A routine daily commercial non-stop flight from Seattle to Hong Kong portends nothing more than a very long day and a night without sleep for the flight crew on InterContinental Flight #499. But the spectacular eruption of an Alaskan volcano just as the aircraft shifts its polar route to follow the Kenai Peninsula gives the passengers an extraordinary incendiary show.
Then, moments later, severe buffeting of the aircraft brings the entire crew to their feet, checking on the passengers and their seat belts. Just as my protagonist approaches the First Class section, there is a sudden, loud bump, followed by a violent shuddering of the giant 747, driving him to his knees in the aisle. An instant later, a thunderous explosion jars the aircraft sideways, and a gaping hole on the right side appears where moments before there had been four rows of seats. Five people have simply disappeared. In their place is a howling, frigid wind, flapping parts of the sidewall and ceiling luggage racks, and the screaming of two hundred terrorized passengers and crew.
What had begun as commonplace has been transformed into hysterical panic as the ever-reliable Boeing 747 jumbo jet experiences a massive explosion and complete depressurization at 37,000 feet. A warning light tells the flight crew that the forward cargo door is open. The pilot and co-pilot battle valiantly for the lives of everyone onboard as they struggle to maintain control of the behemoth that suddenly is not flightworthy. Not since the Boeing-built B-17s of World War II has an aircraft been as structurally damaged and survived.
Would InterContinental #499 be the first?
- C. Norman Noble, February 2012
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