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February 5, 2009

Jet Lands Safely in Denver After Bird Hits Engine

In one of the most shameless copycat stunts ever recorded, United Airlines issued a press release when a bird whacked into the side of one of their jets.  

ABC News reports that  " . . . a jetliner has returned safely to the Denver airport after a bird struck one of its engines shortly after takeoff.  Airline spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says the engine that was struck continued to operate and the second engine wasn't affected. None of the 151 passengers and crew was injured.  . .  the pilot's decision to return to the airport was a precaution."

That's it.  One engine with brains on it and another purring along just fine.  And a pilot screaming Mayday.

No horrific fiery crash.  No suffocating loss of cabin pressure.  No heroic water landing.  Nothing more than a bloody cowling and an envious pilot with delusions of grandeur.

Surely this pilot was recalling the thrilling cruise down the Hudson enjoyed by passengers on that US Airways jet a week or so ago.  And maybe this particular pilot has been awake nights wishing for to run up against the wayward gaggle to test his mettle on.  I'll bet the guy even steered the plane into the poor animal just for an excuse to throw it in reverse and make a daringly safe landing back at Denver.  

My Hero
This is likely to be the first of what will become a series of shameless exploits designed to lift otherwise forgotten flyboys and girls into ten minutes of unearned fame.  Allow me to be the first to call it the Sully Syndrome.  That Sully guy was the personification of grace under pressure.  Every pilot's model.  That to which all aspire but fall short due to the whim of circumstance.  After all, not all pilots get the luxury of a high-visibility crisis to navigate with calm and competence.  .

Sully Syndrome has not yet found a place in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the bible of lunacy.  But it will surely earn a slot soon as pilots clamor for the limelight.  More and more pilots will be finding hapless flocks of fowl to slaughter.  Meanwhile the poor birds will slowly join the ranks of the endangered.  
The Original
February 16, 2009
Bird Collides With Plane
Friedrich Hegel, the great German philosopher of the nineteenth century, introduced the idea of the dialectic, which postulates a theory of history in which events move in surprisingly predictable patterns.  A new historical movement begins with a thesis - perhaps a new idea or political persuasion.  This idea takes hold but ultimately, due to its own internal contradictions, stimulates a backlash - the antithesis.  Finally, the thesis and antithesis realize that they are really two sides of the same coin and join in joyous synthesis, which only creates the conditions for a new thesis.
The classic application of Hegel's dialectic is Marx's prediction that capitalism, containing the seeds of its own destruction, would ultimately yield to communism.  Perhaps he was stretching things further than even Hegel would have tolerated.  

What does all this have to do with birds hitting planes?

Well, I think we're seeing a micro-manifestation of Hegel's dialectic playing out right here in the world of mid-air fowl-flight collision.  And why not?  Hegel would have probably seen his theory in even the most microscopic aspect of human affairs.

Consider the news from Tampa:  "A Northwest Airlines jet that landed in Florida with a big dent in its nose yesterday collided with a bird."  This pilot, like all others who have encountered winged creatures flying below the clouds, had every right to assert Sully Syndrome and ditch the aircraft in the nearest pond.  But that's clearly NOT what happened, and that's where the story takes a Hegelian turn - the second of two that his theory predicts.

Instead of staging a faux-heroic ditch, the anonymous pilot chose instead to land safely at the intended destination.  No frantic maydays.  No panicked passengers in ditch positions.  No pseudo-heroes basking in the glow of Sully's glory.  Nope.  Instead we got this from Brenda Geoghan, the spokesperson for Tampa International Airport: " . . . the aircraft collided with a bird. There were no injuries and the pilot did not request emergency vehicles to be on hand when making the landing."  No newsvans either, yet still they came.

Since I was the first to identify Sully Syndrome, allow me to be the first to identify the emergence of this classic Hegelian synthesis - the closing chapter of the Sully Sequence.  The sequence began with the thesis - Sully himself in all his stoic, heroic, calm competence.  The antithesis followed soon behind with the proliferation of a collection of  anti-Sullies that have been so rudely documented on these pages.  Now we have the synthesis - the stoic pilot who reacts to silly, routine situations with the simple measures that protocol calls for.  Finally, a return to sanity and an opportunity to start the whole process anew!

But what could the sequence be?  I've given it a little thought and here's what I came up with.

Sunglare:  I'm told that the sun shines a little brighter above the clouds.  It's probably blinding in the cockpit.  Nothing that pilots haven't worked around for nearly a century now, but the desire to keep up with the Sullies may cause the sun to shine brighter still.  Perhaps to the point of blinding, migraine-inducing agony.  "Cockpit to tower . . ."

Boredom:  I suppose it does get boring on those long transoceanic flights.  Sure, there are books to read and in-flight movies to enjoy.  But books can induce drowsiness and in-flight movies don't change more than once a month.  This is borderline whining, but a well-versed mayday call can make any pilot a hero, regardless of the trouble

Chatty Copilot:  What's worse than boredom?   Having to spend hours accompanied by a companion who keeps insisting on sharing pictures of the family vacation to the Outer Banks and drones on endlessly about dietary fiber and how long flights make him flatulent.  Very unpleasant indeed.  Turn that nose down and ditch!

A Bird Did That?
Turn Away From The Light . . . .
All Five Stages in One Flight!
I'd Rather Die A Water Death
The Caffeine Sequence:  I've been a coffee drinker my entire adult life.  The thesis.  Recently, my very very best friend turned me onto tea.  An antithesis if ever there was one.  I'm still very much into tea - perhaps so much so that I'm not far from the inevitable synthesis.  I'm not looking forward to teafee.  

The Obama Sequence:  Obama is his own natural thesis.  The man is a one-man movement.  But already the antithesis is rearing its ugly head as a rabid and wounded GOP thrashes and snaps wildly in reaction to the strength of the new President's mandate.  I predict these two sides of the movement with fight it out for awhile but, in the end, they will meet in the middle.  A new synthesis that will be politically stable for a femptosecond.

The Hello Kitty Sequence:  This is one that must be depicted in images:
Just Don't Mix 'Em Together
A One-Man Thesis
February 6, 2009

Water Landing for Australian Plane

Told ya.

Remember that pitiful attempt to be bold that I told you about yesterday?  Thought it couldn't get much worse didn't you?  Earlier today some Australian hotshot used "some loss of power in one of the engines" as an excuse to ditch into Darwin's harbor.  I'm telling you, before long planes are going to be dropping like flies.

This guy had a bad case of Sully Syndrome.  The lengths to which he went to create the conditions that justify a water landing defy rational explanation.  First the guy has "some loss of power" in an engine.  Hey, he's still got the other one, right?  That's why they give ya two.  But does he nurse the sick one along and try to get the most out of the good engine?  Nope.  According to his manager he shut the engine down and decided to ditch.

Fortunately nobody was injured, but his passengers did suffer the indignity of having to wade ashore in two feet of water.  Could have been a tragedy if not for the Sullyesque behavior of their captain, one Steve Bolle.  

Captain Bolle basked in the glory of his heroic dive.  "He was very cool about it ... they've certainly trained for these things," Mr McKenzie, one of the passengers, said to BBC News.  A cop said he did a "remarkable job."  It is not known whether the cop was referring to Captain Bolle's piloting skills or his knack for manufacturing an artificial crisis.  Some cops are crafty at that too, so there may be professional cred to pass around.

Having so little to be proud about, the folks down under are naturally bragging about their new hero.  You can't rightly blame the poor Aussies.  The last real hero they've had is Mad Max.

In an indication that not everybody in Australia is so impressed with Captain Bolle's exploits the BBC closed on this ominous note:  "An investigation is now under way."  I can't wait.  

Back-to-back exhibitions of Sully Syndrome cause me to go in search of possible excuses for this playful condition.  Here are some things that come to mind:
A Genuinely Heroic Sea Landing