Mishap on Christmas Eve

Santa Claus and sleighSeveral years ago on Christmas Eve, I flew a flight from Houston to Calgary. It was a clear night with a sky full of stars. I’d turned down the cockpit lights and leaned ahead so I could look up and take in the majestic beauty. Although I would’ve preferred being home with family, I wished I could share the beauty of the night with others.

 Nearing the U.S.-Canadian border, the traffic collision and avoidance system began to yell at us. “Traffic. Traffic.”

 The first officer and I both checked the navigation display to see where the yellow dot was located in reference to our aircraft, and whether it was above or below us. The dot that represented the aircraft that had the potential of colliding with us was on my side of the aircraft and below. We turned our attention outside searching for the aircraft.

 Several seconds went by while the dot on the screen moved closer to our aircraft. Neither the first officer nor I spotted the other aircraft. As clear a night as it was, we should’ve seen the red and green navigation lights.

 When the dot was within three miles of us, the yellow dot turned to red and “Climb. Climb,” was announced.

I disconnected the autopilot and eased the yoke back making the 737 climb. Both of us frantically searched for the other aircraft. When the dot on the navigation screen merged with our aircraft, I spotted the traffic.

I blinked and looked again. Some old fart with a long white beard that blew out behind him, wearing a red coat and cap, was flying a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. The back of the sleigh was stuffed with a bag full of multi-colored items.

As the other, err… aircraft flew several hundred feet below our left wing, the reckless pilot lifted a mitten-clad hand and waved.

 I couldn’t believe it. The man and his reindeer were moments away from becoming a headline and he had the gall to wave like it was no big deal? Not only was his life as well as the lives of the one hundred and fifty people onboard our aircraft in danger, the lives of those beautiful eight reindeer were moments away from death.

 I hope the Federal Aviation Administration found him and grounded him permanently. He’s a danger to others. I also hope SPCA finds a home for those reindeer so they won’t be put in danger.

Give an E-book

Kindle PaperwhiteWith Christmas coming up, if you’re thinking about gift ideas, books make wonderful gifts that give hours of enjoyment. With traditional books you can write an inscription inside it, wrap it, and put under the tree.

 But if the intended receiver does not live nearby, then you have to deal with mailing. If have a large number of books to give, traditional books can run up your credit card bill quickly. E-books, though, are often less expensive than the traditional books.

Some may think you can’t give an escape-from-reality-gift if it is only available as an e-book, or you want to be frugal and give the less expensive version of a beloved treasure. But you can.

Below are the steps to give a book purchased from Amazon to someone with a Kindle or a Kindle reading app.

  1. Make sure you have the email address of the person you want to give the book to. The recipient’s Kindle or reading app will have to be registered to that email address.
  2.  Find the book in the Kindle store that you want to gift. Free books, books on pre-order, and subscriptions cannot be gifted.
  3. On the product detail page, click the Give as a Gift button.
  4. Enter the email address of your gift recipient.
  5. Enter the delivery date and an option gift message.
  6. Click Place your order to finish your gift purchase using your Amazon 1-Click payment method.

These instructions, as well as how your beneficiary can redeem their gift, can be found on here Amazon’s website.

I can think of three books that would make the airline thriller readers on your gift list happy. Wink. Wink.

cropped-cover-small-the-coverup.jpgCoerced Covercropped-calamity-fullres-6-x-9.jpg

Look for my fourth novel in the spring of 2016.

Knot in Time, by Alan Tucker

Alan Tucker Knot in TimeWhat a fun read this was. Categorized as young adult, this adult reader devoured it.

 The high school dropout protagonist, Dare, gets a chance to work for the custodians of time by traveling through it to save the universe.

The plot seems implausible until you begin reading and the believability ratchets up in short order. I mention this because Dare, when presented with this opportunity in the beginning of the story, feels the same way. But Mr. Tucker does a great job of showing him accepting the reality of the situation.

Dare being a hapless individual who seems to shrug off his difficulties made for an enjoyable character to follow through the story. It was easy to visualize any misguided teen in this situation rolling with the circumstances to make the best of it.

The story moves forward at a rapid pace which makes for an engaging read. Although the characters are fleshed out, I would have liked the author to have shown them with more depth, but finished the book satisfied and anxious to read the next in the series.

 

Final Authority, by Robert Dobransky and Joesph Dobransky

Dobransky Final AuthorityThis is one of those airline mysteries that is filled with authentic details. You’ll feel like you boarded a flight and can’t get off until you’ve landed at your destination.

Written by two brothers who fly for competing airlines, their experience with the large complicated industry is revealed in their realistic look at fictitious Global Alliance Airline and several of the key people who run it.

I would have given this book a five star rating instead of four except for a couple of issues.

The authors would bring the story to a stop to go into a lengthy tale of a character’s backstory, when I feel this could have been layered in throughout the novel, or left out. I also felt the authors overly dramatized several of the characters who weren’t pilots. A couple I questioned how they rose to their lofty position within the airline, an issue many pilots have with their airline’s management, but in this case it came across as exaggerated. Lastly, I questioned the need of the prologue. It showed the trouble the protagonist Captain Bruce Bannock faced at some point in the novel, yet it wasn’t until the very end of the novel its purpose was revealed. I read the majority of the book questioning what the prologue had to do with the story.

That aside, the authors did an excellent job showing the lengths some within an airlines hierarchy will do to seek power and wealth. Offsetting this group were some qualified, hard-working individuals who did the real work at keeping the airline operating while it faced the crisis portrayed. The authors showed this latter group realistically.

And, extremely important to this reviewer, the flying details were exacting. Readers interested in an airline mystery that could potentially happen will enjoy this book.

I look forward to reading more from these authors.

 

Equal Time Point by Harrison Jones

Harrison Jones Equal Time PointThe details in this book are accurate and it is apparent the author is a retired airline pilot. The events that are depicted could also happen, something which makes this pilot shudder.

An airliner on an Atlantic Ocean crossing runs out of fuel and ditches miles from any land or boats. It is only a matter of time before the passengers and crew perish.

I thought the story started off slowly making it easy to put down. It reminded me of the Airport movies in the seventies. The author spent considerable chapters showing some of the recurrent training pilots receive leaving the reader with no doubt of the emergency they’ll face later in the story. The airline and its associated problems are described. We’re introduced to the crew which the author does a great job of depicting. Then finally, the villain is introduced. It was from this point the book held my interest.

The ending was dragged out and could have been summed up quicker. I would also have liked to have seen more emotional attachment to the main characters. This is a trait that’s difficult to write, but I feel the author will do a better job of this in later novels.

My gripes aside, once I was hooked, I sped through the remainder of the story. The crash and the events that follow kept me on edge and made this pilot think, “How would I handle that situation?”

The twist near the end was cleverly written and accurately depicted. The author gets a pat on the back for coming up with it.

This author has a couple of other books published which I will read. I recommend this book to lovers of mystery novels. I rate this book four stars.

Independence Day

B737 In FlightCleared for takeoff, I advance the power and the whine of the two jet engines increases then stabilizes to a steady growl.

The one-hundred-sixty-six of us onboard the 737 are shoved back into our seats, bringing a smile to my face. The brisk acceleration tapers off at one hundred knots but continues bringing the airplane closer to flying airspeed of one-hundred-fifty-two knots.

The end of the runway is getting closer. An engine failure or fire no doubt would let a few expletives slip from my mouth as I brought the airplane to a stop on what seems like a football field length of concrete. I mentally prepare for that emergency in case it happens. The white striped lines of the runway centerline increase in their flash under the nose.

A quick scan of the engine gauges reveals they are healthy. My inattention allowed the aircraft to wander a foot to the right. The nose gear rolls over the center line lights with a thump, thump, thump, before I correct the swerve and plant the tires back on the white stripes.

“V1. Rotate,” the first officer calls out.

With both hands on the yoke I ease it back raising the aircraft’s nose. We roll another thousand feet down the runway on the mains before the lift generated by the wings eases them off the concrete. We’re flying.

I continue bringing the nose up to establish a climb speed. “Positive rate, gear up,” I say.

Several seconds later the rumble of the nose gear tires retracting under the cockpit has halted. The only noise is from the engines, the airstream sliding by the cockpit at one hundred and eighty knots, and the control tower ordering us to contact departure.

Within a couple of minutes, the controller watching our blip on his radar screen has given us a couple of turns, pointed out other airplanes, and cleared us to a higher altitude. While adhering to these instructions I’ve accelerated to two-hundred-fifty knots and raised the flaps.

Below us on this Fourth of July families and friends are gathering to cookout, go to the beach, swim, campout or some other activity that’ll put them together. I could gripe I have to work and can’t be with my family. If I had a desk job I might have this day off.

Everyday around the world little boys and girls dream of flying as I used to. Unfortunately becoming a pilot is prohibitively expensive for so many. Hanging out at their small town airport and begging and bumming flights until they can pilot their own aircraft will be impossible. The desire to fly will be so strong for some they’ll leave their country to live in the U.S. where pursuing a career as a pilot is feasible.

For me, an American, becoming a pilot though not without its challenges was relatively easy. There have been times during airline bankruptcies and mergers that moved me down seniority lists that caused me to miss holidays and family events when I questioned if I made the correct career choice.

I wish I could have more time at home and holidays off, but what other profession would give me the satisfaction I receive every time I advance the power to begin flight?

There isn’t one that I know of that I would experience the excitement of taking a one-hundred-seventy-five thousand pound machine into the air and fly it across the country at three quarters the speed of sound at thirty seven thousand feet.

Becoming a pilot has been almost as fulfilling as being married to my wife, a father to my step-daughter, and a step-grandfather.

On this Independence Day I give thanks to those who have fought to provide me with the freedom to chase my dreams and live them to their fullest.

Eric Chandler’s, Down In It

Eric Chandler's Down In ItReaders who might wonder what it is like to eject from an F-16 in Afghanistan and try to stay alive will find this book intriguing. The fact that the author is a retired F-16 pilot who has flown several missions in that war torn country makes the details in the story authentic.

The premise of the story is: Doug “Hoser” Mackenzie is shoot down over the mountains and has to evade capture if he wants to live.

I would have given this book a five star rating instead of four except for two issues.

I would have liked a little more emotional connection through the story. While the character was drifting down in his parachute, he didn’t seem all that concerned. Nor did he seem upset that he’d been shot down, something I think would be devastating to any pilot.

Also, the author uses flashback to show the type of character the pilot is. This reviewer is not a fan of this method of storytelling as I feel the story comes to a halt while the author develops the character. Therefore, several times I questioned if dwelling on Hoser’s past was appropriate when I was worrying about him evading the people chasing him. Other readers may not consider this a deterrent though.

At the story’s conclusion I understood why the author chose this method as I was left hoping the experience of being shot down would make Hoser a better person. Although that made for a character arc that was satisfying, it took me several days of thought to understand why the author wrote the book the way he did.

 This was a quick read that gave this reviewer a taste of an author I’ll follow.