Friday, June 17, 2016

Soda straw

A long, long time ago...
Calf laid up in sweetclover
When I was but one and thirty, and the world was momentarily, remarkably, just exactly the way I wanted it to be, more or less...
I was sitting in a conference room in a hangar on the fighter side at Oceana. I was part of a mishap investigation board tasked with discovering and reporting the cause of the loss of an A-6.
Prickly poppy
The jet had been day bombing at Navy Dare, in perfect conditions, and had hit the ground in a wings-level, 60 degree dive. After poring over reams (real, hard copy reams in those days) of data, our conclusion was little different than what we'd all reluctantly suspected going in.
Evening primrose
CFIT. Controlled Flight Into Terrain.
Wild prairie rose
The question we couldn't answer definitively, could only guess at, was why.
Purple pincushion
Why did a pair of seasoned aviators fly their jet into the ground on a perfect day?
Green needlegrass, blue grama, milkvetch, threadleaf coreopsis
The board president was a RIO (Naval Flight Officer/Radar Intercept Officer) and the CO of a fighter squadron. H'e been, in his misspent youth as he put it, a Bombardier/Navigator (B/N) in the A-6A.
Threadleaf coreopsis and green needlegrass
"When you're in the hood," he said, "you're looking through a soda straw."
Sideoats grama, fringed sagewort, daisy fleabane
That was the first time I heard that phrase.
SAA plud threadleaf coreopsis
The board's conclusion was that the aviators had lost situational awareness regarding the proximity of the ground and may not have ever realized they were in extremis. One moment they were living the life, bombing in perfect weather on a perfect day. The next moment they were debriefing with St. Peter.
Green needlegrass and threadleaf coreopsis

The A-6 isn't the only infernal machine equipped with a soda straw, and naval aviators aren't the only ones who lose SA while peering through soda straws.
The soda straw is extremely useful, even essential. We all need to study things in minute detail, else we miss the trees for the forest. SA works both ways. Individual trees are important. The forest as a whole is important.
Grass n coreopsis
We humans live on a planet where everything -- everything -- is interconnected. We are a part of the world. As much as we like to think we are masters of our destiny, standing above it all on our Olympian peak, we are, on the planetary scale, no greater and no less than algae and bacteria.
A little western wheatgrass in the mix
At the human scale, however, we are not algae and bacteria. We are all individuals, and we are all interconnected. None of us is greater than our fellows, nor are any of us less than our fellows.
Green needlegrass and coreopsis
Today we are part of a mighty struggle between those who believe that all men are created equal and those who believe otherwise. It has always been thus; there is nothing new under the sun.
Plus sagewort
The soda straw is a useful tool in examining the details of the struggle. But if we lose our situational awareness we will crash and burn.
dihydrogen monooxide
SA will save your ass.


  1. Extremely well put Shaun. If you succumb to target fixation, you're bound to suffer.

    Applies to everyday life as well.

    (Excellent photos too, it must be beautiful out there on the prairie just about now.)

    1. Thanks Sarge. There's a whole unseen world outside the hood. Worth keeping in mind I guess.

      Exceptionally pretty out there!

  2. I see you maintained SA, and noticed the cow, lurking in ambush. What kind of
    flower is the second one, whose pistil looks like a slice of mushroom? That is fascinating!

    1. I added captions, which I should have done without prompting!

      I'm a vewy baaaaad bwogger.