Scape­goat: A Flight Crew’s Jour­ney from He­roes to Vil­lains to Re­demp­tion

Emilio Corsetti III

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - KATERIE PRIOR

Odyssey Pub­lish­ing Hard­cover $27.95 (472pp) 978-0-9972421-0-2 This ex­am­i­na­tion of a near plane crash shows that while peo­ple may fall, true he­roes al­ways work to rise again.

Emilio Corsetti III ex­plores how quickly real-life he­roes can be re­cast as vil­lains, in Scape­goat, which fol­lows a pilot who stops his plane from crash­ing.

TWA flight 841 was on a rou­tine flight from New York to Minneapolis when the plane in­ex­pli­ca­bly took a nose­dive. Af­ter Cap­tain Har­vey Gib­son and his crew pulled the crip­pled plane out of the dive, mere feet from the ground, they were at first hailed as he­roes. But then in­ves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered that the in-flight record­ings were par­tially erased, and the crew was ac­cused of cov­er­ing up neg­li­gence. Gib­son and his crew found them­selves fight­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion and ru­mors, and stonewalling to clear their names.

Scape­goat is a taut, sus­pense­ful his­tory. The open­ing chap­ters prompt heart-pound­ing ex­cite­ment as Corsetti de­scribes the dive from the per­spec­tive of both the crew and the pas­sen­gers. The book is en­thralling through­out, even as it shifts from the near crash to the more mun­dane hear­ings and in­ves­ti­ga­tions that fol­lowed it.

The text is very de­tailed, its in­ves­ti­ga­tion leav­ing no stone un­turned. It even pro­vides the de­vel­op­ment his­tory and schemat­ics of the Boe­ing 727, with di­a­grams that ex­plain the mal­func­tion. Corsetti proves skilled at min­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion for drama; he uses tran­scripts from tri­als and de­po­si­tions, me­dia in­ter­views, and even per­sonal cor­re­spon­dence to recre­ate tense and dra­matic scenes.

But the true strength of the book is in how well Corsetti ex­plores the tragic sto­ries of his real-life char­ac­ters, es­pe­cially that of Cap­tain Gib­son. His down­fall comes not be­cause of van­ity or pride, but be­cause of his vul­ner­a­bil­ity; grap­pling with shock, Gib­son doesn’t give the au­thor­i­ties a com­plete pic­ture of the crash. Corsetti’s text ends up pre­sent­ing Gib­son as a hero not only for stop­ping a plane crash, but also for un­tan­gling him­self from the mis­in­for­ma­tion and de­cep­tion around him.

Scape­goat will ap­peal to avi­a­tion en­thu­si­asts, his­tory buffs, and any­one who en­joys non­fic­tion thrillers. Corsetti’s book is a near-per­fect ex­am­i­na­tion of a mo­ment in his­tory—be­fore the sen­sa­tion­al­ism of the twenty-four-hour news cy­cle, be­fore pas­sen­gers could share cell-phone videos of a bad flight on so­cial me­dia, and be­fore ter­ror­ism changed the way that peo­ple feel about fly­ing. More im­por­tantly, the story shows that a per­son may fall to earth, but a hero al­ways tries to rise again.

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