From New York Times bestselling author and "master of the airborne thriller" John J. Nance comes Fire Flight, a ripped-from-the-headlines adventure about the extraordinary pilots who risk their lives flying substandard airplanes in a little-known and lopsided war against our nation's wildfires.
Veteran pilot Clark Maxwell thought his fire bombing days were well behind him. But when Jerry Stein, Maxwell's friend and airtanker fleet-owner, calls at the height of the fire season to beg him to reenter the war, he doesn't hesitate. A pair of ferocious forest fires is raging out of control, threatening to destroy Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and incinerate thousands of area homes. As the wildfires spread, whipped by massive winds, and the federal forces arrayed against the fires reach their limits, anxiety grows in the local population. A paranoia plagues the fire bombers and smoke jumpers as well, after a mysterious string of violent airborne accidents among the airtanker fleet claims the lives of some of the most fearless and experienced veterans.
Maxwell has long argued that the airtankers -- old aircraft used by pilots to bomb the fires with fire retardant slurry -- are faulty museum pieces that should have been grounded years ago. Now some of the fleet seem to be falling apart in midair. In the middle of the area's worst wildfire season in history, Maxwell is convinced that a sinister cover-up is behind the rash of horrific air disasters. Were the planes' inspection papers forged? Is someone capitalizing on these crashes? As he races to unravel a very real mystery and prevent a natural disaster of massive proportions, Maxwell's probe reaches the upper levels of the very government agencies charged with mount-ing the aerial fire fighting effort -- a move that for wholly unexpected reasons just may cost him his life...and the life of Karen Jones, the married smoke jumper with whom he seems to have fallen in love.
In amazing detail, with the signature authenticity only a veteran pilot could provide, John J. Nance creates a hair-raising thriller that will leave readers breathless from cover to cover.
Nance's latest aviation thriller (Pandora's Clock; Turbulence) departs a bit from his successful formula of race-against-the-clock plotting and in-flight suspense. Instead, it plunges into the world of smoke jumping, with many intricate and intimate sequences featuring airborne firefighters at work. It's a good trade-off. There is still plenty of suspense and high-stakes action, but the story is more character-driven and lighter on professional jargon, anchored by a romantic triangle and a whodunit. At the center of both is veteran pilot Clark Maxwell, called back into battle from the private sector by his slightly sleazy former boss Jerry Stein when multiple forest fires stretch the resources of the Forest Service and threaten local populations. Clark's re-up with the service lands him in the orbit of feisty fellow smoke jumper Karen Jones, his longtime "fantasy pinup girl." Their mutual chemistry is undeniable, but nonstop firefighting and, more important, Karen's hot-tempered husband, Trent stand in the way of romance. Troubles in the air begin when a last-minute switch puts hotshot pilot Jeff Maze aboard the Douglas DC-6 originally earmarked for Clark. The wings break off the plane in flight, killing Jeff and his co-pilot instantly. Jeff's distraught girlfriend, Misty, holds some of the keys to the puzzle, which Clark determines to piece together. He suspects merely negligence, but when the same airborne fate nearly befalls pilot buddy Sam Littlefox, Clark concludes that it's sabotage. But by whom, and for what purpose? With its lively cast and rich plot, this is Nance's best book in years.