The Chatter Podcast: Aviation Oddities and Near Misses with James Fallows

David Priess
Thursday, February 23, 2023, 10:26 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

It’s been an eventful few months for flying objects. A Chinese spy balloon captured national attention and sparked an international incident--and a lot of hot air. But closer to the ground, there have been two near collisions of commercial jets at U.S. airports, a more urgent story that has received comparatively less attention.

This week, Shane Harris talks to journalist (and pilot) James Fallows about “What the hell is happening in the sky?” to borrow from one of his recent posts. Fallows has been chronicling American life for decades, most notably as a longtime correspondent for The Atlantic. Now he’s writing about aviation, spy balloons, politics, and whatever else catches his observant eye on his new site, “Breaking the News,” hosted on Substack.

Fallows talked about the two near misses at Austin airport and JFK, which could have led to a catastrophic loss of human life, and how an overburdened commercial aviation system may be poised for a disaster. He shared his insights about the Chinese spy balloon kerfuffle, informed in part from his time living in China as a correspondent. And Fallows reflected on the life and legacy of President Jimmy Carter, for whom he wrote speeches at the White House. 

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Ian Enright of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

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Works mentioned during this episode:

“What the Hell is Happening in the Sky?” by James Fallows, on his new Substack page 

James Fallows on Twitter 

James Fallows’ archive at The Atlantic 

"An Unlucky President, and a Lucky Man," The Atlantic, by James Fallows 

The book West with the Night: A Memoir by Beryl Markham  

The book Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann 

The book Inside the Sky, among others, by William Langewiesche ​​​​​​

The book Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying by Wolfgang Langewiesche

David Priess is Director of Intelligence at Bedrock Learning, Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security. He served during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations as a CIA officer and has written two books: “The President’s Book of Secrets,” about the top-secret President’s Daily Brief, and "How To Get Rid of a President," describing the ways American presidents have left office.

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