What was the flight number of the ill-fated TPA flight?
The plane went into another steep dive. An elderly Chinese woman slid down the aisle on her back, screaming. A teenage boy followed, tumbling head over heels. Emily looked at Tim, but her husband wasn't in his seat anymore. Yellow oxygen masks were dropping, one swinging in front on her face, but she could not reach for it because she was clutching her baby.

She was pressed back into her set as the plane descended steeply, an incredibly loud whining dive. Shoes and purses ricocheted across the cabin, clanging and banging; bodies thumped against seats, the floor.

Tim was gone. Emily turned, looking for him, and suddenly a heavy bag struck her in the head - a sudden jolt, pain, blackness and stars. She felt dizzy and faint. The alarms continued to sound. The passengers continued to scream. The plane was still in a dive.

Emily lowered her head, clutched her infant daughter to her chest and for the first time in her life, began to pray.

-- Airframe
I had wanted to write a story about manufacturing airplanes for many years, because it's such a fascinating area: nothing human beings have ever manufactured is as complicated as a commercial jet aircraft. And nothing is built to such demanding specifications.

But I could never come up with a story. Finally, someone in the aircraft industry brought a real incident to my attention, and I started to write.

So Airframe is based on a true story-actually, several true stories. There are, of course, a number of famous episodes of deadly turbulence, as well as several instances in which pilots have allowed other people to fly the plane. I used the National Transport Safety Board reports on these real incidents as the basis of the story. (The NTSB reports are almost novels in themselves, with interviews, pictures, details, the whole works.)

After months of research, I got pretty casual about the whole thing. One day I was flying across country with my research spread out on my lap-NTSB photos of the interior of an aircraft that had been badly smashed-up from turbulence. People would walk by, see the pictures and say, "What are you doing?" Finally a flight attendant asked me to put the pictures away. I was disturbing the other passengers.

I don't know why. Because the real discovery I made in my research is that commercial air travel is incredibly safe. Each year, thousands more people die choking to death from food than die on airplanes. And nobody is afraid to sit down at the table to eat.

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