Posted by: harrisonjones | November 22, 2013

You can’t make this stuff up

As an aviation fiction writer, I’m continually looking for plot lines and scenarios to include in my novels. Of course, non-fiction writers just report the facts. Sometimes you could describe the same scenario in either genre. For instance, what if (my favorite fiction question) a flight crew forgot to turn on the anti-ice for approach and the wings loaded up and stalled?  What if they botched the recovery and crashed into someone’s house. Fact or fiction? (Colgan Air Buffalo, N.Y.)

What if a flight crew had to make an approach to an international airport without the aid of an ILS? What if the runway was nice and long and the weather was good. What if they came up ten feet short and destroyed the airplane? Fact or fiction? (Asiana San Francisco)

What if a flight crew, flying a modern 747, landed and then noticed that the Flight Management Computer indicated nine miles to destination? Oops, wrong airport! Fact or fiction? (Wichita )

What if an international flight crew stalled an Airbus at altitude and had 37,000 feet to work with, but failed to recover? Fact or fiction? (Air France)

What if a flight crew, flying a Boeing 737, made a missed approach (their second in as many tries) and stalled without recovery. Fact or fiction? (Russia this week)

How about a UPS Airbus clipping a hill on approach to Birmingham. Why do we need imagination to write fiction?  Just read the newspaper. Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about an upcoming FAA report on automation and pilot performance. Here’s a quote, “Among the accidents and certain categories of incidents that were examined, roughly two-thirds of the pilots either had difficulty manually flying planes or made mistakes using flight computers.” Well, duh. Is there some other option I’m not aware of? The heck with making stuff up, I’m just gonna plagiarize the newspaper reports. Of course, I’d be criticized for writing scenarios that would not be plausible.


  1. This is awesome. Three of these accidents are in my first novel… two others… and more in the second. Fact or fiction? I’m thinking this is the new genre of true fiction.

    • Great to hear from you, Karlene. I could relate to the scenarios in your book, “Flight for Control” very easily. One of my favorite novels. Maybe there’s something to the phrase, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Fly safe and keep writing.

      • Thank you so much! That makes me smile. I’m getting ready to release Flight For Safety soon and we can add that to your list. 🙂
        There is so much to that phrase and we know it! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

      • Don’t tease us, Karlene. Release the book so we can read it. Looking forward to it.

  2. Hello Harrison,

    You are correct, you can’t make this stuff up. Fact is can sometimes be stranger/scarier/wilder than fiction.

    John B. Beck

    • It’s like Yogi Berra said, “Little things are big.” It’s the insignificant little details that can screw up a flight. Thanks for visiting, John.

  3. Thanks for the post. It has been an active year. Busy over at Delta Flight Control. Are you still going to write a book about an incident overflying Iran? Jason

    • Hey Jason, I’m sure you could relate a lot of stories from Delta Flight Control. You guys do an incredible job and I hope you never have to dispatch a 747 from a 6000 foot runway. I am working on a couple of new projects and the Iran scenario is one of them. I’ll post more info as the plot thickens. Have a great holiday!

  4. Harrison! You make some really great points in this post. Both the Colgan crash and the Asiana accident are two of the scariest incidents in recent times for those of us who find ourselves sitting back in 19B orC. I must admit I am a terrible airline passenger…

    • I hear you, Joe. I prefer sitting in the cockpit too. Given the choice, I’ll take the window seat on the left and coffee with one cream and one sugar.

  5. Oh yeah, I am a little behind on my reading… finals and everything, plus an emergency bathroom repair and bedroom painting job… Oh yeah, and all at other stuff I do like counting books and nickels and dimes for our favorite Uncle.

    • Let’s endeavor to keep uncle away from the controls.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: