This is exactly the kind of book you would expect the now-legendary Sully Sullenberger to write. In his memoir, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, which set down so memorably on the Hudson River in January, is earnest, controlled and exacting. Sullenberger is not prone to flights of fancy—in fact, he is the very pilot you’d choose for the job if you had any say in it. His book reflects the same qualities. For someone who has spent so much time in the air (he’s been flying for 42 of his 58 years), Sully is remarkably down-to-earth. This memoir covers a wide array of issues, from certain practical aspects of airline price-cutting (it cuts corners on the kind of pilot experience that gives depth of skill) to a rueful assessment of his own healthy sense of self (“regimented, demanding of myself and others—a perfectionist”). He alternates thoughtful accounts of family dynamics with a career overview, including seven years in military service after graduation from the Air Force Academy and a stint at Purdue in a master’s program that enabled him “to understand the why as well as the how” of the world. Throughout, Sully selects just the right anecdotes to convey both his love for his family and his practical approach to life, all rounded out by his endearing appreciation for the elements of flying that cannot be pinned down. Eventually Sully gets around to the defining incident of his life that catapulted him into the spotlight and arrives at something millions have suspected ever since those riveting pictures of the downed plane and its passengers first appeared on our TV screens: “Technology is no substitute for experience, skill and judgment.” Readers will know how it all turns out, but the details are engrossing. The world will never return to its former state, but life has been renewed for Sully as it has for each of the other 154 passengers on Flight 1549. His “search for what really matters” appears to have arrived at family and flying, but subtly includes the encompassing qualities that discerning persons discover in the course of a lifetime. Like the best pilots, Sully just got there a little early. Maude McDaniel writes from Maryland.
Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #2
The hero pilot who made the successful emergency landing in the Hudson River tells his story, assisted by bestselling author Zaslow (The Girls from Ames, 2009, etc.).On Jan. 15, 2009, about 95 seconds after takeoff, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese, knocking out both engines. Less than four minutes later the plane was floating in the Hudson with all aboard alive and largely uninjured thanks to the cool decision-making of Captain "Sully" Sullenberger. In countless public appearances since the incident, Sullenberger has emerged as an appealingly modest, straightforward guy, a demeanor maintained here in his easygoing, no-frills account of his Texas boyhood, his early infatuation with flying, his years at the Air Force Academy, his peacetime military career and his experiences as a commercial pilot, where safety procedures became somewhat of a specialty. The author recalls lessons learned from his parents, instructors, colleagues, his fitness instructor wife and his two adopted daughters, all of whom contributed to preparing him to handle the dire emergency that made him famous. Careful to credit his fellow crew members, especially First Officer Jeff Skiles, Sullenberger rejects the "hero" label, reserving that for folks who place themselves consciously in danger, rather than for those who have a crisis thrust upon them. The author insists he successfully managed the situation because of a decision made many years ago about the kind of person he wished to be. He claims to have summoned a courage and sense of responsibility common to many other ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Sullenberger also addresses the dramatic water rescue and his post-flight celebrity, and he answers some of the many moving messages he received. He attributes much of the media attention to timing. People battered by foreclosures, hammered with job losses and stung by decimated savings accounts looked to the story of Flight 1549 and saw that there are "ways out of the tightest spots."Of particular interest to aviation buffs, but valuable for anyone interested in how a life lived with integrity prepares a man for the ultimate challenge.First printing of 350,000. Blue Ribbon Book Club selection. Agent: Jan Miller/Dupree, Miller & Associates Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.