An unsettling but intriguing analysis by a British author of the ""human factor"" in commercial airline accidents. Mr. Beaty begins by outlining all the recent improvements in aircraft design and performance but although ""professional error"" accidents have decreased, ""human error"" mishaps have increased. He then proceeds to look closely at the rambling wreck that is the Captain, coming in for a landing that requires split-second decisions, acute faculties and a steady hand. In the first place Beaty's model pilot (43 years old, a wife and two children, with about one acre of land surrounding a house near the airport) is plagued with a number of extra-cockpit stresses. His system is violently disrupted with rapid changes of time and air pressure, etc.; he finds it difficult to rest, to lead the ""normal social life."" he is in constant fear of losing his job with the next six-month ""check""; his wife proclaims their sex life less than ideal. The tensions aboard, however, are hardly less -- inexperienced co-pilots, inadequately placed instruments, uncomfortable cabins and always the threat of fatigue. But most frequently, accidents (and Beaty has impressive and terrifying statistics) take place because of psychological factors such as indecision, ""desire to please,"" seeing and expecting, illusions and communication problems. Beaty urges investigation into all these areas. One would guess that passenger and Captain share one phenomenon -- the rise from the normal heartbeat of 62 to 150 when circling New York in a holding pattern -- but after reading this, the passenger may hit 200. An original entry in the air safety controversy.