A lesson for America – and an inspiration
Some institutions still work in America. They should inspire us, and their example copied. As seen in this excerpt from “A Tragedy of Errors, and an Accounting”, Peggy Noonan, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2009. No nation is finished when it has institutions that operate like this, with senior people taking responsibility for its actions.
It’s Dec. 8, 2008, 11:11 a.m., and a young Marine pilot takes off from an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, on a routine training flight. The carrier is maybe 90 miles southwest of San Diego. Lt. Dan Neubauer is flying an F/A-18 Hornet. Minutes into the flight, he notices low oil pressure in one of the two engines. He shuts it down. Then the light shows low fuel for the other engine. He’s talking to air traffic control and given options and suggestions on where to make an emergency landing. He can go to the naval air station at North Island, the route to which takes him over San Diego Bay, or he can go to the Marine air station at Miramar, with which he is more familiar, but which takes him over heavily populated land. He goes for Miramar. The second engine flames out. About three miles from the runway, the electrical system dies. Lt. Neubauer tries to aim the jet toward a canyon, and ejects at what all seem to agree is the last possible moment.
The jet crashed nose down in the University City neighborhood of San Diego, hitting two homes and damaging three. Four people, all members of a Korean immigrant family, were killed-36-year-old Youngmi Lee; her daughters, Grace, 15 months, and Rachel, 2 months, and her 60-year-old mother, Seokim Kim.
Lee’s husband, a grocer named Dong Yun Yoon, was at work. The day after he’d lost his family, he humbled and awed San Diego by publicly forgiving the pilot – “I know he did everything he could” – and speaking of his faith-“I know God is taking care of my family.”
His grace and generosity were staggering, but there was growing local anger at the military. Why was the disabled plane over land? The Marines launched an investigation-of themselves. This Wednesday the results were announced.
They could not have been tougher, or more damning. The crash, said Maj. Gen. Randolph Alles, the assistant wing commander for the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, was “clearly avoidable,” the result of “a chain of wrong decisions.” Mechanics had known since July of a glitch in the jet’s fuel-transfer system; the Hornet should have been removed from service and fixed, and was not. The young pilot failed to read the safety checklist. He relied on guidance from Marines at Miramar who did not have complete knowledge or understanding of his situation. He should have been ordered to land at North Island. He took an unusual approach to Miramar, taking a long left loop instead of a shorter turn to the right, which ate up time and fuel.
Twelve Marines were disciplined; four senior officers, including the squadron commander, were removed from duty. Their military careers are, essentially, over. The pilot is grounded while a board reviews his future.
… This wasn’t damage control, it was taking honest responsibility. And as such, in any modern American institution, it was stunning.
Additional information about this incident
- Letter of apology from Major General Michael Lehnert to the residents of University City, 4 March 2009
- “Poor maintenance, critical errors caused jet crash, report says“, Los Angeles Times, 4 March 2009
- “Marines to overhaul repair, air-safety rules“, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 March 2009
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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
- About America’s national defence strategy and machinery
- About America – how can we reform it?
- About Good news about America, a collection of articles!
Posts on the FM site about America:
Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog), 21 December 2007 – I do not believe we need fear the future, despite the tough times coming soon. This remains a great nation, not because of our past but because of us and our polity. We differ from almost every other nation. The difference consists of our commitment to our political order, of which our Constitution is the foundation. In this we are like Athens more than our neighbors …
An important thing to remember as we start a New Year, 29 December 2007 — As we start a New Year I find it useful to review my core beliefs. It is easy to lose sight of those amidst the clatter of daily events. Here is my list…
Is America’s decline inevitable? No.. 21 January 2008 – Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people? How can you believe in democracy without that faith?
Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead, 10 February 2008 — Many people look to the future with fear. We see this fear throughout the web. Right-wing sites describe the imminent end of America: overrun by foreigners, victim of cultural and financial collapse. Left-wing sites describe “die-off” scenarios due to Peak Oil, climate change, and ecological collapse – as the American dream dies from takeover by theocrats and fascists. Most of this is nonsense, but not the prospect of massive changes in our world. But need we fear the future?
Fears of flying into the future, 25 February 2008 — Reasons we need not fear the future.
Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future, 2 May 2008 — Experts often see the future with alarm, seeing the dangers but not benefits. That gets attention, from both the media and an increasingly fearful public. Both sides feed this process. It need not be so, as most trends contain the seeds of good and bad futures. This post considers two examples.