Tag Archives: aviation

First Chapter of novel, Blamed.

 

BLAMED Small-promoChapter One

 

The crushing pain radiating up from my legs yanked me out of unconsciousness. My arms dangled above my head and my hands rested on the overhead panel of the aircraft. Comprehending I was upside down was difficult to grasp with the fear of blacking out again threatening to overtake me.

I yelled and squirmed in an attempt to stop the slide into nothingness and to relieve the agony in my legs. Neither relaxed the all-consuming pain. If anything, my thrashing sharpened it.

We were on approach to Dallas-Fort Worth when… what? Nothing came forth that explained why I’d be upside down and in such misery. A black hole occupied my memory of what happened between everything being normal as we approached the runway and… now.

Wind whistled through the smashed cockpit windows, ruffling my hair. Shards of glass littered the overhead panel. Smoke that stank of burned jet fuel and something else I couldn’t place drifted in.

Where there’s smoke, there’s… Fire! I had to get the flight attendants and passengers to safety! Then a realization hit me. We had been ferrying the empty aircraft from a maintenance facility in San Salvador.

Ned! Why hadn’t the first officer, who had been the pilot flying, made a sound?

When I looked across the cockpit, I shrieked.

The overhead panel had bowed in and crushed the forty-something husband and father’s head backward at an extreme angle against his headrest. A lifeless eye bulged from his distorted, bloody face. It stared straight ahead.

The laid-back pilot with a dry sense of humor looked like a ghoul from a Hollywood movie.

How could he be dead? He’d been joking with me just moments ago.

To distance myself from the sight, I squeezed my eyes shut while fumbling for the seatbelt buckle of my five-strap harness, then hesitated. If I released it, I would plant my head into the overhead panel, which was filled with numerous toggle switches. Even if I didn’t impale on a switch or break my neck, the agony in my legs made me question if I could work them enough to crawl from the aircraft.

I risked a glance. Whatever had happened to us had bent the instrument panel down, trapping my lower extremities under it. The femur in my right leg poked out through a tear in my pants. A constant stream of blood ran from the tip of the broken bone.

I recoiled, and the bone moved.

An intense spike of nausea erupted, emptying my stomach. Vomit burned my throat, ran into my eyes, and up my nose.

I swiped my face with my arm to clear my vision. This movement sent a wave of blackness rolling through me. A part of me welcomed it to end my misery. Another part worried I wouldn’t ever wake from it. I couldn’t leave my wife, son, and daughter.

The sounds of large diesel engines approached. Air brakes hissed. Were they from the crash and rescue trucks?

“Help.” My cry was a gurgle from the vomit in my mouth. I spit.

The smoke outside was now so thick, I couldn’t see the ground. Would they find me before I was consumed by fire? “Help!”

I didn’t detect any movement or hear any voices. I would not become a victim. I had to get out.

A stabbing pain in my side had grown in intensity, making it harder to breathe. When the yoke was rammed into me, had it broken a rib or my sternum? Punctured a lung?

A shove on the yoke to move it forward proved futile.

With a heave, I pushed against the edge of the glareshield, normally at shoulder height but now waist level, hoping to ease the pressure against my chest. The crushing force didn’t slacken.

It also intensified the torture in my legs. I doubted a chainsaw cutting into them would hurt worse. The bellow I unleashed didn’t summon the strength needed to distance me from the yoke.

I sat as still as I could, panting.

The gulps of air I took didn’t relieve my shortness of breath.

If I could slide the seat back, I might breathe easier and free my legs.

Why hadn’t I thought of the seat adjustment lever?

Twisting to yank that lever at the base of my seat felt like a knife stabbing my chest. With my free hand, I shoved on the crushed instrument panel. The intensity of the torment was so great, I almost blacked out.

If I did, I might either bleed or burn to death.

Through gritted teeth, I pushed on the glareshield yanking on the seat adjustment lever. When I didn’t move, I unleashed a howl.

I stayed rammed against the yoke.

When I attempted to shove with my feet, unimaginable agony consumed me, bringing on the darkness I’d been fighting.

Naming a Character

BLAMED Small-promoWith my feet propped up on my desk, and a legal pad in my lap, I study the list I’ve written on it. The creak of crutches behind me expels a sigh from me. “Do you have to do that?”

“Hey, you said I’d be on crutches all through the story, so I thought I’d practice,” the character in my upcoming airline thriller, Blamed, said.

I go back to contemplating the list.

“You know, it’d be easier to pace on these if that dog wasn’t lying in the middle of the floor.”

My faithful friend, Hunter, lays nearby as he always does when I’m at my desk. “Get used to it. You’ll have a golden retriever in the story.”

“Really? Cool. I like dogs. Have you named it? Or is it nameless like me?”

“Casey.”

He tests speaking the name. “Casey. All right. That works. So what are you thinking for me? Since I’m a pilot, it should be something distinguishing. Like… Buck Teager.”

I shake my head. “That’s too close to Chuck Yeager. Besides, your first name will be Bill. It’s the last name I’m having trouble with.”

Bill stops his pacing. “Bill. Okay. That works. But why Bill? Seems pretty common.”

“I’m using my late brother in-law’s name. He too was a pilot.”

“Bill it is. Let’s test out what you’ve thought of. Run them by me.”

Luckily, no one is home to hear me having this conversation, or I’d probably be locked up in a mental ward. But I’m sure every novelist would understand letting a character assist with choosing their name.

“Here’s what I’ve thought.” I hold the pad up. “Kopp.”

Bill scrunches up his nose. “Kopp? Bill Kopp? Think about it. In the story I’m in an airliner accident. Won’t people think I should have kopped to it?”

“Yeah, you’re right.” I run a line through the name. “How about Wilde?”

An eyebrow is lifted. “Isn’t an airline pilot supposed to be a buttoned-down rational person? Not a wild Bill?”

“Good point.” Another name gets crossed off. “Wilbur. No, forget that one. One of the Wright brothers was named that. Butler.”

“Bill Butler. Who probably would have the nickname, BB. Seriously?”

“Hadn’t thought of that. Then I can scratch off Bower too. Hunter.”

“Your dog’s name? Wow, your imagination is amazing.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“How about Egan?”

“Egan? Bill Egan.” Bill looks like he’s tasted something bad. “I suppose, if you’re really set on it.”

“Fine. You come up with one.”

“Let’s see.” He resumes pacing with the crutches. “Mid-fifties. Pilot. Do I have a sense of humor?”

“Yeah.”

He stops and smiles. “Kurt.”

“Like James T. Kirk?” I shake my head.

“No, Kurt. K-U-R-T. But the similarity could be a joke. Since I’m an airline captain, my rank and name probably will be spoken a bunch of times throughout the book. Captain Kurt. It could be a little joke.” Bill lights up. “Hey, I could even say in the story at some point that my mission is to boldly go where no airline has gone before.”

I chuckle. “If that thought was interjected during a serious moment, it might give some levity to the scene.”

He’d nodding. “See. It’s a good choice.”

“Yeah, but… Kurt is too close to Kirk. How about Kurz?”

With his hands held in front of him like he’s making a frame, he says, “Bill Kurz.” He gives a nod. “Not bad. Close to Kirk so the line will work, but still unusual. Works for me.”

“Bill Kurz it is.”

“Am I married?”

I type Kurz on my list of character’s names. “Yeah.”

“What’s my wife’s name?”

“That’ll be a possible topic for another blog.”

If you want to read what Bill’s experienced in Blamed, it will be published in December 2016.

Writers, do you have these same conversations with your characters?

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.

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.

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.

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.