Jay Lacklen: Burners now!


Jay Lacklen



In pilot training 42 years ago I made a mistake that haunts me still. As a solo student I rolled out on a visual final in my T-38 and quickly knew something was terribly wrong. The plane was not responding well to my flight control stick inputs; it took large stick movements to get any response from the aircraft, something that dumbfounded me then that would not now. I had forgotten to put down the wing flaps and had slowed to a near stall airspeed because of this.  


The instructor pilot in the Runway Advisory Unit (RSU) saw my configuration and asked the imperative question: "T-38 on final, confirm no-flap?" He did this because solo students were not allowed to fly a no-flap for the very reason I was now demonstrating. Suddenly I knew what was wrong (low airspeed for my configuration), what was about to happen (stall the plane, fall and crash), and what I must do to avoid this dilemma, (full afterburners, immediately, to pump large quantities of fuel into the engine).  


I slammed to throttles into afterburner and felt the blessed power surge that pressed me back into my seat and rescued me from my dilemma. Had I not responded verbally, or with afterburners, the IP would have screamed on the RSU frequency "T-38 on final, burners now!" because, seeing my nose high wallowing motion, he would know the end was near for me.  


I recall this now because it seems a good metaphor for America's current economic quagmire.  


We are stuck at low airspeed, our economic controls are working poorly, and we risk a stall and fall if we fail to get our economy back up to speed. We need afterburners, now. The current mantra in Europe and on the Right in America, however, is austerity, or reducing thrust in the face of an economic stall.  


To switch to a medical metaphor, we are bleeding the patient until he recovers as 18th Century medicine thought best.  


The results from Europe warn against austerity that is about to cause one or more southern Euro countries to default on their debts and abandon the Euro with possibly catastrophic results. England, supposedly the test case to prove austerity restores confidence, has just suffered a double-dip recession with possibly worse on the way. The full stall may be approaching for both the European Union and the Brits.  


In 2009 America pushed the throttles up, slightly, with an $800 billion stimulus that appears to have been both sufficient to reverse economic collapse, but insufficient to spur the economy. If this stimulus failed, as the Right claims, can someone please explain why America is growing while Europe is not? Why we are out of our recession while much of Europe is sliding back into a double-dip? We had stimulus, Europe did not; we recovered, they did not.  


This stimulus proved a vital first step since it reversed American's economic decline, but the rightfully cautious limited amount also required a second shot of stimulus to accelerate the growth rate.  


This has been blocked by Republicans in the name of debt reduction, but as Europe has shown, bleeding the patient will not drive a recovery, for that a blood transfusion is required.  


As European nations continue to cut government expenditures, the economy has declined resulting in reduced tax income and failure to reduce the deficit. This has become an economic death spiral as falling economic activity and resulting falling tax revenues prevent debt reduction.  


They have suffered extensive economic pain without deficit reduction, the supposed reason for the suffering.  


Austerity has been in effect for three years across the globe, how is it working for us? We tried the austerity solution in 1933 and it took a World War to extricate us from the resulting depression. Do we really want to go there again?  


Even if America's economy avoids a stall on its own, approaching recessions in Europe, Britain and China will surely take us down with them. We must hit the afterburners now to counter these approaching drags on our economy. This might include covering state shortfalls to rehire teachers, firemen and policemen and funding for as many infrastructure projects as are ready to go. This would put stimulus funds immediately into circulation provide an economic blood transfusion.  


Those who favor austerity and budget cuts (irrationally reducing power as the stall nears) can observe the approaching European economic debacle caused by precisely these measures the "austerians" favor. If the worst happens, those who preached reducing power as the stall approached, perhaps for short-term political gain, can anticipate tar, feathers, and a ride out of town on a rail.  


This stimulus must be done now because, once the stall develops, even afterburners may not save us.


Jay Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force.


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