Dave Foster, Chief Engineer for Burton Aircraft, has a problem. Three of Burton's new Aerostar 800 commercial jets have crashed recently shortly after takeoff from Denver. His engineers can't find a design flaw, and the FAA has concluded the crashes resulted from unusual weather conditions, but Dave has doubts since, in all three cases, a wing apparently came off before the plane crashed. His investigation leads to an attempt on his life, resulting in extensive injuries and a lengthy period in a coma. One of his engineers is mysteriously murdered. Dave suspects a material substitution for a limited number of planes has been made to alleviate a schedule problem, but can't find out who made the change and for how many planes. As more planes crash in the same manner, an all-out effort is launched to locate and fix the planes with substitute parts. A web of overambitious and unscrupulous Burton personnel and suppliers complicates his efforts. Even after the defective planes are located and repaired, assigning responsibility for the part substitution and bringing the malefactors to justice challenges Dave and the detective assigned to the case. Lawsuits complicate Dave's efforts to keep the company going with new products.