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, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, managed to glide it to a safe landing in the Hudson River. It was an instant media sensation, 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 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 past twenty years?In Fly by Wire, journalist William Langewiesche delves into the fascinating world of advanced aviation. 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 forces us to question our assumptions about human beings in modern aviation.
"Mr. Langewiesche uses Flight 1549 as the pretext for a smart, confident, wide-ranging discussion of commercial aviation. He assesses the low morale at most major American airlines caused by bankruptcies, pay cuts, union strife and the decimation of retirement pensions. He refers to these things as 'the insults of an airline career.' He painstakingly reconstructs what happened that January day on Flight 1549, and spends a good deal of time talking about the damage birds can do to an aircraft. He writes about how the National Transportation Safety Board goes about its work, and about the physics of gliding. The book is also filled with hair-raising stories of other flights in peril, the kind of thing Mr. Langewiesche writes about as well as anyone alive. He is so familiar with airplanes that his descriptions of how they work are simple and revelatory."—Dwight Gardner, The New York Times
William Langewiesche is the author of six previous books: Cutting for Sign, Sahara Unveiled, Inside the Sky, American Ground, The Outlaw Sea, and, most recently, The Atomic Bazaar. He is the international editor for Vanity Fair.