Snowbird Down

We’re all pretty shook up by the crash of a CT-114 Tutor aircraft of the Snowbirds, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s demonstration team, yesterday morning. The day before we had gathered with neighbors (at an appropriate social distance, of course) outside and watched with delight as they flew several passes over the city in formation. The news the next morning was heartbreaking.

From watching the multiple videos posted on Twitter, it seems likely that the accident aircraft experienced a loss of power shortly after takeoff. As trained, pilot pitches up to trade airspeed for altitude to gain time and space to eject. So far so good. Then the pilot begins a left turn. Now pilots are trained to fly straight ahead if an engine fails on takeoff, because trying to turn around at low speed without power risks a stall, spin, and crash. However, the Kamloops airport is to the west of the city, and the planes were taking off toward the east. So I think it’s likely the pilot was trying to turn away from the more populated areas so that he could eject without the plane crashing on people.

The CT-114 Tutor has a very low stall speed for a jet, but in a nose-high turn, the speed at which it will stall increases. The next thing we see is the left wing stall and the aircraft enter a spin. An aerodynamic stall means that the airflow over the wing is at too low a speed or too high an angle to sustain lift, and the wing drops abruptly. When an aircraft is turning, the wing on the inside of the turn can stall before the other, and thus send the aircraft into a spin. This is what we see in the video: the left wing drops, and the plane spins for one revolution. The pilot then recovers from the spin nicely, gains control of the aircraft, but now he has no more altitude left. The aircraft is too low and in too steep a dive to pull out. So the pilot and passenger eject. Modern ejection seats have the ability to steer the rockets that propel the seat toward the zenith, so there is as much altitude as possible for parachutes to open. From a quick Google I can’t find the exact model of seat that the CT-114 uses, but from the video it doesn’t look like the seats changed direction after ejection; they shoot out horizontally. That, coupled with the downward momentum of the aircraft, meant that there was hardly any time for the occupants’ parachutes to open. You can’t see the chutes in the video, but from pictures of emergency services treating the pilot, Captain Richard MacDougall, on the roof of the house he landed on, it seems his chute opened at least enough to save his life. From eyewitness accounts it seems that the passenger, Captain Jenn Casey, hit a tree and was fatally injured. If there had been enough altitude for the chutes to open fully, she could have steered to a safe landing spot.

The aircraft crashed in the front yard of a house and slid into it, catching it on fire, but the occupants were not injured.

I can imagine the view from the cockpit during that flight — I’ve been flying a plane, pitched up until it stalled, then kicked the rudder to send it into a spin. The world turns round and round, you push forward and step on the opposite rudder, and then you pull out of the dive. The difference is that I was doing it at 4,000 feet, and had plenty of time to recover.

Rest in peace, Captain Casey. You and your team were trying to bring a bit of delight into our lives in a difficult time.

Assign Blame where Blame is Due, and Treat People as Independent Moral Agents

The past couple of days have seen two unfortunate events, and two very curious reactions.

The events:

  1. The Vancouver Canucks hockey team lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the final.
  2. Some members of the crowd of people gathered in downtown Vancouver to watch the game engaged in violence and destruction of property afterwards.

The curious reactions (there were obviously many different reactions, but these are the ones that I find curious):

  1. One person whose internet output I read uttered a vicious and vulgar condemnation of one particular member of the Canucks team. Another person said that the referees of the game allowed the Bruins’ style of skirting the edges of the permissible level of violence1 in the sport to disrupt the Canucks’ “artistic” style of play and thus cost the team the final game.
  2. The latter person also opined that the riots were the fault of the city government, who failed to provide enough police officers to quell the violence.

Both of these people are ministers of the Christian Church, one quite prominent on the national level.

I think the common element that I find deplorable about these reactions is that they utterly dehumanize the actors in question by depriving them of their status as independent moral agents with their own free will.

The first reaction is typical blameshifting to anyone other than one’s favourite, in a situation of cognitive dissonance where somone (in this case a sports team) whom you believe is the best at what they do is demonstrated to fail in this regard. The fault cannot be in the team as a whole, but must be either that of one renegade element, or else malevolent external forces.

The proof that this reaction in the case of the Canucks’ game is invalid is simple: the Canucks won three games of the series in the face of all the internal and external forces that were present in the 7th game, thus showing that it was entirely possible for them to win the series. The fact that they didn’t is simply a reflection of the fact that they failed to adapt their tactics or maintain their collective motivation: they didn’t play well enough to win. Last time I checked, a hockey game is not scored on “artistic merit”, but by putting pucks in the net. If you are so wedded to your style of play that you cannot change it when it obviously doesn’t work, then you don’t deserve to win.

To assign blame elsewhere actually does the Canucks a disservice. How does anyone become better at a given task? By first being worse. By honestly analyzing one’s failures and adapting one’s tactics appropriately. Claiming that the Canucks played as well as possible in this series is to deny them the chance to improve in the future.

The second reaction is, I think, similarly born of cognitive dissonance. Canucks fans/citizens of Vancouver obviously cannot be the type of people who would trash a downtown over a sporting event, so the fault must evidently lie in the government and the police.

This is far more serious than shifting the blame from your hockey team. It serves to completely deprive the rioters of their status as moral agents, and deprives them of both the opportunity and the responsibility to improve themselves. It’s analogous to saying a woman’s rape was inevitable because she didn’t wear the right clothes.

The blame for the riots rests entirely with those persons who chose of their own free will to commit violence, and no one else.

Saying “we need more police” is the answer of tyrants and oppressors. If you truly believe that state-sponsored violence is the best solution to private violence, then why not just go the whole way and use automatic weapons on the crowd instead of tear gas? I guarantee that this would quell the riot in a very short time, and act as a considerable deterrent to future rioters.

I think that the final and largest reaction to the riots is the correct one. Don’t deprive the rioters of their chance to improve themselves by ignoring their moral responsibility in favour of blaming the police. Don’t call on the government to “crack down” on public celebrations in the city. Rather, do as thousands of Vancouverites did yesterday. Show that you can get in the news by doing good and not evil. Go out and provide a praiseworthy counter-example by getting your own hands dirty cleaning up the streets, repairing the damage, and showing the world how to lose graciously, take personal responsibility, and show your support for your gallant defeated by acting nobly and building up, rather than tearing down, your community and society.

  1. I’ll blog about my opinion about violence in sports some other time. It’s probably not what you think.

Better the Devil You Know

It seems to me that tonight’s federal election results in Canada are a reaction to the instability of the last few years. The Liberals have distinguished themselves from the Conservatives merely by reflexive opposition to any policy supported by the Tories, regardless of the merits and indeed whether or not the policy was initiated by the Liberals in their previous tenure (Afghanistan, fighter jets, etc.).

It also seems to me that the NDP will be a much better opposition than the Liberals, since their primary policies actually differ in substantial ways from the Conservatives’, and they’ll perhaps be less likely to oppose sensible positions simply because they’re the Tories’.

The thing that has most struck me is the sanctimonious tone of the Liberals’ and NDP’s rhetoric, especially in the soi-disant grass-roots internet media meme-mongering. Do you really expect me to believe that if Stephen Harper is a lying cheating scumbag polishing a pair of jackboots in his back room then Ignatieff and Layton are pure as the driven snow? I think it’s that kind of contempt for the common sense of the ordinary Canadian that has given Harper his majority.

Canadians are tired of the self-righteous wrangling over trumped-up rhetoric, and have handed Harper a mandate to finally get things done, Layton the responsibility to provide real opposition on issues rather than partisanism, and Ignatieff a huge slapdown.

And good on Elizabeth May, who at this writing looks to win her seat.

UPDATE: An example of sanctimonious partisanism and not: the NDP supporters booed when Jack Layton congratulated Stephen Harper. The Conservative supporters cheered when Stephen Harper congratulated Jack Layton.

People are Idiots

A beluga calf at the Vancouver aquarium died last night because its airway was blocked with rocks and pennies!?!?!?!?!!

What kind of fucking morons stand there and throw debris and spare change into a baby whale’s airway? Or let their kids do same? Ooh, let’s make a wish!

How would you like a few loonies shoved down your own throats, you retards?

I sincerely hope there’s some good security camera footage that will put them away for good and all.