It takes a certain moxie to criticize someone as bright and successful as Malcolm Gladwell, the New Yorker staff writer and author of the bestsellers “Blink” and “The Tipping Point.” But there's a segment in Gladwell's newest book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” that leaves me quizzical. The segment explores the January 1990 accident in which a Colombian jetliner crashed on Long Island, N.Y., after running out of fuel.
On the evening of Jan. 25, Avianca Flight 52 was on a scheduled run from Bogotá and Medellín to New York City's JFK airport. As the plane approached New York, heavy traffic and deteriorating weather resulted in a series of slowdowns and delays, including a holding pattern lasting more than an hour. During that time, the plane burned away most of its reserve fuel, which would have been used — and probably should have been used — for a diversion to its flight-planned alternate of Boston.