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Fly By Wire: The Geese, The Glide, The 'Miracle' on the Hudson [Paperback]

William Langewiesche
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Feb 2010

On January 15, 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York, when a flock of Canada geese collided with it, destroying both of its engines. Over the next three minutes, the plane's pilot Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger, managed to glide to a safe landing in the Hudson River. It was an instant media sensation, the "The Miracle on the Hudson", and Captain Sully was the hero. But, how much of the success of this dramatic landing can actually be credited to the genius of the pilot? To what extent is the "Miracle on the Hudson" the result of extraordinary - but not widely known, and in some cases quite controversial - advances in aviation and computer technology over the last twenty years?

From the testing laboratories where engineers struggle to build a jet engine that can systematically resist bird attacks, through the creation of the A320 in France, to the political and social forces that have sought to minimize the impact of the revolutionary fly-by-wire technology, William Langewiesche assembles the untold stories necessary to truly understand "The Miracle on the Hudson", and makes us question our assumptions about human beings in modern aviation.

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Fly By Wire: The Geese, The Glide, The 'Miracle' on the Hudson + Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters + Thirty Seconds to Impact
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141046740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141046747
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 253,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A wonderful story expertly told, and the ending is not just happy but uplifting: almost everyone involved comes out of it not just safely but extremely well. Except the geese. Their day totally sucked. (Geoff Dyer, Observer)

Enthralling piece of reportage ... concisely written and compelling ... Langewiesche's unblinkered analysis of Sullenberger's five-minute glide into history reveals the more complicated truth behind the creation of a modern hero (Sunday Times)

A crisp, meticulously and dramatically told account of the as yet unresolved story of how humans and advanced technology are learning to form a partnership ... [Langewiesche] writes as if his pen has wings, his laptop a pair of General Electric turbofans (Guardian)

Langewiesche is at his best ... deconstructing the modern media hero (Financial Times)

Brilliant ... Langewiesche explores the approach to this moment, from the flock of Canada geese that wrecked both engines to the expertise of Sullenberger; who used the A320's automated 'fly-by-wire' system to ditch the plane with such success (Independent)

About the Author

William Langewiesche is an author and journalist. He is currently intenraitonal correspondent for Vanity Fair, having made his name writing for Atlantic Monthly. His strong, evocative prose is used to devastating effect on a range of issues. Before embarking on a writing career he spent two decades as a professional pilot, having performed his first solo flight by the age of fourteen. He has been termed one of the leading writers of The New New Journalism, a group of writers who have secured a place at the centre of contemporary American literature, as Tom Wolfe and The New Journalism did in the sixties.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Miracles on the Hudson 26 Nov 2009
After reading "Fly By Wire" on a recent trip, I find it interesting to visit and see a recapitulation of the passionate debate that Langewiesche describes in his book. On the one hand, there are those who feel that "fly by wire" technology is overrated and perhaps even dangerous--these reviewers tend to give the book low marks and hard reviews, some of which strike me as a bit unfair. Other reviewers--admirers of Langewiesche's journalistic style or the cogent explanations that he offers--give him high grades. On balance, I enjoyed "Fly by Wire," but I can understand how it will hit some raw nerves.

For the record, Langewiesche has nothing but high praise for Captain Sullenberger and his crew. He agrees that they did a superb job under incredibly difficult conditions, and the fact that they did it in an Airbus A320 takes nothing away from their accomplishment. As near as I can tell, the crew of US Airways Flight 1549 are real heroes and deserve the praise they have received.

"Fly by wire" technology combines electrical control circuits and digital computers to replace traditional hydraulic and mechanical flight control systems. Langewiesche really "pokes the bear" and elicits a strong emotional response from many of his readers when he suggests that "fly by wire" was a major contributor to the Miracle on the Hudson. Readers who want their heroes to be like Beowulf, brave and omnisciently skilled, dislike the suggestion that Captain Sullenberger and his team may have been helped by the revolutionary design of the A320.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
William Langewiesche's analysis of all the factors which contributed to the "Miracle on the Hudson" is a story that matches the events themselves in terms of excitement. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, pilot of the Airbus A320 which hit a flock of geese, lost both engines, and landed in the Hudson River with no loss of life on January 15, 2009, has rightly been lauded for his performance and has become a popular hero. But he was not alone in the making of this miracle. The plane itself contributed mightily to the successful outcome and the saving of the lives of all one hundred fifty passengers and five crew. Designed to remain stable under the most extraordinary conditions, the European-made Airbus is controlled by computerized systems which can not be over-ridden by pilots as they make split second moves during emergencies. "This marriage between electrical control circuits and digital computer [has become known] as fly-by-wire."

Langewiesche, an award-winning journalist and pilot, is at home with his subject, and he has interviewed virtually everyone who could give input into this story, creating a vibrant, lively, and thoughtful analysis of all the individual elements--including luck--which contributed to this happy ending. At the same time, he also analyzes some of the elements which may have led to the accident, including the issue of bird strikes throughout aviation history and why they happen. In his attempt to give the complete picture, Langewiesche also considers the financial problems of the airlines, the power of the pilots' unions, the comfortable relationship between the NTSB and the airlines and unions, and the competition between Airbus and Boeing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the headlines 16 Mar 2010
As somebody who was once an flight attendant married to a test pilot, this book brought me vividly back into to that world - warts and all. William Langewiesche went way beyond the sensational headlines and all the pilot-as-hero stuff, digging down into the reality of what happened that day on the Hudson River and setting a context for the lay reader unfamiliar with the airline industry. Fly By Wire is also a great read. The story galloped along like a novel, keeping me on tenterhooks, even although I knew the outcome. I can't wait to read more of this author's work!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Gripping 10 May 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It may be just short of two hundred pages in length, but author William Langewiesche makes every page count - no, every word count. I've read some of Langewiesche's work in Vanity Fair, and this story is written with the same disciplined flair and journalistic flow. But here he has the time and space to really show his mettle. It's an absolutely gripping read, and though we all know that the US Airways flight was successfully ditched in the Hudson without any loss of life, the author made sure that this reader was left with a nail-biting climax that saw the last few pages 'fly' past. That I learnt a lot about aviation, pilot psychology, and airline design along the way without being bored or distracted from the main event is further proof of Langwiesche's absorbing style. He sure knows how to write a great story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A consumate piece of aviation journalism 20 Oct 2010
By Trevor
Langewiesche's account of the Hudson River crash is a brilliant read for any aviation enthusiast. Thoroughly researched and documented it not only provides a detailed account of the crash but also examines the context of the strained industrial relations prevailing in the aviation industry at the time, describes other aircraft accidents that offer additional insight and analyses the controversial Airbus fly by wire technology that ultimately proved a major factor in the survival of all on board Cactus 1549
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good analytical review
This book is an excellent review of the accident. The analysis is thorough and professional. A refreshing look at the event and the factors involved and why the A320 was also a key... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Petri Louhivuori
4.0 out of 5 stars Account by an enthusiast
As someone who earned a living connected with aviation, I enjoyed reading it even if I didn't agree with all the conclusions. Read more
Published 19 months ago by david standing
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful alternative view
I've read a few books of this type and most are utterly critical of the airbus fly by wire model. This book is the opposite. Read more
Published 22 months ago by JJ
3.0 out of 5 stars Aircraft enthusiast
This book was most informative and certainly filled in some blanks in my knowledge of fly-by-wire. Without denigrating in any way the achievement of Chesley Sullenberger, it also... Read more
Published on 5 July 2012 by Nimrod
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I purchased this book as I was doing some research on the effects of birdstrikes against aircrafts (my research was based primarily on Flight 1549). Read more
Published on 23 Dec 2011 by P. Raval
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written
This book goes in a slightly different direction than I thought when I bought it, but it all comes together beautifully and made for a very interesting book that throws a different... Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2011 by doc
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, wider ranging that I expected
Great book - well worth a read, and better than I expected. Gives one great faith in modern airliners and, dare I say it, more faith in an Airbus than a Boeing ?! Read more
Published on 28 May 2011 by Chalet Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!!!
For anyone with a passing interest in planes or flying, I cannot recommend this book too much!
William Langewiesche writes in a very balanced and authorative way about complex... Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2011 by Mark C
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for fliers and non-fliers alike
This is a cracking read for fliers (Im one) and non-fliers alike.
Mr Langewiesche really draws the reader into the story. Read more
Published on 21 Sep 2010 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Benefit of aircraft using fly by wire technique
I found it a bit long winded. Eventually towards the end it described the benefits of flying by wire.
Published on 1 May 2010 by J. A. Myles
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