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.)
This photo from reader Brian Neil doesn’t have a part of the aircraft in the frame but it makes the view all the more surreal. Here’s Brian with details and a bonus pic:
My friend Tom took this photo during a flight over San Francisco while I piloted a Cessna 172. The fog in SF has always been one of its most interesting features, and I love days when it partially covers the city. Sutro Tower gets to lord over the fog all the time, but it’s not common for it to reach downtown like this:
Jessica Placzek at KQED, a public radio station in San Francisco, profiled the Sutro Tower last summer:
Back in the 1960s, San Francisco had really bad television reception. By many accounts, it was the worst of any city in America. Good reception required a clear line of sight from the broadcast tower to your TV antenna, and in hilly San Francisco this was a challenge. Broadcasters began the hunt for a location to build a very tall tower that could send a clear TV signal far and wide. [...]
Eric Dausman, general manager of Sutro Tower, says the architect’s decision to taper the center was entirely aesthetic. “All the engineers since then want to shoot him. It made it a more difficult structure to maintain, and it is a more difficult structure to keep perfectly upright and in a great condition,” says Dausman.
The other major change was the color. Original plans showed a tower with a golden hue, but aviation regulations required the tower be painted alternating stripes of red and white to ward off possible plane collisions.
San Francisco writer Herb Caen once wrote, “I keep waiting for it to stalk down the hill and attack the Golden Gate Bridge.” Acknowledging both displeasure and affection for its undeniable prominence on the city's skyline, it is sometimes referred to light-heartedly as the Sutro Monster or Space Claw.
For some aerial views from the tower, check out this great video from KQED narrated by Placzek:
Update from a reader who lived in San Francisco for a while:
This isn’t a submission because it’s a photo from the ground not the air, but since I’m a Sutro appreciator, I am sharing a photo of the Sutro Monster I took that I really like:
Sutro seems to be using the fog to sneak up on an unsuspecting city. Attached. Sutro Tower even has a fan site, run by a Floridian. I sent in that photo years ago and it is now one of the many used on the page.
Early evening over Antrim County, Michigan, back in April 2008, following departure from the Antrim Co. Airport (KACB) on Runway 2. Intermediate Lake is in the foreground and Lake Bellaire is in the upper right of the photo. The small town of Bellaire (pop. approx. 1080) is visible between the airport and Lake Bellaire.
After spending 40 years as a pilot based in Michigan, I have quite a few more photos. I’ll be happy to send more if you’re interested.
Yes please. And if you have one yourself, even if you’ve had a photo posted already, please send to email@example.com.
This was taken in a Cessna 172 in early August 2015. The location is near Kalamazoo, Michigan, looking west at around 5500 MSL. I loved how the low sun was reflecting off of Lake Michigan and also filtering through the clouds.
Here’s another view from a Cirrus SR22, taken early this morning. This is Truckee, California, in the Sierra Nevada, just north of Lake Tahoe. The wonderful Truckee Airport, situated in the Martis Valley, is below me. Just left of the wing tip are the ski hills at Northstar, still with some snow on the runs. In the middle distance you can just see Lake Tahoe, and in the far distance above and left of Northstar are the ski runs at Heavenly, in South Lake Tahoe.
It’s a tough balance to concentrate on a safe takeoff from Truckee airport while soaking in the breathtaking views on climb-out.
The only time I visited Tahoe was also the only time I ever had a flat tire—and by flat, I mean exploded:
I saw the pieces fly high in the rearview mirror. Changing my friend’s tire on a narrow, pitched road covered in ice and snow with a tiny jack wasn’t the best way to spend the morning. But the rest of the visit was serene, as was the winter landscape:
This picture was taken from my Cirrus SR22 (same airplane as Jim Fallows’) flying over Salt Lake City at about a mile high. We were flying back from Ogden, UT to my home in Tucson AZ, via a fuel stop in Bryce Canyon. I have many more photos, if you are interested.
We’re definitely interested in more photos, even if you’ve already had one posted: firstname.lastname@example.org (submission guidelines here). The series has been such a great way to learn about places all over the U.S. Here’s a bit about the mountains above, the Wasatch Range:
The mountains were a vital source of water, timber, and granite for early settlers. Today, 85% of Utah’s population lives within 15 miles (24 km) of the Wasatch Range, mainly in the valleys just to the west. This concentration is known as the Wasatch Front and has a population of just over 2,000,000 residents.
Alex Gilman-Smith, who previously submitted these great canyon shots from the Southwest, also has a gorgeous one from Hawaii:
I’m really enjoying your America by Air series and I thought you might enjoy these pictures I grabbed during a Delta 837 flight from Atlanta to Honolulu. After a lot of blue, we reached Hawaii, where I took this picture of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.
It’s the name of a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi, most likely from lae 'browridge, promontory’ plus ʻahi 'tuna' because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds.
Diamond Head is part of the system of cones, vents, and their associated eruption flows that are collectively known to geologists as the Honolulu Volcanic Series, eruptions from the Koʻolau Volcano that took place long after the volcano formed and had gone dormant.
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.
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.
Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.
HONG KONG—For months now, I’ve been told that Hong Kong’s protests would end soon. They’ll end when school starts, I heard during the summer. School did start, but the protests wore on, only now I saw high-school students in crisp school uniforms joining the protesters’ ranks. Next, the mask ban of early October was supposed to slow protesters down, but the very first day after that ban, I watched streams of protesters in masks and helmets make their way to their usual haunts on Hong Kong Island.
The government shut down many of the subway lines that day, a practice that has become a de facto curfew, because Hong Kong’s über-efficient subway system is the way most people get around. No matter; the protesters ended up walking, sometimes a lot, and I walked with them, asking some of the same questions I had asked for months: Do you think you will continue protesting? What would it take for you to stop?
Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side
Images above: A protestor holding a sign that reads “Abortion Is Freedom” and protestors holding anti-abortion signs
In 1956, twoAmerican physicians, J. A. Presley and W. E. Brown, colleagues at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, decided that four recent admissions to their hospital were significant enough to warrant a published report. “Lysol-Induced Criminal Abortion” appeared in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It describes four women who were admitted to the hospital in extreme distress, all of them having had “criminal abortions” with what the doctors believed to be an unusual agent: Lysol. The powerful cleaner had been pumped into their wombs. Three of them survived, and one of them died.
Things were getting bad even before the 2016 election, but somehow, within just a few years, they have gotten worse. In an environment of intense partisan warfare, each side believes it has a claim to lead the nation based on its own set of values. Each side understands that it has more to gain from aggrievement than achievement, and each side beholds the other with contempt. Meanwhile, the republic seems to be unraveling. A culture of anxiety and depression has spread far and wide as people face health crises without access to affordable care. An opioid epidemic ensnares ever larger numbers of the alienated and desperate; among certain groups, life spans are actually shortening. Some of those who aren’t harming themselves are harming others in mass shootings; many of the killers are infected with an ideology of white supremacy. Also, the prisons are full. The economy, at least, seems to be in decent shape for now, but income inequality continues to widen. Jobs are plentiful, which is good, because it often takes more than one to support a family. But the economic energy of a rich country has not eased the strains on our political institutions—money flowing to politicians has only hardened the gridlock. Congress still can’t get anything done. Tax cuts have left the country short of money to address national problems. The gulf between needs and capacities is glaring. Everyday scenes sometimes resemble New Yorker covers designed by Pravda: In Manhattan, the Harvard Club’s elegant dining room backs onto West 45th Street, where men and women sleep beneath damp cardboard in the warm glow of the club’s windows.
At least one human life has already been lost as a direct result of the widespread obsession with turning the sex of one’s unborn child into an explosive (often literally) spectacle. In October, an Iowa woman was killed when her family inadvertently built a pipe bomb as part of their gender-reveal party—a gathering at which expectant parents dramatically and colorfully announce the sex of their baby.
The methods for doing so seem to have started out as benign, if stereotypical—cutting into a cake to reveal either blue or pink frosting, say. But in the past couple of years, some kind of communal madness has taken hold, and many of these feats of gender performance have gotten more elaborate, more public, and more dangerous—putting lives and entire ecosystems at risk. Last year, a father-to-be started a 47,000-acre wildfire in Arizona when he shot a rifle at an explosive target full of blue powder (It’s a boy!), causing $8.2 million of damage, according to the Arizona Daily Star. The latest instance of a gender reveal gone wildly wrong, as The New York Times reported on Friday, involved a plane that stalled and crashed while crop-dusting a Texas field with 350 gallons of pink water in honor of an unborn female child. No one was killed in either incident, but someone easily could have been. Othergender-reveal-relatedexplosions, and one reveal involving an alligator, have also placed people in harm’s way.
The gravest danger to American democracy isn’t an excess of vitriol—it’s the false promise of civility.
Joe Biden has fond memories of negotiating with James Eastland, the senator from Mississippi who once declared, “I am of the opinion that we should have segregation in all the States of the United States by law. What the people of this country must realize is that the white race is a superior race, and the Negro race is an inferior race.”
Recalling in June his debates with segregationists like Eastland, Biden lamented, “At least there was some civility,” compared with today. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition; the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
As anyone who has been called out for hypocrisy by a small child knows, kids are exquisitely attuned to gaps between what grown-ups say and what grown-ups do. If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: Kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.
Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.
From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year.
When I arrived in the United States from France in 1999, I felt like I was entering the land of free markets. Nearly everything—from laptops to internet service to plane tickets—was cheaper here than in Europe.
Twenty years later, this is no longer the case. Internet service, cellphone plans, and plane tickets are now much cheaper in Europe and Asia than in the United States, and the price differences are staggering. In 2018, according to data gathered by the comparison site Cable, the average monthly cost of a broadband internet connection was $29 in Italy, $31 in France, $32 in South Korea, and $37 in Germany and Japan. The same connection cost $68 in the United States, putting the country on par with Madagascar, Honduras, and Swaziland. American households spend about $100 a month on cellphone services, the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates. Households in France and Germany pay less than half of that, according to the economists Mara Faccio and Luigi Zingales.
A conversation with the magazine’s creative director, Peter Mendelsund, about our bold new design
Today, we launch our December issue, built around a single theme: “How to Stop a Civil War.” This issue, an exploration of our dangerous political moment, also represents the debut of a new visual identity for The Atlantic. It is the most dramatic new look for our magazine in its 162-year history, and one that, we hope, reflects boldness, elegance, and urgency. The redesign of the print magazine, as well as the new look of our website, was led by Peter Mendelsund, our creative director. His design work, carried out in collaboration with many teams across our magazine, is also reflected in the new Atlantic app that launched today. I sat down with Peter to talk about the new design, his creative process, and how his work was informed by the history of our magazine.