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Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival

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4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,289 ratings  ·  209 reviews
As hundreds of rescue workers waited on the ground, United Airlines Flight 232 wallowed drunkenly over the bluffs northwest of Sioux City. The plane slammed onto the runway and burst into a vast fireball. The rescuers didn't move at first: nobody could possibly survive that crash. And then people began emerging from the summer corn that lined the runways. Miraculously, 184 ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 13th 2015 by W. W. Norton Company (first published July 7th 2014)
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Mark I felt the same way after reading it. Then I Googled "How likely are you to die on a jumbo jet?" The answer was one chance in 11,000,000, meaning that…moreI felt the same way after reading it. Then I Googled "How likely are you to die on a jumbo jet?" The answer was one chance in 11,000,000, meaning that even if you're a flight attendant and fly hundreds of times a year, it will almost certainly never, ever happen. You're really much more likely to be killed driving to the airport. But then we feel like we're in control of a car, don't we?(less)
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Matt
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Driving is probably the most dangerous thing I do on a daily basis. Each morning, I strap myself into thousands of pounds of glass, steel, and rubber, and join hundreds of distracted, hurried, harried people in oversized vehicles on congested roads, some of those people being teenagers with licenses and cell phones. It is a thing that is fraught to contemplate, but which I seldom give a second thought.

Flying on a plane, though? Oh, you better believe I’m thinking about every possible thing that
...more
Sara Nelson
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Twenty five years ago this month, a United Airlines flight from Denver to Chicago burst into a fireball and crashed in a cornfield outside of Sioux City, Iowa. It was one of the worst plane disasters in history--but it could have been worse. Of the 296 people on board, 184 survived. In his very long and gripping Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, journalist Laurence Gonzales takes us through the moments before and after the crash (as best remembered by those survivors and observers on ...more
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Flight 232 is an extremely well researched, compelling, and especially harrowing story of the ill fated United Airlines Flight 232 in 1989. The reason that flight merits an entire book has to do with the sheer amount of survivors on what should have been a non survivable catastrophic engine failure situation. As well, it was a watershed event leading to the development of many modern safety practices as well as crash
...more
Ashley Reading Stewardess
When my friend, and surviving flight attendant, Susan White first mentioned to me that she was making a trip to meet with Laurence Gonzales because he wanted to interview her and fellow survivors about United 232, my interest in the book was first peaked. I was only 5 when the crash occurred and so have no recollection of the initial news coverage. My first understanding and introduction to the tragedy came with the made for TV movie which starred Charleton Heston which aired a few years after t ...more
Heather
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: why-oh-why
Definitely the most gut wrenching book I've read in a long time.

Laurence Gonzales spends most of the book writing about the timeline of the disaster from when the engine blew to what happened in the cockpit and the experiences of the plane crashing and tumbling on the runway. Details are not spared, so if you are weak on hearing about tragedy don't read this book. What I liked about his style is that he presents the mounting evidence on the faulty titanium as a weave throughout the book rather t
...more
thePromoParrot
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
I never expected Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales to be so absorbing and informative as much as no one expected survivors from the fireball that burst forth when United Airlines Flight 232 somersaulted across the airfield in Sioux City on July 19, 1989. It’s a miracle that as many as 184 passengers of the 296 people who were on board the crumbling aircraft survived. It deserves a place in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

What is stunning about the survivors is that man
...more
Jeff
I remember where I was on this day in July 1989, and I distinctly remember hearing audio from ATC asking "how many souls aboard" as I drove back to Frankfort after Wednesday night church, because it really struck me how they acknowledged the part of us that will never die, at a moment when no one knew that 2/3 of the passengers would actually live. Watching the video of the accident was stunning all over again, with the plane cartwheeling down the runway. Then I was at an air show in Sioux City ...more
Cokie
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account of the causes, event, and aftermath. Main takeaway: never fly in synthetic fabrics! Stick to cotton and wool.
Joan
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and very compelling book, detailing the entire history of this flight, in effect: persons involved (those who survived and some of those who did not); how the disaster occurred, from in the air to the actual machinery involved; to the investigation by the NTSB, GE, and McDonnell-Douglas; to flying the crippled aircraft and why it was a miracle that anyone survived at all; and even to the people of "Siouxland", the tri-state Sioux City, IA/Woodbury County Disaster services people, who w ...more
Janice
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

No one expected survivors from the fireball that erupted when United Airlines Flight 232 cartwheeled across the airfield in Sioux City on July 19, 1989. That 184 of the 296 people aboard the disintegrating aircraft survived, many of them without injuries, makes for a stunning tale of hope and determination. Laurence Gonzales has written a moment-by-moment reconstruction of the crash of a jumbo jet, based on meticulous interviews with all of the survivors, crew, witnesses, first-responders and ex
...more
Ang
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't even know what to say about this book. It was definitely riveting, especially the first half. Just...you can't stop reading it, because you just have to know. Some of the later chapters that focus more on the cause of the accident are a leeeeetle technical, and hard to understand, (at least they were for me) so that's the reason I gave this only 4 stars. But if you can stomach this, it's just an amazing read.

Also I am never wearing synthetic fabrics on a plane again. In case you were wo
...more
Jane
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written and researched story of the flight that crashed in an Iowa corn field in 1989. The writing is excellent and I enjoyed reading the detail of the forensics involved in preventing further crashes as a result of the engines defective fan. I highly recommend this book, the survivors narratives were compelling and this is a story people should read and know how hard the FAA, airlines, and manufacturers of airplane parts work to make flying safe for all of us.
Angie
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gripping book. And parents of small children, I implore you, please don't endanger your children in favor of saving a few hundred bucks by seating them in your lap! In the words of Jan Brown, the lead flight attendant on Flight 232, "It's heart-wrenching after 25 years, how truly pathetic that you can still take a lap child, the most vulnerable of our population, and risk flying with them on our lap."

Cherie
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book goes into details about all the passengers on this ill fated flight. It also talks about the background of the plane and the technical aspects of this crash. It is quite a harrowing ride to read this book. At times you can feel what it would be like to have survived this flight. It is amazing to read about some of the heroic acts of the passengers.
Jaden Kane
Flight 232, is a United Airlines aircraft and the craft was ready to fly! The day was July 19th, 1989. It started as a beautiful day in Colorado for the 296 passengers on the flight. The flight took off at 10:09 A.M. and the landing wasn't as peaceful, as 111 of the 296 passed away and 185 survived in total. When the crash happened people were asking a lot of questions, and we get a lot of answers. Around 11:16 A.M. they were approx. 37,000 feet and they took a shallow right turn and they blew t ...more
Emma
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Poor timing on my part seeing as I’m getting on a plane in a few days, but a harrowing and incredibly clear and well researched book nonetheless.
Nancy
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2010, I was leading a mountain search & rescue team that was being inserted, via a military Chinook helicopter, on top of a cliff at 13,000' in southern Colorado. My team's objective was to rescue/recover an 18 y.o. climber who had fallen hundreds of feet near the summit of Little Bear Peak.

As I prepared the team to leave the helicopter, a warm updraft lifted the nose of the craft, and the rear rotor disintegrated in the granite behind us; having been in the military and knowing the results
...more
Mary
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a review of this book in Booklist that called it "riveting," and it certainly was. I remember the crash of United Flight 232 through the remarkable video footage taken as the plane attempted to land, then flipped over in flames. A young woman was working for me that summer, and her mother was a United flight attendant, who might have worked that route that day. With no cell phones, there was no way to find out immediately if she was safe, and we spent a tense afternoon until her mother le ...more
Jim
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I have weirdly, morbidly, been drawn over my lifetime to disaster nonfiction, from the first I recall reading at about eleven (about the Jamestown flood) to this offering. And while there was a lot of good information and first-hand recollections, I was not pleased with the way Gonzales delivered the story. I prefer a more chronological narrative. I want to know the actors upfront, or as they become involved. I don't like repetition (often many times) in the telling of the story, I don't like th ...more
Alan Kaplan
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Melancholy book about the United flight that lost an engine and made a remarkable crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa. During a routine flight, an engine exploded, peppering the fuselage with metal debris and draining all of the airplane's hydraulics. No airliner had ever survived a complete loss of hydraulic controls, ie, the pilots had no control of the plane. When they radioed the United maintenance
facility, the service advisers
could not believe what the pilots were telling them. A catastroph
...more
Daniel Simmons
I read this on a long international flight from Tokyo to Abu Dhabi, and while the subject matter doesn't seem like an obvious fit for in-flight reading ("Why are you reading that?!" the cabin attendant exclaimed when she saw the cover), it certainly heightened the drama of the experience. Knowing that I was hurtling through the skies in an aluminum tube surrounded by miles of wiring and powered by an enormously complex engine system that is always a hair's-breadth away from devolving into fiery ...more
Skyler Friedman
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for anyone who likes disaster books. It takes place in the eyes of many of the passengers on board flight 232, and what they are thinking as disaster strikes. In the plot, it is a routine, regular flight until the tail engine bursts in mid-flight. The plane would still be able to fly back to the airport, but the sharp pieces of metal caused by the exploding engine cut the hydraulic lines of the plane, making it completely impossible to steer. In the end, the crew uses the th ...more
Robert
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Every wonder what it would be like on an airplane that has a catastrophic failure and having almost 25 minutes before the plane strikes earth? Read about in Flight 232 from those that survived in this amazing book. The technical look at what caused the crash is very well researched as well, just a bit over on the technical side. This is an amazing story of something just short of a miracle. If you have ever seen the footage of the crash it is bizarre to think of the sheer number of people that a ...more
Brad
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
For me, it's a "4" because of the subject which always fascinates. As an aviation enthusiast, I remember when it happened with interest. I even had a very small tie to one of the survivors who worked in the same company as I did at the time. But as a pilot, it's a simply amazing account of an "impossible" landing.

Otherwise, it's a "3." It has about 75-100 more pages than would have been needed to tell the story and there's just too much gruesomeness at times, almost voyeuristic. While the writin
...more
Ellen
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I checked this book out at my library after hearing Scott Simon interview Laurence Gonzales on Weekend Edition Saturday last week. I normally avoid disaster stories, but was intrigued in this case because over half of the passengers survived this horrific plane crash. Laurence Gonzales is a commercial pilot in addition to being an award-winning writer, and he interwove the personal stories of the passengers with the technical details of the accident investigation so well that I found this book h ...more
Lin
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a Goodreads Giveaway book.

While the content is fascinating, and at times, horrifying, the author's writing style left a lot to be desired. Told through back-and-forth narrative, interspersed with interview quotes and news documents, Gonzales repeats the same events, even the same quotations, over and over again. He also flips between following a chronological series of events and flashbacks/prior experiences. Even the prologue--typically a setup to the upcoming events that happens BEFOR
...more
Jane Brewer
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow - what a story! The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is that there was a lot of technical, mechanical jargon that I didn't like. Otherwise, a stunning survival story. One thing I wish the author had done was list the survivors and the deceased's names and tell their ages and where they were from etc. Sometimes the characters got a bit confusing. Otherwise, very good read.
Jessie
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved how this book was written from different people perspectives. I also liked how it went back and forth between perspectives and time during the crash. It gave a personal feel to the story and made it more emotional. It was a little graphic as far as injuries, but it added to the story and wasn't overly done. Great book!
Karen
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I practically could not put this book down; it was completely riveting. I only interrupted reading it to drop a friend off at the airport, which seems ironic in retrospect. And I did not mention that I was reading a book about a plane crash (no matter how good) when I dropped her off.
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Laurence Gonzales is the author of Surviving Survival and the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. He has won two National Magazine Awards. His essays are collected in the book House of Pain.

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