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Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudson

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  356 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews

In  Fly by Wire, one of America’s greatest journalists takes us on a "fascinating" (The New York Times) and sometimes humorous journey into the rapidly changing aviation industry. Langewiesche concisely and artfully renders forty years of history in the field by examining the financial problems, the unions, and ultimately the recent advances in technology. And he finds

Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Picador (first published November 5th 2009)
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Nov 10, 2009 Eric_W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a mantra of mine that there's no point reading about events in the newspaper because the whole truth will not surface until time has passed and someone has written a book about the incident. I am fascinated by technology and especially transportation technology and follow NTSB reports carefully and with interest since, as another favorite author, Henry Petroski has pointed out, we learn more from our failures than from our successes. But it's nice when you get a really good author to summar ...more
Sep 05, 2016 Thom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent counterpoint to Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, though better written. Langewiesche's dry humor comes through at times as he depicts both the events and the history that led to them. The best chapters (and the origin of the title) are the description of the Fly-by-Wire design of the Airbus planes and a comparison to Boeing craft from the same era. Interestingly, Sullenberger never mentions this factor in his book, perhaps intentionally.

Excellent coverage is also given
Alex Sarll
Despite my suspicion of current affairs books (at least in part down to being a middle-aged male middle-manager in a minor city centre firm, and thus expected to read such things) I loved Langewiesche's The Outlaw Sea, so this seemed worth a punt. Early on it did seem he was padding madly to get 193 pages out of the six minutes in 2009 between take-off and river landing of Flight 1549; the page on the average heights and weights of the passengers was almost parodically dull. But for the most par ...more
Jan 14, 2013 Wayne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aviation
A quick four hour read that adds some technical details to the account of the famous "Miracle on the Hudson" ditching by Sully Sullenberger. The author posits that some aspects of the Airbus alpha contraints assisted Sully in his successful landing on the river.
May 23, 2017 Cindy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
I was disappointed with this book. I expected a narrative of the events on the Hudson River. I didn't expect all of the extra the author included. It reminded me of a poorly focused student essay.
Larry Coleman
Oct 11, 2013 Larry Coleman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is both sad and frustrating that someone named Langewische would write such an uninspired and lazy book about such an inspiring subject, because Wolfgang Langewische (William's father) is famous in aviation circles as the man who wrote THE book on flying: "Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying". (That book is so good that I named my aviation blog, "Keyboard and Rudder", after it.) In this case, the son definitely and unfortunately does not surpass the father.

The story almost w
Sep 20, 2016 N rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The inside cover synopsis seemed to infer that the author thinks that it was Airbus' advanced avionics design and semi-automatic operation, including the alpha protections that Airbus engineered enabling the plane to fly at the edge of the performance envelope, more than the pilots flying that day that enabled a successful outcome. However, throughout the book the author never came out and said that directly, only that the Airbus avionics provided a stable flying platform, a "magic carpet ride" ...more
Jan 25, 2017 Richp rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty good book, but a bit short of rounding up to 4 stars, despite the fact there are some really fine sentences. The storylines are a good ones, to the credit of the principals who made it come true, and strongly aligned with my interests. There were three of them: the flight and ditch landing into the Hudson River, including principal players; the development of digital flight control technology, the presence of which played a key role in the flight; and the transition of the pilot ...more
Rory James Gilfillan
As an aviator and flight enthusiast, this book had a special appeal to me. I had read, and enjoyed Sulley's book regarding this incident but Fly by Wire offered fascinating insight not only into the aviation industry but also the Airbus 330 as well. The automation has been, I think, unfairly and unjustly maligned. Sulley and Skiles skills when it mattered make for a compelling read but the pilot overrides put together by engineer Ziegler were equally engrossing. This was an excellent read.
Nov 06, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story about the history of the Airbus A320 - which was engineered with "fail-safe" computer interventions to keep the ride smooth and the plane out of untenable situations (e.g., stalls). These interventions cannot be overridden and this has made the concept a lightning rod for criticisms by professional pilots who don't want to accept that computers can assist with idiot-proofing the act of flying commercial airliners.

The book focuses in on the 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 which land
Jan 14, 2010 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
From leaving the gate to the last person being taken safely aboard a ferry U.S. Airways flight 1549 lasted just under an hour. The author weaves this into a fascinating 193 page story by including background information on what the crew did in the days leading up to this flight, the NTSB hearings about it, the geese and how they came to be flying in the area, how modern jet engines function, and extensive information about the history and background to the fly-by-wire system used on the Airbus A ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Newspapers and magazines that ran articles on Fly by Wire seemed just as interested in reporting the conflict over this book--Sullenberger has publicly disagreed with many of Langewiesche's conclusions--as they were in assessing whether it was a compelling work. Few who heard the Sullenberger's calm cockpit demeanor during the crisis or caught his self-effacing appearances on television are interested in a book that undermines the man--but that's not what happens here. Langewiesche's work is bal ...more
Oct 22, 2016 Kmjahraus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beyond the hero worship of the Miracle on the Hudson, interesting and information background information on the many aspects of training and technology and aviation experience that coalesced in a few short fateful minutes into aviation history.

The author emphasizes the innovative fly by wire technology of the Airbus that finessed the technical skill and focused decision making of the flight crew. For aviation buffs, short recounts of particularly memorable aviation milestones - usually horrific
Jan 16, 2014 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a competent, breezy, slice-of-life tale of an airplane crash. No, really--it's the story of Captain "Sully" Sullenberger and his unfortunate encounter with geese that forced him to ditch his commercial airliner into the Hudson River.

I liked that the author approached this tale with the gravity that it required without trying to turn it into a MELODRAMATIC TALE OF TERROR. There was a lot of decent information in here, but I would have enjoyed it more if he had spent more time writing ab
Jul 24, 2011 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Captain Sullenberger (Sully) was a true hero. The story of his ability to ditch USAirways Flight into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, after being hit by a flock of Canada geese,with no loss of life, is incredible. Langewiesche is an excellent author (also check out Common Ground about the dismantling of Ground Zero after 9/11). He has just the right touch of irreverence and interest to make the story compelling. The author talks in detail about Canada geese and other critters that get into ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an excellent analysis of the ditching of an Airbus into the Hudson River in New York that left the pilot a hero and the aeroplane just another aeroplane. But, says the author, that's doing the 'plane a massive disservice. To understand why, you really need to read the book. It's not that the pilot wasn't a hero, showing grace under pressure and an affinity to his machine that went beyond the norm, it's more that the 'plane, and the men who designed it, helped him massively in his minutes ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Maggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came on recommendation from my dad. I'll admit that at first I was skeptical that I would enjoy it, and thus it sat on my shelf for a few months before I finally picked it up. Overall, this is a great account of the US Airways landing in the Hudson River in 2009. What makes the book fascinating, though, is the intermittent discussion on flying, modern airplane design, the industry itself and a number of other noteworthy accidents/crashes. This book opened up so many things I didn't kno ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been fascinated by the Miracle On The Hudson since I first assumed that the plane was as good as doomed, only to go out and for me to return later that night to hear that everyone survived. It's a fair assessment of both the pilots and the plane, and everyone's part in ensuring no human lives were lost. There was a lot of info I already knew in here, especially about prior crashes (thanks to the reenactment shows I watch religiously), but it's good for what it is, and the inside info, espec ...more
Excellent. Weaves the gripping story of Flight 1549's 5-minute descent after a bird strike over the Bronx, with in-depth discussion of the development of the Airbus A320's electronic avionics control systems, the history of airline crashes generally, and useful bits and pieces about changes in the U.S. commercial airline business. Just enough physics and engineering to keep a liberal arts major on his toes, but not too much to make him feel ignorant. Some beautiful prose. Total lack of notes or ...more
Pierre Rooyen
Feb 25, 2012 Pierre Rooyen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

For anyone who loves flying, I do recommend William Langewiesche's Fly By Wire.

It is the story of US Airways Flight 1549 that, in 2009, only 90 seconds after take-off, collided with a skein of migratory Canadian Geese. And, of course, the airliner was so expertly put down in the Hudson River.

But it is also the story about why the Airbus is such an outstanding aircraft. Uncrashable.

Fascinating concepts and applications. Not necessarily a man's book. I read it in three sittings. My wife read it in
Feb 07, 2011 james rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book deals with the plane that ingested some geese into both engines, rendering them inoperative, or almost so. The plane crashed into the Hudson River near New York in January 2009. Miraculously, there were no fatalities.

The book reports on the crash and all the participants who did a fabulous job in preventing disaster. But it also deals with some fundamental differences between passenger jets produced by Boeing and those by its only competitor, Airbus.

The author comes by his writing tal
Great book on aviation. Definitely one of its kind. While it clearly appreciates the work of Sullenberger and Skiles as pilots, it also recognizes the value of the other factors involved in the miracle, especially the fly-by-wire system. Deals with a lot of pilot psychology and I would go to the extent of saying that anyone who is interested in aviation must definitely read this book. To enjoy this book however, at least rudimentary knowledge of flying is required.
ej cullen
Dec 31, 2009 ej cullen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Langewiesche tells it like it is and (as usual) tells it well. Many of these aircraft are today so sophisticated that you almost get the impression that, in the absence of truly multiple catastrophic conditions, a pilot would have to be a totally incompetent boob to crash one. That said, the pilot (and co-pilot) here were two cool cucumbers who faced bravely multiple problems of mental gymnastics. If you like this book, read Langewiesche's 'Atomic Bazaar.'
Jan 24, 2016 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I thought the book diverged from the subject, i.e., the accident and astounding landing. Then I realized the author's view is that the Airbus itself is a critical contributor to a safe landing. So, I learned a lot about the electronic systems baked into an Airbus. The pilots were skilled, however. The author concedes that point. But, he wants us to see how important the design of the Airbus was to the result.
Jan 09, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book and the various unusual perspectives it offered on some of the aspects of the Miracle on the Hudson. Like, how geese fly and airport efforts to minimize strikes. And, the technology of the A320 that is designed to minimize the pilot's ability to wreck the plane (and tells the very interesting story of how one idiot pilot proved he was not made of the Right Stuff... Very enjoyable read!
Dec 12, 2009 Noah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This very short book is great on two counts. First, the moment-by-moment account from the flight deck is genuinely gripping even though you know exactly what's going to happen. Second, this book is more interesting for the way in which Langewiesche ties the example of flight 1549 to a bigger story about modern aviation and human performance. He walks such a fine line so well that it's hard to even describe what the book is about once you've read it.
Jan 04, 2010 Peggy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was an ok book, but I wish the author would have focused more on the actual event. He talked a lot about hte airplane itself and how it was manufactured, about pilots in general, and about geese. Where is the real story of 2 pilots who saved the passengers and crew of a stricjen airliner by landing it in the Hudson River? There was very little about the real story! From what I can see about this author, he focuses on the whys instead of the whats.
Jim Bow
Jan 30, 2016 Jim Bow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The previous reviews pretty much cover the details. My take is that Sullenberger and Skiles were the exact right people to have been on this plane, and the 320 is the exact right plane to ride this out. BTW, Sully's career is pretty well known, post incident. Jeff Skiles is now a curator at the Experimental Aircraft museum in Oshkosh.
Dec 21, 2011 Jason rated it liked it
An interesting look at more details about the 'Miracle on the Hudson' and Aviation in general. The author goes on different tangents throughout the book - some interesting, some not. Fans of the TV Series 'Mayday' or 'Air Crash Investigation' will recognize some of the air disasters described in this book. All in all, an interesting rainy Sunday afternoon read.
Howard C.
Interesting from an engineering standpoint in discussing the issues of flight controls and human engineering in the Airbus, not at all dramatized, but I'm a little frustrated that it's not more detailed. If it wasn't going to go into the "miracle flight", I'd like to have seen more discussion of the theory; it's a short book
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William Langewiesche is a journalist who has written for Vanity Fair and The Atlantic Monthly.
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“Intelligence is not a prerequisite for safe flying, but an acceptance of human fallibility is, and the two are generally linked.” 0 likes
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