Category Archives: First Chapters of My Books

Calamity, First Chapter

Calamity - FullRes 6 x 9CHAPTER ONE

Friday, February 14th, 2:32 p.m. MST.

Denver approach air traffic controller Art Contu watched the blip on his radar screen. Contrails Airline’s flight 1917 had passed through its assigned altitude on its descent. Contu keyed his mic, “Contrails 1917, your crossing restriction at Fulla intersection is thirteen thousand. Climb and maintain thirteen thousand.”

Neither pilot responded. Contu frowned. “Contrails 1917, Denver approach. Your assigned altitude is thirteen, one three thousand feet. Climb and maintain thirteen thousand.”

“Contrails 1917 has a dual engine flameout.” The pilot’s voice was hurried. “We’re declaring an emergency and need vectors to land immediately.”

Contu leaned closer to his radar screen. He had worked numerous aircraft with emergencies, but not one that had lost power to all of its engines. “Contrails 1917, Denver international is three o’clock and ten miles. Turn right heading two six zero. Say fuel and souls onboard.”

The pilots didn’t acknowledge his instructions. The blip on his screen continued south, taking the Contrails flight away from the only airport to which they could glide, if they turned now.

Contu swallowed although his mouth was dry. Were the pilots too busy to reply? “Contrails 1917, Denver is at your three thirty and fifteen miles. Turn right heading two seven zero.”

“Two seven zero.” The Contrails pilot’s voice was high. His words strung together. “We need the fire trucks. We have no power.”

The blip on Contu’s screen turned toward the approach end of runway two-six, lessening the tightness in his shoulders. “Contrails 1917, the emergency equipment has been alerted. Turn right heading two eight zero. Say fuel and souls on board.” The rescue workers needed that information to know how big a possible fire might be, and how many passengers, babies, and crewmembers would need to be pulled from the aircraft.

“United 865 going to tower,” the pilot of another flight said.

Contu squeezed his eyes shut, mentally kicking himself. He’d been so wrapped up in Contrails’ emergency, he’d ignored the other aircraft he was sequencing onto final. United should have already been told to contact the control tower for landing clearance. After acknowledging United’s transmission, he gave instructions to a couple of other flights, picked up the phone, and speed dialed the controller responsible for giving takeoff and landing clearances.

“Tower.”

“Contrails 1917, an ADB-150, has a total power loss.” Contu realized his voice was as rushed as the Contrails pilot’s. “I’m vectoring them for two-six.”

“They’ll be landing in a twenty knot crosswind. The runway hasn’t been plowed in an hour and has two inches of snow.”

“At the rate they’re losing altitude, they’ll be lucky to make to any runway,” Contu said. He hung up. “Contrails 1917, runway two-six is eight miles. Turn right two nine zero.” The crosswind pushed the flight south, away from the runway.

Contu was glad the snow that had been falling hard over the last several hours had let up. “Contrails 1917, Denver twelve hundred overcast, five miles in blowing snow. Wind three three zero at twenty gusting to thirty.” Contu wiped the sweat from his forehead. During a normal landing, the pilots would’ve balked at landing on a snow covered runway with a crosswind that strong. Now they had no choice.

Although the pilots didn’t acknowledge Contu’s instructions, their blip turned further north.

The chair creaked when Contu squirmed; Contrails’ altitude read-out indicated they had descended to eight thousand feet. That put them twenty-seven hundred feet above the touchdown zone of two-six. At the rate they were losing altitude, they’d slam into the ground short of the runway, tearing the airplane apart.

***

Denver air traffic tower controller Bradley Messano cleared United flight 865 to land on runway three five left, then turned and looked out the tower’s windows to the east. He lifted a pair of binoculars to his eyes and spotted the landing lights. The Contrails ADB-150, an aircraft similar in size and appearance to a Boeing 737, descended at a rate that lodged his heart in his throat. It would hit short of the approach lights. The foot of new snow would cushion its touchdown but would make it almost impossible for rescue workers to reach the passengers and crew.

The flight aimed at the end of the runway but continued to drop too fast. Messano’s heart thudded.

When it appeared the aircraft would impact, Messano braced himself on the counter surrounding the tower.

Except Contrails didn’t hit.

The aircraft flew at what looked like inches above the snow drifts. Then the right wing and nose rose. The left wingtip dragged through the snow, sluing the aircraft left.

The aircraft rose, the wings leveled, then banked right to realign with the runway.

The nose swung left and right with the wings rocking.

The aircraft cleared the approach lights by a few feet and continued to climb. “They’re going to make it,” Messano yelled out to no one in particular.

When over the end of the runway, the nose dropped. It swung to the south, pointing the airplane to the side of the runway. Messano braced himself again. The aircraft would touch down on the side of the runway. The snowbanks lining its edges would pull it off into the unplowed snow.

The right wing dipped, the nose slued to the north, rolling the wing further. The wingtip contacted the runway, yanking the nose further north.

The aircraft slammed down. The nose began to turn toward the center of the runway, but not before the right main gear caught the snowbank on the side of the runway and yanked the aircraft off the pavement.

“Shit,” Messano yelled.

The nose gear snapped off, dropping the nose. It plowed a furrow, sending a cloud of snow into the air, making it impossible to see what happened for the next few seconds.

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.
 

Coerced, Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

COERCED - 1 - FULL RESOmega Airlines flight 1194 would land at New Orleans International just as the approaching thunderstorm moved over the airport.

Air traffic controller Jacob Crispen looked out the airport’s control tower windows and observed the black line of clouds two miles to the west continuing eastward toward the airport. Every few seconds, lightning shot out.

If Omega 1194 didn’t land in the next few minutes, the storm would close the airport. Any other traffic inbound would have to hold or fly to their alternate airport.

Omega was three miles from the airport and several thousand feet higher than other flights would normally be that far away. It seemed impossible they would lose their excess altitude and make a normal landing.

Crispen considered giving Omega the option of flying a three-sixty-degree turn to give them more time, but that would have them landing after the storm hit. He brought the microphone to his lips and keyed the transmit button. “Omega 1194, winds two one zero at fifteen, gusting to twenty-five. You’re still cleared to land.” His foot tapped a steady beat.

“Omega 1194,” one of the two pilots radioed back.

The 737’s wings rocked. They were two miles from landing, but their altitude readout on Crispen’s radar showed them at three thousand feet. Most aircraft would be at eight hundred feet. He couldn’t believe they were continuing the approach.

“Omega 1194, wind one eight zero at twenty gusting to thirty.” Crosswind gusts in excess of twenty-five knots made landing difficult.

The plane continued toward the airport.

The wind howled as it rounded the control tower windows. Crispen considered evacuating the tower and seeking the safety of the offices at ground level in case the wind toppled the tower, or blew out its windows. After Omega landed, or aborted their approach, he’d scramble down the stairs.

Omega was a mile from the airport and a thousand feet above it. They should be less than five hundred. The plane’s wings continued to rock from the thunderstorm half a mile away. “Omega 1194, wind one seven zero at two two. We just had a gust of forty.” Crispen stood and stepped from foot to foot in time with the plane.

The flight crossed the end of the runway two hundred feet in the air. Most aircraft would’ve been at fifty feet. It continued descending, the wings rolling left and right.

“Go around. Go around,” Crispen said without keying the microphone. He could only order the flight to do so if the runway wasn’t clear of traffic.

Over halfway down the runway and twenty feet off the ground, Omega’s nose aligned with the runway. The aircraft descended fast, hitting the runway in what must’ve been a jolt. It bounced ten feet into the air and hovered while continuing on its path, before dropping to the concrete once more.

Do they have enough runway to get stopped?

The spoilers on top of the wings lifted, and the slots in the side of the engine opened, signaling the pilots had selected reverse thrust.

The aircraft swerved back and forth.

Crispen’s mouth gaped when Omega went off the right side of the runway. Pieces of smashed runway edge lights flew into the air.

The thunderstorm swallowed Omega in the heavy rain. Visibility dropped, making it difficult for Crispen to observe Omega’s roll out.

Without taking his gaze off the ghost-like shape of the plane continuing down the side of the runway, he lifted the phone with a trembling hand and speed dialed a number.

“Fire and Rescue,” a male voice said.

“This is the tower.” Crispen’s voice was louder than necessary. “Omega Airlines 737 went off the side of the runway and may need assistance.”

“Location, damage, and souls onboard?”

“They just came to a stop at the west end of runway two-eight. Aircraft appears intact. Souls onboard unknown.”

“We’re rolling.”

He hung up. “Omega 1194, tower. Rescue equipment is on their way. Do you require assistance?”

No one answered.