On a fascinating and informative journey, reporter and novelist Reiss (The Last Spy, p. 1331, etc.) examines what keeps passengers safe in the air. You may wonder, as Reiss did, how a multi-ton metal machine manages to fly, or how statistics can show that you're safer as a passenger in the US skies than in a bus, train, or car. With the cooperation of Delta Airlines, Reiss went looking for the answers. During a 72-hour stretch, he strapped himself in the cockpit jump seat of a Delta Lockheed L-1011 widebody jet as it flew out from Atlanta and back, with stops in Salt Lake City, L.A., Honolulu, and Dallas. New flight crews took over at several stops, but Reiss stayed with this 18-year old jet that had already carried more than three million Delta passengers during nearly 57,000 flight hours. In the cockpit, he watched the interplay between pilot, co-pilot and engineer as they studied flight plans, talked with the control tower, ticked off items on mandatory checklists and double-checked systems and myriad dials, gauges, switches and warning lights. Flying above 10,000 feet, with workload reduced, the crew felt free to share tales of pilot skill as well as errors, and, yes, stories of sex in the galley. In the weeks before and after his trip, Reiss also interviewed many on the ground whose combined efforts help assure flight safety--from top executives to mechanics, flight dispatchers to weather analysts, air traffic controllers and aircraft designers. In all: an enjoyable history both of commercial aviation and a leading US airline.