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"The not-so friendly skies"



Wednesday, August 22, 2001

The not-so friendly skies
Longtime airline worker draws on his experiences in new novel
By Kelly O'Connor
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune


DEL MAR -- Walter Carlin spent a lot of time at his parents' Connecticut inn
when he was growing up in the early 1950s. It was at the Bartram Inn that he
first encountered a professional writer who was in the process of writing a
book.

She took the time to read a short story that Carlin, still in high school,
had written. "She told my mom I had real talent," Carlin said. These words
have remained in the back of his mind ever since.

This year, Carlin released his first novel, "Incident Off Runway 31L." With
34 years of service in the airline industry, Carlin used his experiences and
knowledge of the profession to write his book.

It is a fictional story not too far from reality, Carlin said. Global Air,
the airline in his book, undergoes a transformation including various
cost-cutting measures that lead to tragedy. "It's a series of mistakes,
attitudes, and egos that quite literally create the scene in which the crash
occurs," Carlin said.

Carlin used his memories of the airline world, since the time he came aboard
in 1962, to write his novel. He saw the changes that federal deregulation in
1978 brought to the airlines and watched as many major carriers, including
Pan American and Eastern, went out of business.

The book is not for the white-knuckle flier, he said. "It gives a very
realistic picture on how a plane crash can happen," he said.

Carlin, now 62, ended up in the airline industry purely by coincidence.
After receiving his bachelor's degree in American civilization at Fordham
University in New York, Carlin decided he wanted to see the world. In 1959,
he joined the Army and was based at Staten Island, his birthplace.

Still filled with the desire to travel after he got out of the Army in 1961,
Carlin answered an ad in The New York Times that read, "young single men to
see the world." Less than a year later, he was an operations representative
with Pan American Airlines at New York International Airport, which later
became John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He did end up seeing the world. And many times, he had a behind the scenes
look, seeing countries as an employee and not as a tourist. Working in
foreign lands with native co-workers, Carlin got to see things from a
different perspective.

He visited the presidential palace and University of Antigua in Guatemala
City; hiked to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas in Peru; and
witnessed the ceremonies of the Brazilian Armed Forces while on a tour of
South America.

After working for Pan Am for 12 years, Carlin was subsequently recruited by
Eastern, TWA, PSA and American. He was a management problem solver with
those airlines.

Carlin has lived in Del Mar with his wife, Ann, for 15 years and is in the
process of writing his second novel, an adventure story about a dolphin.
Once he completes that book, he plans to write another novel based on the
airlines.

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