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Tracon Mass Market Paperback – August 3, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published last year in a paperback edition, which quickly became the favorite book of pilots and air traffic controllers (although probably not of nervous airplane travelers), McElroy's fascinating, frightening saga of the events surrounding a horrific midair collision is being reissued in a "Commemorative Edition" in hardcover to mark the 20th anniversary of the disastrous Professional Air Traffic Controllers' strike the one the Reagan administration settled by firing everyone. Journalist McElroy's novel is, as he admits in a new afterword, largely a work of nonfiction lots of solid reporting, with some fictional elements added. It's also a very persuasive argument against the giant computer early warning system called TCAS (Traffic-Alert/Collision Avoidance System), which is supposed to take over automatically when planes get too close. As McElroy's hero traffic controller extraordinaire Ryan Kelly, the cool-as-a-cucumber whiz who works the titular underground room where most of the heavy lifting gets done knows, TCAS can't be relied on. Nor should we trust the FAA and the politicians who grease their own runways with that agency's bounty. McElroy surrounds Kelly with a vivid cast of seasoned controllers (and one newbie who sees the job as being akin to "tending a group of wind-up toys, all buzzing in different directions") and journalists, one the daughter of a powerful, devious senator who has his own reasons for keeping the facts about the midair crash out of the papers. This is great page-turning fun with the added punch of social and economic importance. (Aug. 3)Forecast: As a commemorative hardcover edition, this thriller will likely appeal most to air traffic controllers and aviation buffs (many of whom may already have picked it up in paperback). If word gets out to general readers, however, the market may broaden. McElroy will appear at a few major aviation events, as well as at Seattle's Bookfest Northwest.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A charged winner. Recommended as one of the season's outstanding fiction picks. -- Midwest Book Review, August 2000

An accomplished debut novel. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 11, 2000

Insightful adventure punctuated by superb writing and an attention-grabbing plot. You find yourself staying up late to read it. -- Pacific Flyer, August 2000

It's the most authentic book I've ever read about air traffic control. I couldn't put it down. -- Vice President Randy Schwitz of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association

Totally absorbing page turner with a great mix of realism, romance and suspense. -- American Airlines First Officer David L. Hinman

Tracon scared hell out of me. A must read for anyone who flies. Gripping and frighteningly accurate. -- Clive Cussler, author of Serpent and other New York Times bestsellers

“A charged winner … one of the season’s outstanding fiction picks.” -- — MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

“An accomplished debut novel.” -- — SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

“One of those books you find yourself staying up late to read. Very, very late.” -- — PACIFIC FLYER

“Riveting from beginning to end.” -- — PRIVATEPILOT

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 493 pages
  • Publisher: Japphire Productions Inc (August 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967996309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967996301
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,788,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Scott Straub, Air Traffic Controller on July 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Paul McElroy's TRACON is the first accurate representation of what the Air Traffic Control environment is really like. As an 18 year ATC veteran, I was immediately drawn into his novel as he precisely described incidents in which TCAS (Traffic Alert/Collision Avoidance System) caused aircraft to climb/descend and put themselves in closer proximity to other aircraft--all in direct confliction with the controller's instructions! Kudos to Mr. McElroy for shining some light on a problem that continues to plague the aviation world to this day. TCAS is a valuable awareness tool for pilots, but allowing a computer to override the judgement and pre-planned actions of an air traffic controller is a subject for serious debate.
McElroy's research into the world of ATC will be evident to all of those who are associated and familiar with aviation. The way that he takes technical situations and explains them in layman's terms through his characters makes for extremely enjoyable reading. He also captures the competitive comraderie found in the radar room as controllers try to one-up each other, trading light hearted insults as a way to vent their frustrations with having to work in a less than perfect system. The "war stories" told by the controllers as they unwind with a beer after work are hilarious. One can only hope they are somewhat embellished, but in the air traffic world you can't be too sure.....
I found this book to be addictive; I didn't want to put it down. After watching the disappointing air traffic movie, "Pushing Tin", it was a pleasure to read an authentic accounting of what goes on at the radar scope. McElroy manages to capture everything perfectly!
I rate this book at 5 stars.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Don Brown on July 6, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One of the most difficult responsibilities as a Safety Representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is explaining the intricacies of the Air Traffic Control System to non-controllers. It is a frustrating task. Paul McElroy not only does it well, but he makes it entertaining.
I was overwhelmed by "Tracon". It is such a rare pleasure to find an author that has the skill to explain the truth by using fiction. "Tracon" comes closer to the truth than anything I've ever read about ATC...and I've read them all, fact and fiction.
"Tracon" really is a triumph. From now on, whenever I have people ask me about what it's like to be a controller, I'll have an easy answer; Read "Tracon" and you'll understand. You'll have a good time learning about it too.
And for you controllers out there...Paul McElroy has the flick.
Don Brown
Facility Safety Representative
NATCA-Atlanta Center
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By roger anderson on March 30, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As an FAA'er for 33 years, 8 of them at O'Hare, TRACON is first rate in depicting ATC, and much of FAA, as it really is. While reading it, I was in the driver's seat, seeing clearly the activities and events as they were unfolding, realizing every bit of it could be (or occasionally has been) absolutly true. For you aviators and other controllers out there, this is a must read. For you non-aviation experienced readers it is as equally outstanding as a fictional thriller. The characters are strong and relationships real. You will finish the book not only having been totally entertained, but also having been treated to a very accurate look at the very unfamilar, and frequently very misrepresented, world of air traffic control.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Stewart on November 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As one of the 13,000 fired PATCO controllers from 1981, I know a bit about the air traffic control business.
For a piece of fiction, TRACON is probably the most technically-realistic book I have ever read on the subject. It's amazing how Paul could capture the essence of this business so vividly. Combined with plenty of suspense and a tad of romance, this book points out that FAA procurement and management problems which resulted in the 1981 strike continue to exist, today.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tracon is a nicely paced, well researched novel with well developed characters that the reader genuinely cares about. The necessary aviation jargon is kept to a minimum and is well explained in the context of the narrative. The author has a very firm grasp of a major issue in U.S. commercial aviation today, namely that the safety of the flying public rests more with the professionals in the cockpits, towers and tracons than with the bureauocrats and bean counters.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael P Pena on July 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tracon is technically and emotionally accurate, bringing us into the bizarre world of the air traffic controller (ATC). McElroy hits on issues that we all should be concerned with: outdated methods, strict automation technology, and the safety of the lives who fly. This intriguing and believable story calls attention to some of the shocking possibilities in air travel. The character development is rich, the crash scene is vivid, and the life of the ATC is darkly absorbing. You can tell that McElroy has done his homework. McElroy has created a fascinating addition to the techno-thriller genre.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gini B on September 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
When I first heard about the upcoming release of this book, I thought, "oh great, here we go again." Fully convinced that this would be another book depicting air traffic controllers as psychotic, alcoholic, insomniac, chain-smoking, caffeine-addicted, egotistical, socially-inept wingnuts, I had no intentions of ever reading it. On the recommendations of some of my NATCA brothers/sisters, I took a chance and bought the book.
Wow! What a surprise. I feel like I not only KNOW all the characters in this book, I *am* one of them (you guess which)! It is the first technically accurate and well thought out book about the air traffic system. The plot is great, the characters are absolutely's just awesome.
I will be purchasing several copies of this book. I'll buy one copy for each of my relatives who think that an air traffic controller is the person who waves red-tipped flashlights at airplanes to direct them to their parking spaces, and one copy to give to every airline pilot I encounter every time I fly.
I can't wait 'til the movie!
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