Korean Airlines Flight 007

On September 1st, 1983, a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 was shot out of the skies over the Soviet Union’s Eastern port area of Vladivostok near the Kamchatka Peninsula. The airliner purportedly drifted west of their intended flight path from Anchorage to Seoul, South Korea and violated the airspace of the Soviet Union. This event occurred during the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War had many isolated casualties, but this indiscriminate killing of 269 people fueled the tensions even greater.


In the early 1980’s while the world’s militaries spent enormous amount of money on weapons systems and technologies such as Global Positioning Systems or GPS, civilian aviation still relied on relatively archaic methods of air navigation. Inertial Reference Systems and ground based radio beacons served the needs for decades, but not on that evening. The inattentiveness of KAL 007’s crew and the imprecision of their Boeing 747’s on board navigation systems contributed to their demise, but the 2 missiles fired from a Soviet Su 15 fighter jet did them in.

The Soviet Union naturally denied any knowledge or responsibility for the lost airliner but subsequent American and Korean investigations soon revealed otherwise. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the Russian Federation eventually released evidence to support what the world already knew for nearly a decade.

One of Ronald Reagan’s responses to the tragedy was to avail the highly accurate global positioning system to the public at large. The satellite based navigation system was so accurate it could be used to pinpoint a spot on the earth and then subsequently demolish it with any number of weapons systems. This of course was why until the unforeseen tragedy of KAL 007, GPS was kept in our military repertoire only.

26 years later, civilian aviation navigates so precisely over the airways in the sky that we now have a collision hazard. As aircraft span the globe, they are often on organized route systems or flight paths defined by these highly accurate GPS signals from space. We now see civilian aircraft riding the wake turbulence from the aircraft in front of them due to their precision in flying the centerline of these airways. This was likely a contributing factor to a recent accident of the Amazon Jungle in Brazil. A GOL Airliner and an Embraer Legacy corporate jet collided. All aboard the airliner perished while the Legacy jet hobbled their aircraft in for an emergency landing.

Aviation authorities have actually instituted a degree of non-precision back into our repertoire. Aptly named, SLOP for strategic lateral offset procedure, it authorizes pilots to fly the centerline of their airway or deviate 1 or 2 nautical miles to the right of that centerline. This allows pilots to steer their aircraft away from areas of wake turbulence they may be experiencing as well as provides for a greater separation between other aircraft that may have deviated from their flight path in error. How ironic it is that we have gone back to some of the imprecision which in a different way and for different reasons brought down KAL 007.

I recently had the opportunity to pilot my aircraft on a similar route that the KAL flight had taken. On that night, I found myself peering out my cockpit windows watching for those same Su interceptors. What was even more ironic is that one of our emergency alternate airfields, Petropavlovsk, was the actual site where those Su 15s launched from in 1983. Yes, our world’s come a long way in 26 years.

As a side note, but not without its due reverence, one of the passengers of KAL Flight 007 was a sitting Congressman, Lawrence Patton McDonald from Georgia. He is recorded as the only sitting member of Congress killed during our 45 year Cold War.

The Stem Cell Marketing Failure and Octuplets

I’m not at all surprised by the enormity of the stem cell debate in the United States. After all, the consequences of stem cell research are a life and death matter. This debate, however, is apropos of the greater divide between the religious and the less religious in America. That’s right, there is room for defining one’s own level of religious beliefs.

While the bedrock of organized religion is the unquestioned faith in its teachings, I propose that this inflexibility has ultimately led to the demise of religion in the modern world. The Catholic Church may be seeing this as well. In recent years, as their numbers of faithful across the western world have dwindled, they have quietly been easing some of the restrictions that market research likely has told them to let go. They wrestle with questions such as:

Are we better off maintaining our audience of parishioners and continuing to preach the word of God or saying here we are; please come through our doors so we may preach the word of God to you?

In essence, I would rather have the opportunity to speak with you about something rather than not have your audience at all. Since the translation of the Bible into German by Martin Luther, the role of the clergy has gotten significantly more challenging in direct proportion to their ever inquisitive and better educated flock. The burden of accountability has fallen on the church in a way like never before in history.

So what’s this all about then? How do we define our own level of religious beliefs? The faithful do this every day of their lives. With every choice they face, they apply a set of beliefs that only they are responsible for nurturing. They choose what and how much of something to have faith in. They choose if and how often they attend church. They choose to follow one tenant but not another. Many choose to keep their relationship with God between themselves and the almighty; leaving the organized portion out altogether. Do they have any less faith and spirituality; I’m sure they do not.

So, are we are faced with the unyielding decision to honor our God, yet not care for the millions of human beings suffering with mind altering diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s? Of course not! One needs to simply counter balance their core values with their level of interest in the area of stem cell research.

I’d like to help influence your level of interest in the area of stem cell research, now.

Let us start with a few points we may agree on:

  • A healthy nation is a better nation.
  • It is far less expensive to be proactive in fighting disease than to respond reactively.
  • We all know someone with one or more of the following diseases, conditions, or disabilities: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis

Great, then let’s get down to business. Stem cell research holds tremendous promise in finding cures to every one of the unfortunate sufferings listed above. If our students in school don’t have a reasonable expectation of achieving an “A” on a test or quiz, does that mean they should not even bother attempting the exercise? Of course not, in fact they must take the test in order to evaluate where they are with regards to the subject matter. Just because I use the word promise in what stem cell research could do is no reason not to invest in it. Every year we spend far more money on programs with less promise, less worldly benefit, and even greater discord among parties.

Research in human embryonic stem cells has enjoyed a small amount of federal funding since August 9th, 2001, when President George W. Bush announced his policy on the matter. Like every big decision from Washington DC though, this policy held a cautious balance between the far right and the left in America. A limited number of existing lines of human embryonic stem cells were approved for the federal research dollars. The amount provided for was thought by some to be enough for a meaningful chance at a cure and by others; no limit on the amount was thought to be acceptable.

This soon spawned one of our nation’s great strengths into action, states’ rights. California and New Jersey led the early charge in public financing of stem cell research. Both states invested millions in long term research grants for facilities within their borders. It’s no wonder that this eventuality came about. States are on the front lines of health care costs associated with these long term debilitating diseases and ailments. They have chosen to invest in the health of their residents and that model will likely continue to the extent that they can market the needs and persuade their residents to vote for such items in referendums on the ballot.

This brings us to another great debate in the United States. How big do we want our Federal Government to be? I contend, as small as possible. There are a few things that the Federal Government, due to its enormity, is thought to be best suited for. Signing treaties and defending our borders come to mind first, but lest we forget the enormous role they played during the time of Lincoln, our first Republican? They lead our nation during a time of tremendous internal strife and it worked. We are a nation with larger borders, stronger values, and best of all, we are together. There is precedence in our nation’s history for the successful and fruitful intervention of our Federal Government into the lives of its citizens. Its called leadership simply put. I recognize there to be times in our nation where we need one well articulated cause binding our 50 states and territories alike.

I hope this article helps further the debate in Washington, DC. I believe a cohesive plan of action, the weight of the Federal Government, and responsible compromise on these matters can benefit our nation as a whole. Direct investment into our nation’s health is no less important than our investment into tanks and tomahawk cruise missiles.

The following image will forever be burned into my mind.  Nancy Reagan The casket embodies the same wall that has separated Nancy Reagan from her beloved husband and our President, Ronald Wilson Reagan, for several years prior to his death. Ronald Reagan, one of our greatest political minds and an equally masterful presenter was unable to communicate with anyone for many years after he left the White House. What a tragedy it was to have lost such a wonderful mind. What a tragedy it was to have lost one of Washington’s best leaders. What a tragedy it would be not to intervene into the hopes and futures of families and individuals all over our great nation.

I recently became incensed with the news out of California of the 33-year-old single, unemployed mother, Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to octuplets last month. She had been taking care of her 6 other children with the help of $490 a month in food stamps as well as Social Security disability payments for three of the children. When asked how an only child ends up with 14, Nadya Suleman said:

“That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family, and– I just longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that I– I really lacked, I believe, growing up.”

Does this use of embryonic stem cells seem like a better alternative to the promise of research that could lead to cures for so many of our mind altering diseases? These 8 prematurely birthed children are expected to spend weeks in the hospital simply learning to live. The previous six children will likely all have middle child syndrome as well.

I can envision no way to explain Miss Suleman’s decision to those hoping for just one chance at a life they already know, much less 8.