Saturday, January 19, 2019

Book Review: 'Highest Duty' by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

✰✰✰✰½ Ten years ago, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his crew took off on a routine flight that quickly turned into every pilot’s worst nightmare. Although pilots train for emergencies, the chances of that happening are slim. Against all odds, Sully and his copilot successfully landed their disabled airplane on the frigid waters of the Hudson River and saved all 155 aboard. The extraordinary tale of the “Miracle on the Hudson” is one of courage, skill, and luck. It is also a story of survival and inspiration that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Bottom Line: This is a very quick read filled with nuggets of wisdom that will inspire you. Captain Sullenberger takes the reader behind the scenes as he recounts the biggest flying challenge of his life and what led him to that point.  Highly recommended for anyone interested in a career in aviation. This is a fascinating look into how a pilot trains for the worst. Also, recommended for fans of aviation history, survival, and inspiration.

Book Club Notes: Most of the members in our group both read the book and watched the movie, Sully. Our preference was for the book. Although I enjoyed the action of the movie, others thought there was too much drama. We supplemented our discussion by listening to the actual cockpit recording and by discussing some movie trivia. One member commented that this was one of the best books she had recently read. Another said she was so happy to read it. As a group we felt that we got to know the man behind the public image, the whole person, better. We also had a chance to reflect on his family as well. This book was a little repetitive, but not too technical. It’s a very easy read that provides insight into what it takes to be a pilot. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, the group gave it an average rating of 4.5!

Finally, here are some of the questions I created for our discussion:


*Did you know about this story before reading the book or watching the movie? 

*Did you have any preconceived ideas about this story? What did the flight represent to you? To the country? 

*Did you watch the incident on TV? What are some of the images that made an impression on you? 

Biographical Questions: 

*What influence were his parents on his education? 

*Money didn’t motivate his dad. His dad thought of being with his family as his priority; work was secondary. He was content with less money if he could spend more time with his family. Discuss priorities. Have they changed over the years?
*What qualities do you think Mr. Cook saw in the young Sully to make him decide to take him on as a student? 

*Discuss Sully’s relationship with his wife. 

Career/Education Questions: 

*Discuss the qualities of a good leader. Lorrie says that part of what makes Sully a good pilot is his attention to detail. 74 What qualities must a good pilot have? 

*Sully discovered his passion for flying at 5 & turned it into a career. Did you have the good fortune to follow your passion? 

*How did Sully's training in the Air Force prepare him for Flight 1549? 

Airline Industry Questions: 

*Do you feel safe flying? Have you thought about the risks when you fly? 

*Discuss the airline industry culture. Sully studies safety. He believes that “…we can make a company culture, government, or community safer by encouraging people to report their own mistakes & safety deficiencies.” 24 

*Many airlines have outsourced maintenance & component work, sometimes to overseas. Is this reliable? If every choice the airline industry makes is based solely on cost, what are the consequences for safety? 

*Most passengers today select carriers by price, so airlines are under intense pressure to offer competitive fares. P. 40 How does this affect safety? 

Other Questions: 

*The author discusses optimism vs. realism. What is the difference? Which are you? 

*Are there any stories in this book that stood out? 

*Discuss the “bystander effect.”  

*Discuss the Hopi Indian Poem on p. 180  

*The author is not comfortable being called a hero. Define hero. Is Sully a hero?  

*For those who both read the book and saw the film, which did you prefer? Why? 

*Rate the book from 1 – 5. What are the books’ strengths and weaknesses? Would you recommend this book to readers who don’t read nonfiction? Why?

Details: Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III with Jeffrey Zaslow. Paperback published by William Morrow in 2009. 340 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-192469-9 

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