Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY
"You couldn't see my ceiling for the model airplanes," says John Nance, 49, of his boyhood bedroom in Dallas. "I would watch airplanes fly over our yard and think, 'God, I wish I was up there.' " By 1970 he was, first in the Air Force, where he served in Vietnam and Desert Storm, then with Braniff, the subject of his first nonfiction book, Splash of Colors. Writing is a second passion for Nance, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., with his wife, Bunny, and their three children. "This novel began with the idea of what if we had a killer virus aboard a 747," he says. "I believe it's just a matter of time."
Have you ever had a gravely ill passenger on board?
Yes. It's usually a coronary. You call air traffic control to clear out everyone ahead, put the throttles up and fly hell-for-leather as safely as the plane can go. You want to drop into the nearest city that has good medical facilities.
What flight will you never forget?
In 1973, I was on a mission in Southeast Asia when a baby born to an enlisted man in Okinawa needed heart surgery. We had a cracked windshield, limited fuel and a typhoon ahead. After getting through that, we couldn't refuel fast enough in Honolulu, so we rushed the patient to another plane and in 12 minutes were on our way to California. And the baby made it.
How do you feel about leaving the flying to someone else?
I'm a very comfortable passenger as long as my knees aren't under my chin. I'm most bothered by crowding. That's what deregulation has done to us.