Comments: Week of February 16, 2009

1. One might think that when a plane full of passengers makes an emergency landing on a body of water in the middle of a city and all aboard survive, the reaction would be nothing but unqualified joy. But we live in a world of varied and divergent opinions, as evidenced by the response to My Aircraft,” Robert Kolker’s story about Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Flight 1549 (February 9). “Pilots get all the glory,” a commenter wrote on, “and the avionics engineers never get the attention they deserve. A well-maintained aircraft is as important as the emergency landing that rarely occurs.” Another added, “There were five crew members onboard that day. They were just doing their job, not being heroes. If Sully is a hero, so is every pilot and flight attendant out there, since they get the passengers to their destination safely. To all of the pilots and flight attendants—we are all heroes and should be treated as such!”

One captain took exception to the article’s point about the change in pilot culture: “The fact that Sully had 19,663 hours of flight time and at least two checkrides a year was far more pertinent to the survival of the passengers on that airplane. Dodging SAMs, jinking and popping chaff over Southeast Asia 30 years ago is not even remotely related to the handling of an airliner. As a civilian-trained airline captain myself, I have witnessed firsthand the differences between pilots with civilian versus military backgrounds: The military pilots have had far more structure and guidance in their training, [while] the civilian pilots have, on the whole, far more experience.” Another captain suggested some perspective in regard to the allocation of post-Sully glory: “We captains have the responsibility and, therefore, deserve the praise or the blame, whatever the outcome. All of the praise for Sully that I’ve seen is closely followed by praise for the entire crew for the safe evacuation of the passengers. Well done to all, especially the guy who made it all possible by safely landing the thing.” We’ll give the last word to this brief but enthusiastic pro-Sully comment: “I’m sorry, but is it just me or is this guy gorgeous!”

2. Gabriel Sherman’s chronicle of tensions at Stuyvesant Town (Clash of the Utopias,” February 9) also spurred some strong reactions, mostly from the residents. Some complained of onerous rent increases, others of declining service, while one took exception to the trees. “I lived with my wife for close to eight years in Stuy Town, and I never felt the environment was stark. The planting of the trees is a joke. I am sure the arborists out there cringed when they saw the plantings.” Another tenant stated plainly, “Tishman Speyer has made a royal mess of what was formerly a no-frills but decent place to live.” But Tishman had its defenders: “ ‘Greedy.’ ‘Scum.’ ‘Madoff.’ Does anyone here understand how the world works? When you throw out those words about these guys, you diminish their use for real bad guys. These guys bought a real-estate deal that is not working out that well. Everything they did was legal and by the book.” Another defender afforded this cold comfort: “Eventually tenants will come to know that they could do much worse than having the Speyers as their landlord.”

3. Readers hunting for heroes were uniformly inspired by Rebecca Alexander, who is living with Usher syndrome (Going Deaf and Blind in a City of Noise and Lights,” by Arianne Cohen, February 9). “As Rebecca’s friend and classmate at the U of M, I can honestly say that this article does not even begin to describe what a vibrant and inspirational person Rebecca is and has been to her friends and family,” wrote one commenter. “I am not sure anyone can truly fathom how brave she is,” wrote another. “She works infinitely harder to see and hear the things that we take entirely for granted. Imagine taping toilet-paper tubes to your eyes, covering them with a darker film, and stuffing your ears with cotton, and then get on the N or R train at rush hour! If Arianne Cohen was frustrated by not being able to get Rebecca to stop and dwell on the bleak future, she’s not alone. Rebecca refuses to, because she is too busy doing the things she loves.”

4. Perhaps all this heroism is making people soft, but even the economic meltdown seemed slightly less dire of late, at least as chronicled in a web post about Henry Blodget. (Henry Blodget Is Smoking the Hopium! Daily Intel, February 3). Blodget, not normally known for sunny forecasts, had suggested on the blog Clusterstock that the economy is no longer in a free fall. His readers disagreed, arguing that the “system is about to collapse,” but Blodget assured them that we’re all a long way from “hunting squirrels in Central Park.” On, one of our commenters, Hellyeah, responded to Blodget’s remark by posting a handy clip-and-save recipe for a squirrel stew, just in case. One instruction read, “In a Dutch oven, combine bacon and butter over medium heat until butter melts. Add squirrel and brown.” Suddenly, the Apocalypse just got a little bit more tasty.

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Comments: Week of February 16, 2009