The Cover-Up, First Chapter

Monday, June 14 2:07 p.m.

Chapter One

Monday, June 14 2:07 p.m.

cropped-cover-small-the-coverup.jpgChunks of rubber as large as garbage can lids flew from the tire of the main landing gear of the Omega Airline 737.

LaGuardia Airport air traffic controller Sanchez Lopez’s heart pounded as he watched the aircraft continue to accelerate for another thousand feet. Then, slots in the sides of the two jet engines opened and the nose of the airplane dipped, indicating the crew rejected the takeoff.

Sanchez looked to his right. United Airlines Flight 549 crossed the end of runway three-one and began its flare to slow its descent rate for landing. Runway four, which the Omega aircraft barreled down, intersected runway three-one. There was the potential for a collision, or the runway being contaminated from the debris from Omega’s tire. He keyed his microphone. “United 549, go around. Aircraft on the runway.”

Omega continued through the intersection and raced toward the end of the pavement. It appeared to be going too fast to stop on the remaining runway. The last two thousand feet was built out over Flushing Bay, with a twenty-foot drop to the water.

Sanchez curled his toes as if pressing on the brakes of the aircraft, willing it to stop. Eventually, his training kicked in. He raised his voice to get the attention of the other six controllers. “Omega 918 is going off the end of the runway.”

The other controllers pivoted their heads to the end of runway four.

Sanchez confirmed visually that United 549 was in a climb, retracting its landing gear, before he spoke into his boom microphone. “United 549, fly heading three four zero. Climb and maintain five thousand feet.”

He glanced back in time to see Omega slide off the end of runway four.

“Shit!” Sanchez braced himself against the counter as if he were in the airplane.

The airplane was airborne for two hundred feet, then smashed through the first set of approach-light stanchions. Parts of the engine cowling ripped away as if from an explosion. The plane continued forward, its nose canted down, for another two hundred feet before it collided with the second stanchion. The tail of the aircraft rose before slamming down, sending out a shower of water.

The 737’s left wing sat on the stanchion. The right one lay in the water, canting the aircraft thirty degrees. Its nose looked as if a wrecking ball had smacked it.
 

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