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National News

Saturday, 8 December, 2007 9:52 PM

How Safe is Air Travel?

Pilot Reveals the True Dangers of Congested Skies

Every time you board a plane, do you have to silence that little voice in your head that asks ‘what if?’ What if on this seemingly normal day, the plane I’m boarding becomes a grim statistic of a debris field strewn with twisted and charred metal? What if the air traffic control team on duty is overworked and understaffed, and doesn’t notice my flight veering into the path of another plane? Well, brace yourself.

Author Phillip S. Donlay’s latest thriller Code Black presents a nightmarish air travel scenario. He puts the reader squarely in the middle of an all-too-plausible mid-air accident that leaves a crippled commercial jet struggling to stay airborne over Chicago with nowhere to go – except perhaps the icy waters of Lake Michigan.

Unfortunately for air travelers this scenario is not far-fetched in the least. In October of this year two private planes came close to colliding in mid-air near Las Vegas due to an error made by an air traffic controller. Donlay, also a professional pilot with 30 years experience, knows all-too-well the very real danger of mid-air collisions. He vividly remembers the day when an air-controller error resulted in his plane and a 727 crossing paths at 37,000 feet over Indianapolis. “We saw him just in time,” says Donlay. “We took evasive action and crossed over the top of him by 200 feet. It was a close call that I’ll never forget.”

While researching his book, Donlay uncovered more than a dozen documented midair accidents. His fictional, but entirely possible, scenario envisions what could happen if a small series of events at an air-traffic-control site snowballed into a major midair collision. Midair collisions are a part of our history, with nearly 1,600 people dead since the beginning of commercial air travel. But could Donlay’s ficitional account become a grim reality?

“Certainly, there are safeguards in place to prevent something like what I write about in Code Black from happening,” says Donlay. “But even with all the high-tech processes and systems at the air-traffic-controllers’ fingertips, human error is still a very real danger.”

In June, Aviation Today reported seven recent near mid-air collisions in the vicinity of the New York area. The local air-traffic controllers union says Kennedy, Newark and La Guardia airports are short-staffed, a problem cited by air-traffic-controllers in locations across the country.

While air-traffic-controllers bemoan not having enough people in the control tower, the number of people in the skies is ever-increasing. FAA officials say Very Light Jets, or VLJs, a new generation of aircraft that are inexpensive and can land almost anywhere will cause a large surge in air traffic.

If you have ever sat in the back of an airliner and wondered, “what if?”, then you are not alone. Code Black, although a work of fiction, plays out the thrilling and terrifying possibility of a mid-air collision, a terrible scenario…but one based in fact.



ABOUT PHILIP S. DONLAY

Philip Donlay earned his private pilot’s license while he was still in high school. At the age of nineteen, he became a flight instructor in Wichita, Kansas. Soon he was offered an opportunity to stretch his wings—all the way to Saudi Arabia. After months of flying private jets over wind-swept deserts, he returned to the United States.

Today, he is licensed to fly six different types of jets and holds the civilian title of Senior Captain. His travels have taken him to thirty-five countries on four continents. He now divides his time between Minneapolis and Northern Virginia.

Donlay’s first novel, Category Five, was published in 2005 and earned widespread praise.

Source: News and Experts

 

 

 

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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.

 

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