October 14, 2009
Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters
Capt Chesley ‘Sully” Sullenberger
Written with JEFFREY ZASLOW
352 pages, $25.99
A snippet of the book summary at BrowseBook:
Born to a dentist father and an elementary school teacher mother, Sully fell in love with planes as a young boy. He learned to fly at 16, taking lessons from a crop-duster in a vintage airplane from a grass strip nearby. While his father, a World War II veteran, offered encouragement, he also imparted stern advice the future pilot took to heart: a commander is responsible for everyone in his care. They are words that have shaped Sully’s life and work and continue to guide him today. At its heart, this is a story of hope and preparedness – supporting the belief that life’s challenges can be met if we’re ready for them – reminding us that, even in these challenging days, there are things still worth fighting for.
Rushed to print, overshadowed by the next big news story, books by unlikely heroes who hit the front page are always suspect. But as Sullenberger grows from a 5-year-old who wants to fly planes, to a fighter pilot, to a 57-year-old “gray-haired man with my hands on the controls of an Airbus A320 over Manhattan,” it’s clear there’s a story here to tell. “I flew thousands of flights in the last forty-two years,” Sullenberger reflects, “but my entire career is now being judged by how I performed on one of them.”
Last January, “Capt. Sully” became one of the most recognized men in America when he landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after a flock of geese hit the aircraft and incapacitated the engines shortly after takeoff. But, he insists, he’s not a hero, describing his actions as the result of a lifetime of flight training, particularly his intense cultivation of “situational awareness”—”ultimately flying the airplane with your mind by developing and maintaining an accurate real-time mental model of your reality.” Though justifiably proud of his accomplishment, Sullenberger speaks frankly of the toll the public spotlight has taken on his marriage, as well as the difficulties he and his family have endured throughout his commercial aviation career. Zaslow’s contributions should not be overlooked; as with Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, he invisibly assists Sullenberger in going beyond the moment that sparks readers’ interest—the entire flight was five minutes, eight seconds long—and elaborate upon the life experiences that give context to his fame.
The result is as dramatic as it is inspirational. 32 pages of photographs not seen by PW.