One thing you may not know about me is that I’m pretty terrified of flying. I was in a minor plane incident as a teenager. I was on a return flight with my family from my first time on vacation in the United States. A few hours off the coast of Spain, our plane started falling out of nowhere. It felt like the plane was dragging us down with it and lasted way longer than any turbulence I had ever felt.
Once we hit air again and the plane stopped falling, one of the stewards went on the intercom and yelled at people to get back in their seats. Everyone was screaming and panicking, and later we found out some of the stewards and stewardesses had been moderately hurt during the fall. We were able to continue to Milan relatively normally, though a few of the injured flight attendants had to be taken away from the plane in ambulances once we touched down. Needless to say I’m a little anxious about flying nowadays – I’m very picky about airlines and typically medicate to make sure I’m not in a terror.
Just like everyone else in America I was transfixed in January 2009 by images on the news of US Airways Flight 1549’s incredible landing in the Hudson. My fear of flying has had the weird effect of making me obsessed with any aviation information, including air crash documentaries. I especially live for stories like this, in which pilots save the lives of their passengers through their professionalism and expertise. Once Captain Sullenberger’s book came out a few months ago, I knew I had to check it out, and I was not disappointed. Read my review below.
Sully: My Search For What Really Matters by Chesley B., III Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow
Re-Released: August 9th 2016
There’s not really a chance for spoilers in this case since everyone is familiar with the story of the Miracle On The Hudson. However, only a few of the chapters of the book focused on the actual flight and landing itself. The rest of the book covers Captain Sullenberger’s autobiography, bringing to life the man behind the miracle. From his teenage years learning to fly from a crop duster pilot, to cutting his teeth on fighter jets as an airforce pilot and then racking up flight hours as an airline pilot, Sully reflects on other crucial moments in his personal history and in the history of aviation that contributed to his reactions during that fateful morning.
What I Liked
There hardly is a need for more reasons to be impressed by Captain Sullenberger, but learning of his humble upbringing, strong family values and his high standards for himself as a son, husband and father. completes the picture of a man who you can really rely on. I was a bit worried, however, that the book would be a long cheesy reflection on near death experiences and how they make you reevaluate the meaning of life. I realized very early on that the book is nothing of the sort.
Sully actually is a technical analysis on the part of a very precise and thoughtful man of the elements in his life that led him to be able to remain cool in the face of danger, and make all the right decisions on that morning in January 2009. As someone who has a vested interest in the aviation industry, I really appreciated reading about his views of airline safety issues and the tensions that airline personnel have been subject to due to cost-cutting measures in recent years. He analyses several other crashes similar to that of Flight 1549 that had less optimal endings, examining the factors that enabled him to perform a perfect water ditching in his situation where others had failed.
There is no self-congratulating hubris here. Just an aviation expert and normal man reflecting on a long successful career that resulted in an uneasy fame derived from a completely unpredictable traumatic experience. I came away from the book informed, inspired and a bit surprised at the depth and interest of its contents.
What I Didn’t Like
I really enjoyed the book, but I think by the end of it I found myself wishing that there had been more contributions from individual passengers that lived through the flight. I guess to get more of their accounts I’ll have to read Miracle On The Hudson:The Extraordinary Real-Life Story Behind Flight 1549, by the Survivors.
If you enjoy reading about aviation and aviation history, and if you were inspired by Captain Sullenberger’s composure and precision in the difficult situation he faced, this book will not disappoint.
Have you read Sully or watched the movie? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
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