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Full Circle – Piloting Aspects Inside the Novel “Captain,” Part One

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September 2012


While I’ve been an aviation magazine writer for the past 40-plus years, some members are probably also familiar with my aviation-themed novels: there have been seven of them since 1979. The first one—“Mayday,” an airline disaster story—was revised and updated in 1997 with my lifelong friend, author Nelson DeMille. “Mayday” was eventually bought by Hollywood and turned into a CBS Movie of the Week that aired October, 2005.

In April of this year my latest aviation-themed novel, “Captain,” was released in a print edition and also in all e-book formats. That novel was reviewed here at Piper Flyer a few months ago (refer to the July 2012 issue —Ed.), and that’s when the idea came up to share some of the “insider stuff” about this aviation story with our loyal Piper Flyer readers.

First, let’s talk about the whys and wherefores for having a fireside chat about a work of fiction in a magazine that is dedicated to helping real pilots in moving their real metal through a very real sky. What’s the possible connection? Allow me to quote the jacket copy of “Captain:”

“...a chilling and all-too-real story about a routine Trans-Atlantic airline flight that suddenly turns absolutely insane. In the doomed airliner’s cockpit, inside the passenger cabin and on the ground, a complex array of characters have been propelled at jet speed into a sudden and frantic race for survival. ‘Captain’ is about the individual and collective struggles of each of these men and women as they attempt to deal with and ultimately fight against the odds and circumstances that are stacked against them.”

Also, allow me to make a few observations, and several promises. Most importantly, the piloting elements that went into “Captain”—from the mechanical techniques of piloting a widebody jet across an ocean on through the decisions, reactions and motivations of the crewmembers, passengers and the folks on the ground—were steeped in what is real. While the airliner itself was labeled a “Consolidated 768,” it was identified as a highly modified Boeing 767.

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