Friday, February 28, 2014

Good news reached me this week.  My friend Grant Blackwood has a new website, as well as  some news that should excite readers.  A gifted writer, anything he publishes is sure to be top-notch. 

 If you've read Grant's work then you understand--if you haven't, it's about time.  Check him out.





The New York Times bestselling author of the Briggs Tanner series, (The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War) Grant Blackwood is also the co-author of the Fargo Adventure Series (Spartan Gold, Lost Empire, and The Kingdom) with Clive Cussler, as well as the co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller, Dead or Alive, with Tom Clancy, and the upcoming thriller, The Kill Switch, with James Rollins.

A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years aboard a guided missile frigate as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer.

Grant lives in Colorado, where he is working his own standalone series starring a new hero.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Years ago, in my life as professional pilot, we were always plugged in and listening to Air Traffic Control.  Most of it was the usual chatter between pilots and controllers, requests, clearances being issued, boring but essential stuff.  But every now and then there would be a real jewel.

The following was an actual exchange between a frustrated TWA Captain and a calm cool female controller.  She had her hands full with a sky saturated with planes and thunderstorms--and this guy.  The TWA crew wasn't happy with their sequence, or some such detail, and it was more than obvious when the annoyed Captain finally came on the frequency.

"Center, this is TWA," the Captain blustered.  "Are you a trainee?"

"No, why?" She responded sweetly.  "Are you?"

I  promise there was laughter in every cockpit except one.  The controller had dismantled the bully with four words.  It was a work of art.  Words can change everything.

On that topic, an old friend of mine, Mark Whyte, along with his wife Katie, have written a children's book--a really good children's book about young people with disabilities.  If you, or anyone you know has a family touched by disability, please check out this book.  Mark and Katie's words are powerful.

Friday, February 21, 2014

It's not real until it's on the internet.  Or in this case, posted online within Publishers Marketplace:

Philip Donlay's AFTERSHOCK, tormented by his past, in the fifth Donovan Nash thriller, he flies headlong into a lawless, volcano-ravaged Guatemala, in search of answers that may very well destroy him, to Bob Gussin and Pat Gussin at Oceanview, for publication in 2015, by Kimberley Cameron at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (World).

Thank you Oceanview, you're all great!  Now...I wonder what happens to Donovan in book six?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book writing as told by Philip Donlay

I'm an index card junkie.  I go through hundreds of these while I'm plotting / outlining.  Sometimes I'm clever enough to number them, typically I don't.  It's stacks and stacks of chaos.

Then it's seemingly endless research to make sure all the stuff I dreamed up actually works. I love this part.

Then I type anywhere from 125,000 to 135,000 words.  During the editing process the manuscript gets whittled down to 96,000 words.  I wish I were good enough to type the correct 96,000 words the first time--but I'm not, and I never will be.   
The real magic comes when my publisher takes my mess, and turns it into this.   Thanks Oceanview!

Monday, February 10, 2014

On the heels of my black box blog.  This is very cool.

Forensic Animation Videos Help Decipher AccidentsEyewitness Animations creates video representations of aircraft accidents based on recovered data. The goal is to present something close to what an scannereyewitness would have seen at the time. Aircraft accident animations offer investigators a chance to understand the dynamics of an accident or incident and determine whether a person or a product failed somewhere along the way. Company president Jack Suchocki, a former Eastern Airlines pilot, coined the term “forensic animation” to explain what his company does. His clients include law firms representing both the plaintiff and defense side of disputes. Eyewitness Animations created a video that went viral online after the Asiana Airlines 777 crash in San Francisco last July. Creating an accurate video involves reviewing reams of data from flight data recorders, ATC recordings, weather and aircraft performance reports to create a video that replicates what happened. Suchocki recalled creating a video for an airline whose crew was accused of flying too low near an airport. Based on ATC radar data, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, the re-creation clearly showed the airline’s management and union teams what really happened. In another case, an attorney was certain his client would be exonerated after a midair between two GA aircraft. “When we finished the re-creation, we explained that we were able to place a virtual camera inside the cockpit of his client’s airplane,” Suchocki told AIN. “That’s when the attorney realized his client had actually had plenty of warning and should have noticed the other airplane before the accident.” 

Friday, February 7, 2014


One of the side effects of writing a novel is I get to do the research that helps me tell my story.  One such learning experience involved creating a plane crash, at night, in the ocean, well out of radar contact.  All communication with the aircraft is lost and the flight never arrives.  Which poses the difficult question for all concerned: Where did it go, what happened, and why?  Search and rescue elements are the first into the fray, floating debris is eventually located, and then accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board step into action.  Their job is to start piecing together the evidence.  In this case, a possible crime scene with hundreds of fatalities stretched out over several miles.  Of course, the fact that the wreckage is 12,000 feet below the surface of the ocean makes the job even more difficult.  The first order of business:  Recover the black boxes.

Black Box: A general term for any magical gadget no one understands.

Actual names of the devices: Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).  They’re two separate units, and they’re not black, they are in fact painted bright orange for higher visibility in the recovery process.

Every airliner has some type of black box installed, usually near the tail, if that gives you any hint where scientists believe the least amount of damage occurs in a plane crash.  Though I’m convinced they could install these devices in the nose and they’d survive to tell their tale to investigators.


In testing the crash-worthiness of the black boxes, they must be designed to survive the following:

a.) Being shot from an air cannon to create an impact of 3,400Gs.

b.) A 500-pound weight, with a quarter-inch steel pin attached, is dropped from ten feet to test for puncture survivability.

c.) For five minutes, 5,000 pounds per square inch of crush force is applied to all axis points.

d.) For at least thirty minutes, the box is placed in flames that reach 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Aluminum, the prime material used in airliner construction, will melt at 1221 degrees Fahrenheit.)

e.) The box must survive in salt water for thirty days.  These sturdy gadgets will also survive an ocean plunge down to 20,000 feet, and automatically begin to ping an acoustic signal for up to thirty days.

After all of these tests, the data stored inside must still be retrievable.  These devices are made to survive because of what they contain.  Stored inside on magnetic tape, or on a memory chip, are all of the essential events leading up to a crash.  The Cockpit Voice Recorder will record sounds in the cockpit.  The pilot’s conversations, the radio transmissions, sound of other voices in the cockpit.  All of the audio is preserved for the investigators.

The Flight Data Recorder is required to monitor at least eighty-eight parameters, such as heading, speed, altitude, aircraft attitude in relation to level flight and so on.  The end result is, once recovered, the accident investigators can create a visual depiction of the aircraft’s final moments.  It’s usually from that data, combined with information from the CVR, that the root cause of the disaster is determined.  It can be as obvious as a bomb, or the crew unwittingly flying into the side of a mountain in weather, to the failure of a turbine blade inside a jet engine.  Using clues from the black boxes, a Boeing 747 that crashed into the ocean off Long Island was eventually salvaged and pieced back together in an empty hangar.  Investigators then determined that defective wiring had caused a fuel tank explosion.   

At some point in the future, there won’t be black boxes in airliners.  The flight and voice data will be streamed real-time via satellite and stored until needed.  Which means the only black boxes recording data for accident investigators might be the one in your car.  But, until that day comes, hunting black boxes on the ocean floor remains high adventure. 




Tuesday, February 4, 2014

One of the beautiful parts about having a blog is I get to write when an idea or a nerve is struck.  As we know from my previous blog, I have an opinion or two about how we treat the creatures on our planet.  That being said, this reached me today via COARE, the Center for Oceanic Awareness Research and Education.

In response to a number of local shark-related accidents, the government of
Western Australia approved on 09 January 2014 an Act to catch and kill sharks to
reduce their populations (cull).  Baited hooks are being set 1 km from eight
popular beaches to attract and catch sharks.  Tiger sharks, white sharks, and
bull sharks 3m or larger will be shot.

COARE is vehemently opposed to this action as it is vindictive and does little
to achieve the desired effects of making public beaches safer.  In fact,
research to this effect was published nearly twenty years ago.  If you live in
Western Australia please be sure to let your Ministers and Members of Parliament
(MPs) know you condemn this action.

This makes as much sense as killing all the dogs in a neighborhood in response to a dog biting someone.  Why don't send these chaps an email...I did.

The Western Australian Government Ministry
Hon Premier Colin Barnett MLA

Poster [ PDF, 500 kb ]

Honourable Colin J Barnett MEc MLA

Premier; Minister for State Development; Science
1 Parliament Place

Telephone: +61 8 6552-5000   /   Fax: (08) 6552-5001
Honourable Ken Baston MLC

Honourable Ken C. Baston MLC

Minister for Agriculture and Food; Fisheries
4th Floor, London House
216 St George's Terrace, PERTH WA 6000

Telephone: +61 8 6552-5400   /   Fax: (08) 6552-5401