Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Airframe - Book Review

by Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf 1996

This is one of Crichton's early novels, but one that I had not read. I learnt a lot about how airplanes are made. In California there is a plane manufacturer called Norton. They make planes. Mostly they make planes to order, but the orders are slowly dropping off. If the company does not get a big sale soon, it will be out of business.

Norton does not make engines. Engines are made by other companies and installed as per the customers requirements. Norton only makes the frame of the plane.

Transpacific flights is a small charter flight company that flies between Hong Kong and Los Angeles. On this flight the plane was a Norton plane. Towards the end of the flight the slats were somehow deployed and the plane started doing funny things. 3 passengers died in flight and a crew member died a few days later. 56 passengers were injured.

KC is a Quality assurance VP at Norton. It is her job to find out what happened on the flight and she has only one week to do it in. She must also keep things under wraps.

The novel covers that one week that KC has been given. She must deal with the managers, the president of Norton, the unions, the media, the staff who who are testing the plane to see what went wrong and also the crew of the plane.

The media start off with the assumption that the plane was faulty. KC assumes that the plane was not at fault but that the pilots were at fault. She eventually discovers that it was not the first officer who was injured, but the pilot. His cap had been found at the back of the plane. What was he doing out of his seat at the time of the incident? And if he was at the back of the plane, who was in the pilots seat?

It is an exciting novel and at the end there is an unexpected twist that lays the blame on the crew and not on the plane. The media were planning to go with the story that the plane itself was at fault. KC threatens to sue them if they publish that story or any other about Norton.


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