The talented Nance, an air safety analyst, retired Air Force pilot, and civilian 737 pilot for a major airline, here keeps the tension as high and nasty as in his last two airborne thrillers, The Last Hostage (1998) and Medusa’s Child (1997). It all begins when SeaAir Flight 122 crashes over the Gulf of Mexico, a crash as inexplicable as the recent sudden loss of an Egypt Airlines plane. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, FBI Special Agent Kat Bronsky, who has just given a talk at an airline counterterrorist panel, is heading back to the States when Robert McCabe, investigative reporter for the Washington Post, implores her to listen to a tale of murder that he believes involves terrorists. They board a 747 to fly back to the States together, but Kat is called off the plane by her boss and ordered to stay in Hong Kong. The 747 is two hours out into its flight when a white flash explodes before the cockpit, killing the pilot and blinding the copilot. Although the automatic pilot helps, there’s no one to fly or land the plane'and some amusing humor about Leslie Nielson’s air-disaster movies arises. McCabe and various passengers, none of them licensed pilots, gather in the cockpit to help the blind pilot turn back to Hong Kong and attempt to land. But they fail, taking out a control tower, and must now fly their radio- and radar-disabled plane to Thailand through lightning storms and other deviltries. Among the pilot’s new aides are a lippy 14-year-old boy, who becomes the hands-on pilot, and an unsinkable Kathy Bates/Molly Brown character, Dallas Nielson (yes, Nielson). Airborne, Nance’s hand for crackling intensity remains peerless. Once on the ground, the standard figures of melodrama emerge in the forms of deep-dyed villains, law-enforcement fieldworkers, and the harassed US president. If this saga is ever filmed, the screenwriter should toss its second half.