In the seventh aviation novel by Thomas Block, an airline company whose owners shield a hidden agenda, an airliner with some fancy technical upgrades and a cast of characters with secrets, troubled pasts and crossed purposes come together for what is supposed to be a routine flight from Rome to New York.
Capt. Jack Schofield, First Officer Peter Fenton and Second Officer Linda Erickson are in the cockpit of a Consolidated 768—the Consolidated 768 is a Boeing 767 modified by Trans-Continental airlines with advanced electronics and other airframe alterations—preparing Flight 03 for departure from Rome. Checklists are being followed, flight plans readied, but all is not sunshine and roses on the flight deck.
Capt. Schofield’s selective adherence to the operating handbook and company rules has got Fenton’s hackles up. Extra fuel added off the books, a retired captain in the cockpit for takeoff… these things should just not be allowed, but Schofield just shrugs off his first officer’s concerns. And there isn’t much that can be done about it, at least not until the flight has landed.
Retired captain Ray Clarke has come to Rome to heal from a painful past, but weeks of trudging the Italian landscape has not helped and now he’s scheduled to fly home. When Capt. Schofield—an old friend and former copilot from Clarke’s company days—invites him to the cockpit for the takeoff, Clarke is happy for the distraction.
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