Writer needs help with plot point

Philip Greenspun's Homepage : Philip Greenspun's Homepage Discussion Forums : Aviation : One Thread
Notify me of new responses
My sidekick character, an accomplished motorcycle mechanic, at a
critical moment will inflict rough justice by sabotaging the villian's
single engine airplane, such that it takes off, but explodes in flames
in the air.

I know nothing of airplane engines. What kind of tampering with the
fuel line or other system might result in such an outcome?


-- Larry Schreiter, November 11, 2008


What a great thing to post on the internet... should any aviation engineer or mechanic also include a list of needed parts? Schematic? Sorry Larry, I'm not sure this is teh right place. Try "generic bomb"

-- fabio savoldelli, November 12, 2008

Let me clarify -- it doesn't need to be workable, just plausible.

-- Larry Schreiter, November 12, 2008

I would suggest doing a little research. Perhaps go down to your local field and take a few lessons with a flight instructor. Learn a bit about the process from your point of view. Maybe even work up to a solo. You'll learn plenty and maybe even come up with a plausible point for your plot.

You might find Michael Crichton's book, Airframe an interesting read. There are many subtle implications in that book that may transfer well (or may not) to your story.

-- Jason Hackney, November 12, 2008

The answer to your question is - not really.

But, hey, that never stopped anyone in hollywood.

-- Eric Warren, November 13, 2008

In this "post-nine-eleven" world, the aviation community is understandably sensitive to suggestions that airplanes are easily sabotaged and might "explode in flames" at any minute.

The truth is that aircraft and aircraft engines are not at all easy to sabotage, at least not in any way that would go undetected by the dumbest of pilots and still result in a fireball. Even if there was a way to do this, we certainly wouldn't tell you.

For a plot device, consider simply making your villain a careless pilot who neglects to do even the briefest preflight inspection. (As J.Hackney suggests, a visit to a flight school for a few lessons should provide ample fiction-fodder) Have the villain run off the end of the runway without being able to get airborne -- any fireball, however unlikely, would be the result of an ordinary vehicular crash.

Meanwhile, I suggest reading "Fate is the Hunter" by Ernest Gann. All true stories, very few fireballs.

-- Jane Carpenter, December 28, 2008