In the midst of my recent house move I mislaid my Kindle and only managed to throw a few paperbacks in a box. One of these was Sully. I had won it in a table quiz two years ago along with some Guardians of the Galaxy keyrings I think.
Anyway, Sully( Chelsey Sullenberger) as you may nor may not know was the pilot responsible for the successful landing of an airbus jet on the Hudson in 2009. The book outlines his career up to that point and how his formative years shaped the kind of character who was able to hold his nerve in such trying circumstances.
The story goes back and forth with occasional glimpses of the fateful day of the incident itself, whilst maintaining a steady timeline from childhood through his life as a father and husband. Having not seen the Clint Eastwood film of the same name, I can only hope that they went for a similar approach. The crash lasted approximately four minutes which would challenge the creativity of most film directors. With all that said I couldn’t help but picture Tom Hanks all the way through.
We learn that Sullenberger came from a very modest family home in Texas. His father was prone to mood swings which would later be diagnosed as depression. He instilled in his family a strong work ethic however, with all of the unit charged with assisting in the construction of the house they lived in. Everything from the floorboards to the furniture was made by them.
Sullenberger gets his urge to fly from seeing fighter jets at a nearby airbase and takes lessons in his mid teens. Again he is eager to illustrate the sacrifices his family made to make this possible. Learning to be a pilot has never been cheap. We follow his career into the airforce, where he explains his cautious philosophy of flying in comparison to some of his peers. How he was keeping one eye on his future now that America was no longer at war at this stage and his decision to go into commercial airline work rather than staying in the military.
His recollections are key to creating an easy visual of the time he lived in. In the late 1960s right through the 70s there was still a great glamour to air travel. Passengers used to dress up just to get on the plane.
As cost cutting measures become the norm in the 1990s he is forced to cut his own cloth to measure. His anecdotes about packing his own lunch for flights are very telling. As are his attempts to get free flights for his family and his young daughter calling him out for being a cheapskate.
The book is a fine easy reading account of not only the career of this man but perhaps a subtle commentary on middle class America. For most of his adult life right into his fifties( I think he was 57 when the Hudson incident occurred) Sullenberger is constantly worried about money. He even maintains a second job as a health and safety contractor. Remarkable to think that a pilot would have to do this.
All in all I think this is well worth a read. Sully comes across as a very knowledgeable professional and the now deceased co-author ( journalist Jeffrey Zazlow) really helps him find his voice.