SKYJACK…Why Flying Is Safer than Ever

Are you uncomfortable flying?  My character Thea Paris certainly isn’t an avid fan, but the latest facts about airplane safety do offer serious comfort.  During my research for SKYJACK, I immersed myself into the aviation world, speaking to former stealth bomber pilots, commercial pilots, and test pilots so I could bring readers a turbulent thrill ride even though soaring through the air at 500mph six miles above the ground is less likely to result in your demise than any other form of travel—unless you’re Thea Paris and the pilot has locked the co-pilot out of the cockpit!

Perhaps a few facts will ease your concerns: 

Design:  Airplanes have flown almost a billion hours in the last 50 years.  There is a meticulous recordkeeping process in aviation that provides experts with critical data, helping to improve the design of airplanes and their engines.  In SKYJACK, Thea is shepherding two former child soldiers from Nairobi to London in a sleek BBJ 737 when the plane is hijacked, and the adventures kick off from there.

Technology:  The mechanical controls of yesteryear are now being replaced by electronic ones.  These new fly-by-wire planes include the Boeing 777 and 787, as well as the Airbus A330, A340, and A380.  Pilots are now information managers, and technology plays a major role on the flight deck.  Those old movies where pilots are muscling the controls trying to save the day are dissipating.  Instead, satellite global positioning, advanced displays, and telecommunications offer a level of flight precision never seen before.  The hijacker in SKYJACK uses his knowledge of technology to make the plane “disappear,” and you’ll learn more about transponders, secondary radar, skin paint…

Pilots:  Today, more than ever, there is intensive training for pilots.  Remember that incredible moment when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger landed US Airways Flight 1549 safely in New York’s Hudson River?  Sully attributes his incredible feat to a lifetime of flying, as well as preparation, anticipation, and focus.  The more hours a pilot has in the air, and the better his training, the higher chance you have of surviving an in-air mishap.  That said, you need to trust the pilots, and there have been recent instances, like in the German Wings flight that crashed into the French Alps as well as the tragic story of the Malaysian Flight that disappeared into the ocean, where pilots have become the enemy.  I explore this theme in SKYJACK.  We work so hard to keep terrorists and interlopers out of the cockpit, but what if the bad guy is already flying the plane?

Cabin:   A modern airliner seat can withstand 16gs!  And the fabrics are flame retardant and self-extinguishing, unable to emit toxic smoke.  Even the items you find in the seat backs are tested to make sure they are not lethal.  Emergency lighting is instantaneous if there is a fire, making it easier to reach the exits.  The cockpit doors have been reinforced, and the pilot can lock anyone out.  When things start to go haywire on Thea’s flight, she has to use items in her SINK—Survival Insurance Nightmare Kit—to break into the cockpit.  Now this was fun!

A key fact to remember:  most commercial aviation accidents are not fatal.  Planes lose altitude, landings are botched, planes slide off runways, but these events rarely cause fatalities.  You are 19 times safer in a plane than in a car—unless you have Thea Paris’ bad luck.

On your next flight, sit back and enjoy a thriller movie or a tantalizing book.  Feeling brave?  Let yourself be SKYJACKed!

  1. ‘Skyjack’ by KJ Howe is published as a paperback original by Headline on 26th July at £8.99


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