Friday, January 16, 2009

Intelligence isn't Everything

Yesterday, Thursday, January 15, could have been a disastrous day in New York City history, one that would live on in infamy. Fortunately, what could have been a tragedy was instead a bad accident. A US Airways Airbus, taking off from LaGuardia airport, made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. In what is viewed as little less than miraculous, all the people aboard were uninjured and all were rescued. Kudos go to the skilled pilot who managed to get the plane to land in the water rather than in the densely populated area only a few hundred yards from where the plane was put down. Our Mayor and the media have all pointed out that thousands of lives could have been snuffed out. Of course, I, too, am thankful that "all" we have is a sunk airplane and no lost lives. But I think we have lost focus on one very important element in this averted tragedy: how it came to be.

I think we can credit mankind for having intelligence. We can even say that that intelligence has brought us incredible inventions and discoveries. Our technological marvels abound. But with these technological developments has also come a rise in our belief that we are fully in charge of the world, that what we say goes. Mankind discovered electricity and now our world glows whenever we want it to, wherever we want it to. Until it doesn't. Twice this year squirrels have chewed through the power lines feeding our electrical transformers and plunged us into darkness. No lights, no heat--yes indeed, man controls the world.

Oh the marvels of our brilliant irrigation systems, guaranteeing that we can grow our needed crops as we will. And then nature springs a drought. Architectural wonders dominating our shorelines, and then a hurricane strolls through and flattens the landscape once more.

And yesterday? Imagine the years of technological refinement that went in to making a plane that can get us up and out to anywhere we want to go. Safety? Every care taken. And then a few Canada Geese taking a leisurely flight over the Hudson got sucked into an airplane engine and down the plane went. There's a rather crude gesture involving the middle finger that is sometimes known as "giving someone the bird." Yesterday we got the real thing.

It seems as if Mother Nature keeps a watch over the people in her midst, and when their heads get too swelled with admiration for their intelligence and output, she reminds them that theirs is not the only decisive voice that gets listened to.


Anonymous said...

One of the news commenters yesterday said that it was ridiculous that a bird could cause such an accident to happen. And then he said that all we needed to do was go back and fix the design flaw so that it can't happen again. Just how would he like to fix that "design flaw?" Ban any birds from flying where airplanes fly? I'm with you on this that there are some things man can't control no matter how he tries.

G6 said...

Great post!
It's important for us to keep in our minds who is truly "driving the bus" (or flying the plane as the case may be....).

Zach Kessin said...

It should be pointed out that the reason that this result happened was in large part VERY good training. Airline pilots are trained to deal with emergencies and Ferry boat captains are trained to do rescues.

This was a result in large part of things working correctly.

Judith said...

I think you have the date wrong, it was Jan. 15

Anonymous said...

Couldn't they put a screen over the engine propeller? [puzzled]

The real miracle wasn't that he landed in the Hudson. It was that he landed without the plane breaking up. They don't tell you this on planes, but all that stuff about your safety vest is purely for your state of mind. This is the first time a plane has crashed in the water without breaking up and automatically killing most of the passengers.

Also, this is clearly a lesson on tightening our borders. Those Canadian geese were not legal immigrants. And you see they weren't contributing to peace and prosperity.

mlevin said...

Had it not been for all those unnecessary safety measures on the plane, it would have sunk once it hit the water. Here we witnessed the full affect of redundancy at work: the plane did not sink and everyone was able to escape unharmed. In the freezing water and freezing air temperature most people would have frozen to death within minutes of falling in that water. The fact that it didn't happen is a miracle.

I read somewhere that there are 5,000 bird/plane accidents per year. But this is the first time where a plane "collided" with a flock and both engines were shut down.

Dave said...


What would they make the screen out of?

You need to get air to the engine; I don't believe there is any substance we have that we could make a screen out of that would let enough air in for the engine to function, and still absorb an 8-12lb bird at 180 miles per hour.