Home > Airframe(14)

Author: Michael Crichton

When Casey introduced herself, Kay Liang looked confused. "You're from the manufacturer?" she said. "But a man was just here..."

"What man?"

"A Chinese man. He was here a few minutes ago."

"I don't know about that," Casey said, frowning. "But we'd like to ask you some questions."

"Of course." She put the magazine aside, folded her hands in her lap, composed.

"How long have you been with Transpacific?" Casey asked.

Three years, Kay Liang answered. And before that, three years with Cathay Pacific. She always flew international routes, she explained, because she had languages, English and French, as well as Chinese.

"And where were you when this incident occurred?"

"In the midcabin galley. Just behind business class." The flight attendants were preparing breakfast, she explained. It was about five A.M., perhaps a few minutes later.

"And what happened?"

"The plane began to climb," she said. "I know that, because I was setting out drinks, and they started to slide off the trolley. Then almost immediately, there was a very steep descent"

"What did you do?"

She could do nothing, she explained, except hold on. The descent was steep. All the food and drinks fell. She thought the descent lasted about ten seconds, but she wasn't sure. Then there was another climb, extremely steep, and then another steep descent. On the second descent, she struck her head against the bulkhead.

"Did you lose consciousness?"

"No. But that was when I scraped my face." She gestured to her injury.

"And what happened next?"

She was not sure, she said. She was confused because the second stewardess in the galley, Miss Jiao, fell against her, and they were both knocked to the floor. "We could hear the cries of the passengers," she said. "And of course we saw them in the aisles."

Afterward, she said, the plane became level again. She was able to get up and help the passengers. The situation was very bad, she said, particularly aft. "Many injured and many bleeding, in pain. The flight attendants were overwhelmed. Also, Miss Hao, my cousin, was not conscious. She had been in the aft galley. This upset the other stewardesses. And three passengers were dead. The situation was very distressing."

"What did you do?"

"I got the emergency medical kits to care for the passengers. Then I went to the cockpit." She wanted to see if the flight crew was all right. "And I wanted to tell them the first officer had been injured in the aft galley."

"The first officer was in the aft galley when the incident occurred?" Casey said

Kay Liang blinked. "Of the relief crew, yes."

"Not the flight crew?"

"No. The first officer of the relief crew."

"You had two crews on board?"


"When did the crews change?"

"Perhaps three hours earlier. During the night."

"What was the name of the injured first officer?" Casey asked.

Again, she hesitated. "I ... I am not sure. I had not flown with the relief crew before."

"I see. And when you went to the cockpit?"

"Captain Chang had the plane in control. The crew was shaken, but not injured. Captain Chang told me that he had requested an emergency landing at Los Angeles."

"You've flown with Captain Chang before?"

"Yes. He is a very good captain. Excellent captain. I like him very much."

Protesting too much, Casey thought. The stewardess, previously calm, now appeared uneasy. Liang glanced at Casey, then looked away.

"Did there appear to be any damage to the flight deck?" Casey asked.

The stewardess frowned, thinking. "No," she said. "The flight deck appeared normal in every respect."

"Did Captain Chang say anything else?"

"Yes. He said they had an uncommanded slats deployment," she said. "He said that had caused the upset, and the situation was now under control."

Uh-oh, Casey thought. This was not going to make the engineers happy. But Casey was troubled by the stewardess's technical phrasing. She thought it unlikely that a flight attendant would know about uncommanded slats deployment. But perhaps she was just repeating what the captain had said.

"Did Captain Chang say why the slats deployed?"

"He just said, uncommanded slats deployment."

"I see," Casey said. "And do you know where the slats control is located?"

Chapter 4

Kay Liang nodded. "It is a lever in the center pillar, between the chairs."

That was correct, Casey thought.

"Did you notice the lever at that time? While you were in the cockpit?"

"Yes. It was in the up and locked position."

Again, Casey noted the terminology. A pilot would say, Up and locked. Would a flight attendant?

"Did he say anything else?"

"He was concerned about the autopilot. He said the autopilot kept trying to cut in, to take over the plane. He said 'I had to fight the autopilot for control.'"

"I see. And what was Captain Chang's manner at this time?"

"He was calm, as always. He is a very good captain."

The girl's eyes flickered nervously. She twisted her hands in her lap. Casey decided to wait for a moment. It was an old interrogator's trick: let the subject break the silence.

"Captain Chang comes from a distinguished family of pilots," Kay Liang said, swallowing. "His father was a pilot during the war, and his son is a pilot as well."

"I see ..."

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