A Different War (1997)
Twenty years on from Firefox and ten years on from Winter Hawk 'Gant is back'. Craig's pilot hero returns to fight wrong-doing in the skies. The 'war' of the title refers to the lengths that multi-national companies will go to to in order to secure economic security.
British plane manufacturer Aero UK is in bother. No one wants to purchase their new airliner. Entrepreneur Tim Burton (not to be confused with the director of 'Batman') is a thinly disguised Richard Branson type. His airline company is buying the new American Vance 494 airliner instead of the British model. David Winterborne, boss of Aero UK, decides that persuasion has run it's course and he arranges for the new rival Vance-built aircraft to fall out of the sky.
Mitchell Gant is now out of the USAF and investigating airplane crashes. His old boss Vance calls on him to discover why the planes are crashing. Of course it's not long before he realizes the crashes are far from accidental and sets out to track down the saboteur.
Aubrey returns after a break of five years to help with the British end of the investigation.
The problem with this otherwise entertaining book is the sense of unreality. Tim Burton is an obvious clone of Richard Branson, going up against the big boys. Aero UK sounds a bit too much like British Aerospace. The Vance 494? Sounds a bit like 747 to me. The nature of the book requires made-up companies which mirror real world companies. The reader is supposed to have heard of Vance, or Aero UK mentioned in the same breath as Boeing or Airbus. It may be a minor point, but it caused problems for me.
I was amused to find a nasty FBI agent called McIntyre in the pages. No relation, I hope.
As a final note, when I first saw the cover depicting an airliner with blue and white livery crashed in the desert, I though; 'Cool, he's crashed Air Force One!' Of course he hadn't. I can't help thinking what a good novel that would have been...