Author John Nance, who is also ABCNEWS' aviation analyst, is releasing a new aviation thriller about the passengers of Meridian Flight 6. As their flight is delayed for hours, the passengers are pushed to the edge — and their flight only gets worse. Read chapter one of Nance's latest novel, Turbulence.
FAA AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOWER CHICAGO O'HARE AIRPORT, ILLINOIS 11:30 A.M. CDT
"This is nuts!"
Shift Supervisor Jake Kostowitz shook his head in pure exasperation as he muttered vague epithets to himself. The day was going to hell already.
Again he felt the deep craving for a cigarette, the fallout of quitting after twenty years. The FAA's no-smoking policy inside control towers was unshakable, and he still felt a pang of resentment every time the urge became too strong to bat down without a surrogate stick of gum.
He hated gum. But he dug into his right pants pocket anyway now to find some.
All around him-spread out for three hundred sixty degrees and some two hundred feet below the new, glassed-in, air-conditioned O'Hare FAA control tower-the gridlock of overheated, delayed airliners inched forward along crowded taxiways past jammed intersections, baked by the relentless glare of the summer sun.
What was that figure he'd heard? Jake mused. Was it fifty, or sixty flights that were scheduled to depart O'Hare at precisely the same time every day? Whatever the figure, at least the system was fully recovered from the nationwide passenger panic following the loss of the World Trade Center. Jake shook his head slightly, a gesture no one else noticed. Never did he ever want to see his airport looking like a ghost town again, but the endless flow of airliners was now back to ridiculous, and the airlines refused to change it.
The aroma of hot cinnamon reached his nose, and Jake turned toward the stairwell to see one of his off-duty controllers munching on a huge roll and grinning. Jake shook his head in mock disapproval. The controller was at least eighty pounds overweight and a walking heart attack. He climbed the last few steps licking his fingers and stood beside Jake, surveying the intense action in the tower cab.
"Well, you think they'll do it, boss?"
Jake turned to glance at him, trying to read his meaning. "Sorry?"
"That's a good word for them. Sorry. I'm talking about America's most dysfunctional airline. Dear old Meridian Air, or as a pilot friend of mine who works there calls 'em: 'Comedian Air, where service is a joke.'"
Jake shook his head. "I sure hope they don't walk. They've got twenty-six percent of this market now. That's a lot of delayed passengers."
"How would they know the difference?" The overweight controller laughed. "Besides, that would also mean twenty-six percent fewer flights for us to sort out."
Jake chuckled and shook his head. "Yeah, right. As if United and American wouldn't pick up the slack. We'd be just as stressed." Jake pointed to the half-eaten sweet roll. "Any more of those in the break room?"
"Yeah. I bought a box. Have at 'em," the man said, watching Jake slip past him down the stairway.
A TV was droning away in the corner of the break room as Jake swung through the door and headed for the box of Cinnabons, the mention of air traffic control catching his attention.