Fact/fiction-ist Bickham, who took on tornadoes in Twister and California's Napa Valley in The Winemakers, now undertakes the aircraft-and-aerospace industry in his 35th novel. Few writers today go at a business meeting, a chart readout, or a designer's innovations with quite his relish for animated padding. The plot: Hempstead Aviation has made some unfortunate choices in design, especially a huge propeller-drive plane it produced just as the jumbo jet swept the market. Now it is trying for a long-range recovery via the Excalibur passenger jet with its wide body seating ten abreast. Hempstead needs orders for at least 200 jets to see good rich black ink--but, mysteriously, an Excalibur, with its great new wing design, plows into Kennedy international and kills all aboard, including Hemp stead's president Jason Baines. Did the plane explode in midair? Could a bomb have been planted on board to kill the Mafia chief passenger who must soon testify about his syndicate's tie-in with oil companies? Is there a failure in design? Hempstead's orders are frozen until the fault is uncovered. Meanwhile Lydia Loring Baines, former movie star (seemingly modeled on Pepsi's Joan Crawford), takes over her dead husband's empire and goes power-mad, influence-peddling to gain foreign contracts and undermining her own execs. Then another Excalibur goes down in Pittsburgh. Was Harold Zelmer, a paranoid psycho, responsible? Heading the stick-figure cast is exec Ken Lis (will his wife recover from her alcohol and pills addictions?), who writhes as all Excaliburs are grounded and nearly 400 lawsuits pend. For nuts-and-bolts nuts only.