FREEFALL by William Hoffer


Email this review


Terror in the skies as a disabled Canadian Airlines 767 hurtles toward earth: another effective thrills-and-chills spectacle from disaster master Hoffer (coauthor of Not Without My Daughter and Midnight Express; author of Saved!: The Story of the Andrea Doria), here writing with his wife, a free-lance journalist. Ultracomputerized, its control panel looking "like a video game emporium," the Boeing 767 that Capt. Bob Pearson began to fly from Ottawa to Edmonton on July 23, 1983, with 61 passengers and eight crew members on board was the very model of a modern jet aircraft. But it lacked one essential--enough fuel--and for an incredibly dumb reason: when refueling in Ottawa, the mechanic, intending to convert liters into kilograms, incorrectly used the numerical multiplier to convert to pounds, resulting in half-empty fuel tanks. And that's why the plane lost both engines at 41,000 feet and glided, an imminent tomb, for 29 minutes before smacking down on an isolated backwoods runway. The Hoffers offer a wrenching by-the-minute countdown, with multiple points of view (stewardesses, passengers, the pilot, the air controllers), and tension that builds to a screeching pitch ("I don't want to go into the trees. I don't want to burn. Please, God, don't let me burn"). There's some padding, too, in character bios and geographical background, but it's not enough to stall the full-bore momentum that at last finds Capt. Bob touching down like Buck Rogers, all souls safe and nearly sound. More melodrama than drama, and the psychological/philosophical probing is on a tabloid level, but the Hoffers milk every possible drop of suspense; this would make a terrific TV Movie of the Week.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1989
ISBN: 312-02919-5
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: