Monday, March 3, 2014

The Behind-the-Scenes Operation of a Major Airline

I’ve written several novels including A QUESTION OF PROOF, DEEDS, BIRTHRIGHT, and STAR TIME.   In writing my most recent book to go on Amazon STALKING THE SKY, I wanted to depict the inner operations of a major American airline in a time of crisis. I undertook a good deal of research to immerse the reader in that world.

Here’s an excerpt:
The nerve center of any airline, Operations Control at GUA occupied a good part of the second floor. At the center of the large room was a glass-walled area filled with computer terminals and Teletype and fax machines, sending and receiving messages from all of the company’s offices. The ability to maintain administrative surveillance was why Buck had insisted on keeping the company’s headquarters at the airport. . . .
Ordinarily Buck would have scanned the Teletypes for problems. Tonight a storm had diverted planes from New Delhi to Karachi, mechanical problems had delayed Flight 22 inbound from Brussels and London to JFK, and a flight engineer had been routed directly back home because of a family emergency. Chances were Buck would have sent a note to the man in the morning. But another, more urgent event not yet on the Teletype dominated his mind.
At Flight Dispatch, white boards with a strip to track each plane along its route covered one long wall. The information gathered in this center—weather reports, fuel burn rates, schedules, air traffic—would be fed to the computer programmed to prepare each trip's flight plan that the captain could use or revise as he saw fit. Regional Flight Dispatch Centers operated twenty-four hours a day in New York, London and New Delhi, but Denver was the brain stem. . . .
"Any more news?" Buck asked.
None of the men shifted their eyes from the screen, as if a moment's inattention could allow bad news to slip in.
"Nothing decisive," Keller said quietly. "But I’ll fill you in. Flight 211 arrived at O’Hare from L.A. at ten p.m local tonight and left the gate for New York at ten-fifty-five."
"Right on time."
"To the minute. It lifted off from O’Hare at eleven-thirteen. Four minutes later Departure Control handed the plane off to Chicago Center. Twenty minutes after that, at the Medum intersection, Chicago Center advised the pilot it was terminating radar service and to contact Cleveland Center for the next leg of the flight. But the plane never contacted Cleveland Center. It just disappeared."


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