The Delta Air Lines pilot and veteran of nearly three decades flying passenger jets, has written a thrilling page turner novel that revolves around over stressed, crazed pilots doing far worse things.
“Flight For Control” is a gut-wrenching, fear-of-flying inducing yarn that imagines the unimaginable. A series of unexplained airline crashes that kill hundreds of passengers.
The book is an exciting, if occasionally terrifying read. What makes it not quite plausible but still frightening, especially in the wake of recent events, is that Petitt says it reflects the upheaval in the airline industry and the frazzled emotional health of all its employees.
The lead character and ultimately heroine is Kathryn Jacobs, a former National Transportation Safety Board crash investigator. After a 10-year leave to try out wife and mother duties, the NTSB asks her to return to work to investigate the unexplained crashes.
Kathryn’s husband, Captain Bill Jacobs, is a senior airline pilot with a strong Machiavellian streak running for president of the pilots union. His real plan is far bolder, one with many victims.
While her twin daughters are off at camp, and Bill is immersed in his campaign, Kathryn secretly begins her investigation and what she finds is shocking beyond belief. Would a pilot intentionally crash a plane loaded with passengers?
The what-happens-next and who-done-it makes “Flight for Control” gripping. It’s well written, especially for a self published novel by a first time author.
To cope with the strains of a deregulated, highly competitive and cutthroat business the airlines in “Flight for Control” are cutting wages and pensions, pushing employees to the brink. Pilots are financially and emotionally bankrupt due to fatigue, furloughs, and loss of seniority and the recent arrivals are being poorly trained and ill prepared for emergencies.
If it sounds familiar it should, Petitt said in an interview. It’s based on what she sees among her pilot and flight attendant colleagues and friends. We interviewed Petitt at the recent Women in Aviation conference in Dallas.
The idea for the novel, Petitt said, came to her a few years ago when her then employer, Northwest Airlines, was on the verge of bankruptcy. Pilots’ anger was boiling and morale sinking.
“One of these guys sent out a message that said, ‘I don’t give a damn what they give us at this point. We’re going to shut these guys down,’” Petitt said. “I thought how far would a pilot go? Would they really try to shut an airline down?”
Petitt, who has a master’s degree in counseling, got another glimpse into the emotional state of pilots while working with an employee assistance program for Northwest pilots.
“We got so many calls of personal crisis,” Petitt said. “Family stuff. Just stuff that you know is stress going on between finances and working too much and tearing relationships apart. They’re not home for their kids. Their kids are into drugs.
“These people have worked their entire lives and they’re losing it. They’re losing seniority. They’re losing income, homes and pensions.”
It makes you hope your pilot doesn’t lose it entirely in flight, at least not when they’re at the controls.