Tag Archives: suspense

Tracon, by Paul McElroy

ImageBeing an airline pilot, I enjoyed reading this book. Mr. McElroy is not an air traffic controller, but it seems he did his research and got the details correct without taking the reader to air traffic controller school. I’ve often wondered what life on the other end of the two-way transmission I often take for granted is like and got a firsthand glimpse of that life.

 

As an author of airline thrillers, I loved the plot in this story, and a bit envious it has been used. It’ll make the reader feel the possibility of something similar having happened when the story takes place — more than a decade ago – might’ve happened.

 

But a great plot is no good without believable characters to carry the story, which was not a problem with this novel. I cared for the characters, hated a couple, and shook my head at a few.

 

The story moved forward at a moderate pace without lagging by stopping to tell backstory. What backstory is told is told in conversation which makes learning about the character more realistic. If I had a dislike it was the author’s choice to change character points of view within a chapter or section numerous times; a personal grip of mine

 

Overall, I recommend this story.

 

 

 

The Cover-Up, First Chapter

Monday, June 14 2:07 p.m.

Chapter One

Monday, June 14 2:07 p.m.

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Chunks 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 RES

Air traffic controller Jacob Crispen looked to the west, out of the windows of New Orleans International Airport’s control tower and observed the black line of clouds two miles away. They continued their march eastward toward the airport. Every few seconds, lightning shot out.

An Omega Airlines flight was three miles from the airport and approaching from the east. If it didn’t land in the next few minutes, the storm would close the airport and they would have to either hold until the storm passed, or fly to their alternate airport.

Omega was several thousand feet higher than other flights would normally be on their straight in final to runway two-eight. 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 additional time to lose altitude, but that would have them landing after the storm hit. “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 two 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 feet above the ground. The plane’s wings continued to rock. The wall of rain from the thunderstorm was 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.

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 with a massive 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 stop?

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.