “Mac” McKibben. I saw your America by Air series and noticed that [today, April 9] is the first anniversary of Mac’s death. I miss that guy.
Mac flew P-47s and P-51s with the 352nd Fighter Group over Europe during WW2. He worked for Eastman Kodak from before the war until he retired. He always had the latest digital camera gear … a thoroughly modern guy. And he never lost his “let’s go!” love of flying.
When I asked Nick what maneuver he was making in the photo, he replied:
I honestly don’t remember—barrel roll, aileron roll, or loop. Mac and I would whoop and holler …
I found a Facebook post that Nick wrote a year ago today—a tribute to his flying buddy:
Our pal Don “Mac” McKibben died this afternoon. His eldest son, Frank, was with him.
Don grew up a poor kid in upstate New York during the Depression, and like so many of us, grew up with a fascination of flight that lasted throughout his long life. He soloed a Piper J-3 Cub in the winter 1940 (the J-3 at that time, you remember, was a new design) in Hornell, New York through the Civilian Pilot Training program, and within two years (and with a little help from the USAAC) he was flying the most powerful, advanced fighter aircraft in the world. He was 21.
He was a part of the big fight; a founding member of the 21st Fighter Squadron, which became the 486th, one of the three squadrons that comprised the 352nd Fighter Group: the “Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney.” Google it.
And then he came home, got married to his childhood sweetheart, raised three sons who’ve had sons and daughters of their own, and worked his whole career at Kodak.
If you knew him you knew he was well read, erudite, loved jazz music and a special martini he called the “Silver Bullet”. He had his last one yesterday.
This evening I had my first “Silver Bullet” knowing that I would never be able to solve the world’s problems over one with him again. The first “Bullet” was the worst one ever. The second one? Not so bad.
Keep ‘em flying.
(America by Air archive here. Submission guidelines here.)
A soda lake or alkaline lake is a lake on the strongly alkaline side of neutrality (in other words, a pH value above 7, typically between 9 - 12). They are characterized by high concentrations of carbonate salts, typically sodium carbonate (and related salt complexes), giving rise to their alkalinity. The resulting hypersaline and highly alkalic soda lakes are considered some of the most extreme aquatic environments on Earth.
And yet we have very little idea where anuses come from.
To peer into the soul of a sea cucumber, don’t look to its face; it doesn’t have one. Gently turn that blobby body around, and gaze deep into its marvelous, multifunctional anus.
The sea cucumber's posterior is so much more than an exit hole for digestive waste. It is also a makeshift mouth that gobbles up bits of algae; a faux lung, latticed with tubes that exchange gas with the surrounding water; and a weapon that, in the presence of danger, can launch a sticky, stringy web of internal organs to entangle predators. It can even, on occasion, be a home for shimmering pearlfish, which wriggle inside the bum when it billows open to breathe. It would not be inaccurate to describe a sea cucumber as an extraordinary anus that just so happens to have a body around it. As Rebecca Helm, a jellyfish biologist at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, told me, “It is just a really great butt.”
Rich people are heading to space, and they’re changing what it means to be an astronaut.
In a strip mall just off Houston’s NASA Parkway is a restaurant called Frenchie’s Italian Cuisine. You wouldn’t know it from the unassuming beige storefront, but inside, Frenchie’s looks like a museum. The walls are covered in framed pictures of smiling astronauts, in their blue jumpsuits and puffy spacesuits, holding up bubble helmets and model spaceships. Frenchie’s has been a popular spot with NASA employees at Johnson Space Center, a few minutes away, since it opened in 1979. Over the years, astronauts have dropped in before a flight to chat with Frankie Camera, the owner, and returned with autographed mementos.
Camera, now in his 70s, still runs Frenchie’s, but American spaceflight is changing fast. In the next decade, the restaurant’s walls could display the stories of a new kind of astronaut. Soon rich businessmen with $55 million to spare could become astronauts. So could the founder of a company that processes credit-card payments, and a physician’s assistant who works with cancer patients. Jeff Bezos could count as an astronaut too.
Some are trying to turn the lab-leak theory into a potent political weapon.
Two questions have dominated politics throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats and public-health experts have asked: What should we do?FormerPresident Donald Trump, for his part, minimized the need to act. He instead spoke incessantly about a very different question: Whom should we blame?
“In recent months, our nation and the world has been hit by the once-in-a-century pandemic that China allowed to spread around the globe. They could have stopped it, but they allowed it to come out,” Trump said as he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination in August 2020.
“It’s China’s fault. It should have never happened,” he said at a presidential debate with Joe Biden in September 2020.
On Monday morning, my partner laid a carry-on suitcase down on the floor, preparing to pack for his first post-vaccination trip to visit his parents. The moment he unzipped the bag, our cat Calvin promptly clambered inside.
A piece of me would like to think that Calvin was attempting to covertly join my partner on his trip, or perhaps thwart his inevitable attempt to spirit away. But I’m pretty sure #OccupyLuggage was less a heart-wrenching bid to tag along on a flight, and more a textbook example of a central scientific tenet: Cats are absolute suckers for boxes. And sinks, and vases, and grocery bags, and shoes, and Pringles cans, and the nooks and crannies between furniture and walls, and just about any other space they deem cozy, confining, and swaddly. (Cats, in case you were wondering, are a non-Newtonian liquid.) It’s the one thing about which our pointy-eared companions are not terribly picky: If it fits, they sits. And when they do, we humans can’t help but obsess over them.
Today’s economic conditions are not just holding Millennials back. They are stratifying them, leading to unequal experiences within the generation as well as between it and other cohorts.
A few weeks ago, I met my first Millennial grandparent. I was interviewing a woman in her late 30s about President Joe Biden’s new child-tax-credit proposal, and she mentioned that it would benefit not just her two young kids but her older son’s kid too.
The incidental meeting was a reminder both that Millennials are getting older and that they are doing so without growing up, at least not in the way that many of them might wish. The woman I interviewed does not own a home, nor is she anywhere close to affording one. She has nothing in the way of savings. Nevertheless, she is a grandmother, catapulting into middle age.
Millennials, as just about everyone knows at this point, are a generation delayed. The pandemic recession has led not-so-young adults to put off having kids, buying a house, getting married, or investing in a car—yet again. But today’s economic conditions are not just holding Millennials back. They are stratifying them, leading to unequal experiences within the generation as well as between it and other cohorts.
Everyone expects Harris to run for president again one day, but her job requires her to avoid even the appearance of preparing for her political future.
Air Force Two is a smaller plane than Air Force One. The exterior is the same light-blue and white, but unlike the commander in chief’s plane, the vice president’s aircraft is open plan—from the back, you can see all the way to the front, where a small office doubles as a bedroom. Kamala Harris spends most of her Air Force Two flights in that office, with the door closed. She doesn’t work the plane, the way Joe Biden or even Mike Pence did.
The vice president flew on Air Force Two to Los Angeles for Easter weekend, then to Oakland, her hometown, for events the following Monday. As Harris strode down the stairs, the angle of her head and the pace of her step deliberate, California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis started a round of applause. Kounalakis was still gushing when I caught up with her by phone a week later. “She carries the mantle of this big job in a way that seems very natural,” she said. “To arrive with so much pomp and circumstance, but then to go to a water-treatment plant and then a small business—the juxtaposition underscores the work at the center of her start on the job.”
A parasite gives its hosts the appearance of youth, and an unmatched social power in the colony.
Deep in the forests of Germany, nestled neatly into the hollowed-out shells of acorns, live a smattering of ants who have stumbled upon a fountain of youth. They are born workers, but do not do much work. Their days are spent lollygagging about the nest, where their siblings shower them with gifts of food. They seem to elude the ravages of old age, retaining a durably adolescent physique, their outer shells soft and their hue distinctively tawny. Their scent, too, seems to shift, wafting out an alluring perfume that endears them to others. While their sisters, who have nearly identical genomes, perish within months of being born, these death-defying insects live on for years and years and years.
As always in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, two narratives are vying for primacy. In one, Israel is simply defending itself against a fresh attack. In the other, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is the latest example of a desire to punish and humiliate Palestinians. These two narratives are not reconcilable, which makes reasoned discussion an exercise in futility. But any sophisticated argument must contend with the long, winding lead-up to the current crisis. Why is war in Gaza returning now, and why does it always seem to return, with stubborn, periodic insistence?
Despite inching toward the Democratic Party’s left flank on various domestic- and foreign-policy issues, the Biden administration has fallen back on the usual formulas, offering robotic recitations about “Israel’s right to defend itself.” On Thursday, President Joe Biden said that he hadn’t seen a “significant overreaction” from Israel, while failing to mention a word about Palestinian deaths. In so doing, he gave Israel what amounts to a green light to intensify its bombing campaign.
His mind was made up about a 2020 presidential run—until it wasn’t.
Updated at 10:36 a.m. ET on May 18, 2021
Joe Biden was in his living room at the Naval Observatory on Election Night 2016. He hadn’t been watching the presidential results. Hillary Clinton was going to win, obviously, so the vice president was more focused on monitoring the fates of the House and Senate candidates for whom he’d campaigned. As the television networks and the Associated Press called each race, he’d pick up the phone. Winners and losers got the same line: “You ran a hell of a race.”
Only late into the night did Biden start paying attention to the presidential election. He’d always been concerned that people simply didn’t like Clinton, and the lack of enthusiasm he’d sensed during his last few appearances for her made him nervous. “The arc of history has always been forward, and what these guys”—Republicans—“want to do is literally move it backward,” he’d warned an audience in Madison, Wisconsin, the previous Friday. “It doesn’t feel right there,” he told aides when he returned to Washington. But Madison hadn’t felt off enough for Biden to really imagine that Donald Trump could win.
Parking requirements attack the nature of the city itself, subordinating density to the needs of the car.
Lewis Mumford was suspicious of parking. “The right to access every building in a city by private motorcar,” he wrote in The City in History, “in an age when everyone owns such a vehicle, is actually the right to destroy the city.” Jane Jacobs, who disagreed with Mumford on many counts, agreed here. Parking lots, she said in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, were “border vacuums”: inactive spaces that deadened everything around them.
Mumford and Jacobs published those lines in 1961, when most United States cities were 15 years into an experiment called “minimum parking requirements”: mandates in zoning codes that forced developers to supply parking on-site to prevent curb congestion. In postwar America, development was booming, and neighbors were worried that new residents would make street-parking impossible. Decades later, parking requirements still exist nationwide. In Los Angeles, where I live, new apartment buildings must have at least one parking space per unit; retail buildings need one space per 300 square feet; and restaurants need one space for every 100 square feet of dining area.