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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
At first, Brian is so frightened by his aloneness in this plane without a pilot that he is unable to do anything. His thoughts go back and forth between calling for help, giving the pilot CPR, and trying to figure out what he should do to land the plane. He finally acts by leveling out the plane the way the pilot had shown him. Then, he notes the words on the dash board - Transmitter 221 - and he recognizes the radio. He knows that he has to get the headset off the pilot. In the process of pulling the microphone switch from the pilotís belt, his elbow bumps the wheel, pushes it in, and starts the plane on a shallow dive. He releases the switch, grabs the wheel, and finally levels off once again. He puts on the headset and microphone switch and calls out for help, but no one answers. In his frustration, he pounds and screams on the wheel, causing it to jerk up and down. Finally, the awareness that he had to release the mike switch to hear anyone else comes to him from his memories of his uncleís CB radio. Then, after he releases the switch, he hears a voice telling him to do exactly that. The voice on the other end then calmly explains what information he needs to give him. Brian complies with what he knows, but he doesnít know where he is or his flight number. Then, he loses contact after his signal begins to break up.
Brian tries for a half hour to make contact again, but all he hears is static. He throws the headset to the floor and thinks that all is hopeless. He tries to figure out what he does know, but realizes that he only has two choices: wait for the plane to run out of gas and fall or push the throttle in and make it happen sooner. Everything in him fights against the idea of making it fall sooner. He feels as if heís making a mistake to allow the plane to continue to fly as it is, because itís gradually going farther and farther off course. However, he just canít end it all immediately, so he continues to keep it level and try the radio periodically. He also runs through his mind the steps he must take to bring the plane down as safely as possible: glide down towards a clearing, slow the plane by pulling the nose back up, and then hit. With so many lakes below him, Brian knows that he will have to land there, especially because the trees would be certain death.
He rehearses in his mind again and again how he will do this. But, all too soon, the engine coughs, roars violently for a second, and then dies. He pushes the planeís nose down and then throws up.
This is the first example of the young boy coming of age. Brian must
now find a way to save his own life. He is forced to call upon all of his knowledge
and understanding that the pilot had given him to find a way to land the plane.
He faces moments of hopelessness, fear, frustration, and anger and must find the
reserves within his own character to plan how to live. There is no one there to
help him. He has only himself and his own strength.
Brianís brain is screaming to him that heís going to die when he realizes that there arenít any lakes now below him. He fears having to turn the plane to find one, and he hyperventilates for a moment considering what he must do. Then, suddenly, he sees slightly to his right an L-shaped lake with rounded corners. The plane is facing toward the long part of the L, so he pushes the right rudder pedal gently, and the nose moves over the exact area where he wants to come down. It begins to fall slowly, and then everything seems to happen at once. He falls into a wide space like a stone, even as he is gently pulling the nose up to slow it down even more. The wings catch the pines at the edge of a clearing. Dust and dirt blows into his face in an explosion. The plane slams into the lake, bounces once on the water, and Brian can hear someone screaming. He doesnít realize itís his own voice. He pulls himself out of the shattered front window and swims for the surface. He vomits when his head breaks into the air and then swims without knowing what he is or what he is doing. He is still screaming when his hands reach the grass along the shoreline, and he blacks out into nothingness.
This description of Brian landing the plane is extremely intense both for the character and the reader. The great fear of death is juxtaposed with the even greater desire to live. The fact that the pilot had casually shown him how to control the plane gives him the skills he needs to survive, but his inner strength ultimately makes him act instinctively to escape the water and live.