Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Review: Highest Duty

Summary: In this inspirational autobiography, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, the airline pilot whose emergency landing on the Hudson River earned the world's admiration, tells his life story and talks about the essential qualities that he believes have been so vital to his success.

In January 2009, the world witnessed one of the most remarkable emergency landings in history when Captain Sullenberger brought a crippled US Airways flight onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all of the passengers and crew aboard. The successful outcome was the result of effective teamwork, Sully's dedication to airline safety, his belief that a pilot's judgment must go hand-in-hand with—and can never be replaced by—technology, and forty years of careful practice and training.

From his earliest memories of learning to fly as a teenager in a crop duster's single-engine plane in the skies above rural Texas to his years in the United States Air Force at the controls of a powerful F-4 Phantom, Sully describes the experiences that have helped make him a better leader, particularly the importance of taking responsibility for everyone in his care. And he talks about what he believes is at the heart of America's "can do" spirit: the very human drive to prepare for the unexpected and to meet it with optimism and courage.

His wife, Lorrie, has been a pillar of support through all the highs and lows that life has offered, from the challenges of commercial flying to the birth of their two daughters, from financial struggles to the event of January 15, 2009. Though the world may remember Sully as the hero of Flight 1549, the legacy he desires even more is that of a loving husband and father.

Highest Duty is the intimate story of a man who has grown up to embrace what we think of as quintessential American values—leadership, responsibility, commitment to hard work, and service to others. And it is a narrative that reminds us that cultivating seemingly ordinary virtues can prepare us to perform extraordinary acts.-- William Morrow

Booking Pap Pap always enjoys true-life stories, and I had a feeling that he might want to read HIGHEST DUTY: MY SEARCH FOR WHAT REALLY MATTERS by Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger with Jeffrey Zaslow
. Capt. Sullenberger seemed to epitomize a genuine hero after he saved over 150 lives, and I was curious to see if his book might give some insight into his character. Here are Booking Pap Pap's thoughts:

So, how does a former unknown airline pilot get an advance fee to write an autobiography and get assistance from a well known author? Simple, you land a crippled Airbus A320 on the Hudson River and save the lives of the 155 people on board. Those 5 minutes and 8 seconds in January 15, 2009 has made Sully Sullenberger a very famous person.

Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger with assistance from Jeffrey Zaslow tells his life story in HIGHEST DUTY. The story begins with Sully’s early life growing up in Denison, Texas, and proceeds through the emergency landing and its aftermath. We learn about Sully’s love for aviation, his experiences at the Air Force Academy and his time as a peace time fighter pilot. The reader gets to look into the family life of an airline pilot as we get a view of Sully’s relationship with his mother and father, his wife Lorrie and his two adopted daughters Kate and Kelly. Sullenberger doesn’t sugarcoat his life experiences and shares both the high and low points with the reader. Sully even writes about his father’s suicide in 1995, an event that certainly helped form his opinions on the value of life.

The common theme throughout the book is that Sully’s life experiences prepared him for that dramatic day on the Hudson River. We are exposed to life lessons learned from his parents, teachers, colleagues, wife and daughters.

Sullenberger comes across as a very modest man with a high level of integrity. He constantly credits his crew of three flight attendants and his First Officer for their actions during the crisis. He praises them for their courage, and competence. He rejects the label of hero and says that should be reserved for people who knowingly enter a dangerous situation. He emphasized that he and his crew were thrust into an emergency in which they applied their training and experience and which fortunately resulted in a good outcome. Sully’s attention to detail and his emphasis throughout his career on safety issues also played important roles in his actions during the emergency landing.

You have to read over 200 pages before you get to the actual disaster. But the wait is worth it. The action from the birds first hitting the airplane until the rescue of the passengers is well described. I felt like I was reliving every detail of the disaster. I was particularly captivated by the communications between Sully and the airport controller.

Sullenberger takes some time in the book to express his feelings about the state of the airline industry. He talks about the reductions of wages and benefits due to the financial conditions of the airlines, the loss of prestige of pilots, the loss service to passengers and the quality (or lack thereof) of the younger pilots. He certainly makes his feelings clear that military trained pilots are the best, particularly as it applies to discipline and training.

Sully’s and his family’s lives have been changed forever by these few minutes. They have been honored at sporting events, attended a presidential inaugural ball and are recognized wherever they go. Sally even had the opportunity to write this book.

I found this autobiography to be an entertaining read. HIGHEST DUTY would appeal to those who like books about aviation but the casual reader would find much in this book to enjoy and appreciate.

Thanks to the publisher for sending us a copy of this book and to Booking Pap Pap for his thoughtful review.


Beth Kephart said...

Wonderful review. I am so glad that the integrity we saw that day on the Hudson continues on on the page and inspires others.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I can see that reading about the disaster would be fascinating!

Christy (A Good Stopping Point) said...

I remember reading about how - a couple of week after the crash - Capt. Sullenberger called his hometown library to let them know that he had lost one of their books which he had had with him on the plane. The library of course didn't charge him for the loss. :)

Thanks for the review!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Thanks to Booking Pap-Pap for his review. My Dad was a private pilot, I think he might like this, too.

bermudaonion said...

Booking Pap Pap's reviews always leave me wanting to read the book since he has such great taste! Another excellent review.

S. Krishna said...

I'm glad Booking Pap Pap enjoyed this one, as I have it to review!