Airframe by Michael Crichton
Casey Singleton is the vice president of QA at Norton Aircraft. The company is one of the four major suppliers of aircraft bodies in the world. After an “incident” on Transpacific Airlines Flight 545, flying from Hong Kong to Denver, she is in charge of the team trying to discover what happened. 4 people died from the in air accident and 56 were injured. The Norton N-22 widebody craft was “porpoising” in the air, a series of climbs and dives that threw everyone and thing inside the aircraft back and forth at nauseating and deathly angles.
The incident occurs on Sunday. On Monday morning, the team is called together for an emergency meeting. The investigation, which normally lasts a few months, needs to be concluded in a week. Norton is negotiating a business deal with China that will keep them from going bankrupt. The sale is supposed to finalize in a week. If the Chinese are insecure with the Norton N-22 widebody airplane, the sale will fall through.
Singleton spend the next week investigating the accident. The plane seems to be in great shape, with nothing mechanical that could cause the accident. The captain of the plane is known to be one of the best in the business. The engineers and technicians look deeper. Minor problems start appearing in the craft.
Union issues start to arise. The Union knows some of the work on the new planes, if ordered, will go across seas. They understand some of the critical, proprietary systems are being offset to China. They believe that could undermine the company, eventually putting it out of business.
Singleton receives warnings. Something deeper is going on within Norton. She needs to discover the facts of the company as well as the facts of the accident. She has a week. She also has to avoid some “accidents” and live through. She needs to keep the Norton plan from being labeled a deathtrap on a weekly television newsmagazine show. No matter what happens, it appears that after the week is finished, her job is on the line.
Once again Crichton brings to light and life characters and situations that feel plausible and probable. He researches the current state of two big businesses – airplane frame manufacture and television newsmagazine shows similar to “60 Minutes”. Before I read this book I didn’t realize the distinction between the manufacture of an airplane body and other parts added on after, such as the engines. Normally I would be part of the public that blames the aircraft company for accidents. Now I see more shades of gray. Also, instead of frightening me away from commercial flying, I now feel much safer.
This novel keeps you riveted. It’s a busy week for Singleton. Crichton makes sure you want to know what happens.