Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Airplane calamity stories - by Langewiesche & Bissinger

Two pieces of phenomenal writing I've seen recently were on airplane calamities with one a feature from the October issue of Vanity Fair and one a Longform reprint of a St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper story from 1981.

For Vanity Fair, William Langewiesche wrote "The Human Factor" on the crash of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean, a disaster that's written in this excellent piece as being one that both become more rare with automated flight systems and was caused in part by pilots not being prepared to deal with problems that arise, given due to their reliance on... automated flight systems.

The much older Pioneer Press story by Buzz Bissinger, who later became well known for writing the book Friday Night Lights and I've a few times written about pieces from, was also brilliantly written and fascinating in that the details recounted are almost the counterpoint to those told of in the Vanity Fair story. "The Plane That Fell From the Sky" told the story of TWA Flight 841, one that suffered severe mechanical failure (as opposed to the human failings from the doomed Air France flight) and then required herculean efforts from the captain to try to land the plane safely.

Both stories were remarkable, with the first featuring amazing pieced together detail from flight recordings and the second just amazing events retold really well.