December 2007 Issue

My Payne Stewart Moment

Or how even a hip-to-hypoxia and highly trained aviation journalist can succumb to the thinner air of high altitude.

In that vast wasteland we call television, a clever commercial has been making the rounds lately. It depicts a hapless sad sack in a crumpled white suit bumbling through a nighttime cityscape setting off fires, floods and other assorted mayhem. The catchline is "risk never sleeps." It sure enough doesn’t, but the other essential element of accidents is opportunity. Consider this: In two years’ time, Cirrus Design will have sold more than 1000 turbocharged SR22s, each capable of effortless cruise in the mid-20s. The risk, of course, is hypoxia, and 1000 airplanes is enough opportunity to give an insurance executive ulcers.

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