I never developed a fear of flying, even when commuting back-and-forth from DC to Phoenix for six months in 1998 and 1999. Turbulence doesn't bother me, either; I suppose I rationalize my lack of concern by recognizing I'm in a situation where I am completely powerless to affect the outcome, so just enjoy the ride. That, and I always remember the Superman line where he says flying is statistically still the safest way to travel.So, it was with a mixture of provocative glee and defiance that I first read Michael Crichton's page-turning novel about a mid-air disaster, Airframe, on one of those commuting legs. The book centers around an investigative lead for an airframe (mostly everything but the engines on a plane) manufacturer scrambling to find answers to a mysterious mid-flight mishap before the 60-Minutes-type media outlet runs a story that would sink the company. Crichton doesn't disappoint the techno part of his 'techno-thriller' rep as usual; by the end you'll know as much about why the plane really had trouble as any executive.

We don't even meet our chief antagonist from the media until halfway through the book, but by then, the table has been set and the tension is wonderful. I'm not surprised that the book was never made into a movie; I can think of only two action scenes, and they are minor at best. No, the thrills in this tale come from the mental and verbal jousting between the airframe lead and her media counterpart; one trying to find out the truth and solve a mystery, and the latter trying to sell a sensational story regardless of what happened. And, I didn't need to be on a plane this time around to fly through this book again.

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