Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters [NOOK Book]

Overview

In this inspirational autobiography, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, the airline pilot whose emergency landing on the Hudson River earned the world's admiration, tells his life story and talks about the essential qualities that he believes have been so vital to his success.

In January 2009, the world witnessed one of the most remarkable emergency landings in history when Captain Sullenberger brought a crippled US Airways flight onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all of ...

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Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters

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Overview

In this inspirational autobiography, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, the airline pilot whose emergency landing on the Hudson River earned the world's admiration, tells his life story and talks about the essential qualities that he believes have been so vital to his success.

In January 2009, the world witnessed one of the most remarkable emergency landings in history when Captain Sullenberger brought a crippled US Airways flight onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all of the passengers and crew aboard. The successful outcome was the result of effective teamwork, Sully's dedication to airline safety, his belief that a pilot's judgment must go hand-in-hand with—and can never be replaced by—technology, and forty years of careful practice and training.

From his earliest memories of learning to fly as a teenager in a crop duster's single-engine plane in the skies above rural Texas to his years in the United States Air Force at the controls of a powerful F-4 Phantom, Sully describes the experiences that have helped make him a better leader, particularly the importance of taking responsibility for everyone in his care. And he talks about what he believes is at the heart of America's "can do" spirit: the very human drive to prepare for the unexpected and to meet it with optimism and courage.

His wife, Lorrie, has been a pillar of support through all the highs and lows that life has offered, from the challenges of commercial flying to the birth of their two daughters, from financial struggles to the event of January 15, 2009. Though the world may remember Sully as the hero of Flight 1549, the legacy he desires even more is that of a loving husband and father.

Highest Duty is the intimate story of a man who has grown up to embrace what we think of as quintessential American values—leadership, responsibility, commitment to hard work, and service to others. And it is a narrative that reminds us that cultivating seemingly ordinary virtues can prepare us to perform extraordinary acts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became a hero after landing a distressed U.S. Air plane on the surface of the Hudson River in New York City. His fascinating and deservedly praised memoir reflects on his childhood love for planes and an outstanding 42-year career as a pilot—as well as how he and his family coped with the onslaught of sudden celebrity. McConnohie does his level best to fill Sully's shoes and delivers a solid performance, but the real highlights are the portions of the text read by Sully himself, sounding as cool, calm, and collected as he was on that day in January 2009. An enhanced CD with the voice recorder transcript of the crash completes the package. A Morrow hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 19). (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
The hero pilot who made the successful emergency landing in the Hudson River tells his story, assisted by bestselling author Zaslow (The Girls from Ames, 2009, etc.). On Jan. 15, 2009, about 95 seconds after takeoff, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese, knocking out both engines. Less than four minutes later the plane was floating in the Hudson with all aboard alive and largely uninjured thanks to the cool decision-making of Captain "Sully" Sullenberger. In countless public appearances since the incident, Sullenberger has emerged as an appealingly modest, straightforward guy, a demeanor maintained here in his easygoing, no-frills account of his Texas boyhood, his early infatuation with flying, his years at the Air Force Academy, his peacetime military career and his experiences as a commercial pilot, where safety procedures became somewhat of a specialty. The author recalls lessons learned from his parents, instructors, colleagues, his fitness instructor wife and his two adopted daughters, all of whom contributed to preparing him to handle the dire emergency that made him famous. Careful to credit his fellow crew members, especially First Officer Jeff Skiles, Sullenberger rejects the "hero" label, reserving that for folks who place themselves consciously in danger, rather than for those who have a crisis thrust upon them. The author insists he successfully managed the situation because of a decision made many years ago about the kind of person he wished to be. He claims to have summoned a courage and sense of responsibility common to many other ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Sullenberger also addresses the dramatic water rescue and his post-flightcelebrity, and he answers some of the many moving messages he received. He attributes much of the media attention to timing. People battered by foreclosures, hammered with job losses and stung by decimated savings accounts looked to the story of Flight 1549 and saw that there are "ways out of the tightest spots."Of particular interest to aviation buffs, but valuable for anyone interested in how a life lived with integrity prepares a man for the ultimate challenge. First printing of 350,000. Blue Ribbon Book Club selection. Agent: Jan Miller/Dupree, Miller & Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061959530
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 159,168
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III is a retired airline pilot, speaker, and consultant who has become a source of inspiration for many after his successful emergency water landing of a disabled airliner on the Hudson River. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds two master's degrees and an honorary doctorate of letters from Purdue University. He has testified before Congress about aviation safety and the state of the airline piloting profession. He serves as the CBS News aviation and safety expert, is the founder of Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., a management, safety, and performance consulting company, and was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People. He lives with his family in Danville, California.

Jeffrey Zaslow is a Wall Street Journal columnist, and, with Randy Pausch, coauthor of The Last Lecture, and the author of The Girls from Ames. Zaslow lives in Michigan, with his family.

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Read an Excerpt

1
A FLIGHT YOU'D NEVER FORGET

The flight lasted just a few minutes, but so many of the details are rich and vivid to me.
The wind was coming from the north not the south, which was unusual for that time of year. And my wheels made a distinct rumbling sound as they rolled across the rural Texas airstrip. I remember the smell of the warm engine oil, and how it drifted into the cockpit as I prepared to take off. There was also the smell of freshly cut grass in the air.
I have a clear recollection of how my body felt-this heightened sense of alertness-as I taxied to the end of the runway, went through my checklist, and got ready to go. And I recall the moment the plane lifted into the air and, just three minutes later, how I would need to return to the runway, intensely focused on the tasks at hand.
All these memories are with me still.
A pilot can take off and land thousands of times in his life, and so much of it feels like a speeding blur. But almost always, there is a particular flight that challenges a pilot or teaches or changes him, and every sensory moment of that experience remains in his head forever.
I have had a few unforgettable flights in my life, and they continue to live in my mind, conjuring up a host of emotions and reasons for reflection. One took me to New York's Hudson River on a cold January day in 2009. But before that, perhaps the most vivid was the one I've just described: my first solo flight, late on a Saturday afternoon at a grass airstrip in Sherman, Texas. It was June 3, 1967, and I was sixteen years old.
I hold on to this one, and a handful of others, as I look back on all the forces that molded me as a boy, as a man, and as apilot. Both in the air and on the ground, I was shaped by many powerful lessons and experiences-and many people. I am grateful for all of them. It's as if these moments from my life were deposited in a bank until I needed them. As I worked to safely land Flight 1549 in the Hudson, almost subconsciously, I drew on those experiences.

For a few months when I was four years old, I wanted to be a policeman and then a fireman. By the time I was five, however, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life-and that was to fly.
I never wavered once this possibility came into my head. Or more precisely, came over my head, in the form of jet fighters that crisscrossed the sky above my childhood home outside Denison, Texas.
We lived by a lake on a sparse stretch of land nine miles north of Perrin Air Force Base. Because it was such a rural area, the jets flew pretty low, at about three thousand feet, and you could always hear them coming. My dad would give me his binoculars, and I loved looking into the distance, to the horizon, wondering what was out there. It fed my wanderlust. And in the case of the jets, what was out there was even more exciting because it was coming closer and closer at a very high rate of speed.
This was the 1950s, and those machines were a lot louder than today's fighters. Still, I never came across people in my part of North Texas who minded the noise. We had won World War II not long before, and the Air Force was a source of pride. It wasn't until decades later, when residents near air bases began talking about the noise, that pilots felt the need to answer the complaints. They'd sport bumper stickers that said jet noise: the sound of freedom.
Every aspect of airplanes was fascinating-the different sounds they made, the way they looked, the physics that allowed them to rocket through the sky, and most of all, the men who controlled them with obvious mastery.
I built my first model airplane when I was six years old. It was a replica of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. I read a lot about "Lucky Lindy" and understood that his flight across the Atlantic wasn't really about luck. He planned. He prepared. He endured. That's what made him heroic to me.
By 1962, when I was eleven years old, I was already reading every book and magazine I could find that talked about flying. That was also the year I took my first plane ride. My mom, a first-grade teacher, invited me to accompany her to a statewide PTA convention in Austin, and it was her first plane ride, too.
The airport, Dallas Love Field, was seventy-five miles south of our house, and when we got there, it seemed like a magical place filled with larger-than-life people. Pilots. Stewardesses. Well-dressed passengers with somewhere to go.
In the terminal, I stopped at the newly installed statue of a Texas Ranger. The plaque read one riot, one ranger, and told the apocryphal story of a small-town disturbance in the 1890s. A local sheriff had called for a company of rangers to stop the violence, and when only one ranger showed up, the townspeople were taken aback. They'd asked for help and now wondered if they were being denied. "How many riots do you have?" the ranger allegedly asked. "If y'all got just one, all you need is one ranger. I'll take care of it."
I also saw another hero that day at the airport. I had been enthralled by the early Project Mercury space missions, so I was excited to spot a short, thin man walking through the terminal. He was wearing a suit, a tie, a hat, and his face was completely familiar to me. I recognized him from television as Lieutenant Colonel John "Shorty" Powers, the voice of Mission Control. I couldn't bring myself to approach him, though. A guy who had all these astronauts to talk to didn't need an eleven-year-old kid tugging at his jacket.
It was a cloudy day, a little rainy, and we walked out on the tarmac to climb a staircase onto our Braniff Airways flight, a Convair 440. My mom wore white gloves and a hat. I was in a sport coat and slacks. That's how people traveled then. In their Sunday best.
Our seats were on t he right side of t he air craft. My mom would have loved to look out the window, but she knew me. "You take the window seat," she said, and even before the plane had moved an inch, my face was pressed against the glass, taking everything in.
As the plane sped down the runway and began to rise, I was wide-eyed. My first thought was that everything on the ground looked like a model railroad layout. My second thought was that I wanted this life in the air.
It took a few more years for me to return to the skies. When I was sixteen, I asked my dad if I could take flying lessons. He'd been a dental surgeon in the Navy during World War II. He had great respect for aviators, and he clearly saw my passion. Through a friend, he got the name of a crop-dusting pilot named L. T. Cook Jr., who had a landing strip on his property nearby.
Before World War II, Mr. Cook had been an instructor in the federal government's Civilian Pilot Training Program. At the time, isolationists didn't want the United States getting involved in the war in Europe. But President Roosevelt knew the United States was likely to enter the conflict and would need thousands of qualified pilots. Starting in 1939, veteran fliers such as Mr. Cook were charged with training civilians so they'd be ready when and if war was declared. The program was controversial at the time, but as things turned out, all of those prepared pilots helped the Allies win the war. Mr. Cook and pilot trainers like him were the unsung stateside heroes.
When I met him, he was in his late fifties, and a no-nonsense, all-business kind of man. Most of his time was spent crop dusting, but if he saw someone who seemed to have the smarts and temperament to fly, he'd take him on as a student.
I guess he liked the look of me well enough. I was this tall, quiet, earnest kid, and I was respectful because my parents had taught me to be deferential to my elders. I was also the classic introvert, and he wasn't a guy who needed much conversation. He saw I was serious about flying and that I had an obvious enthusiasm, despite my low-key demeanor. He said he'd charge me six dollars per hour for the airplane. That was the "wet rate" because it included fuel. For his time training me, he asked for another three dollars an hour. My parents paid for the airplane, so for a thirty-minute flight I owed him just $1.50 for his instructor's fee. I paid for my share from money I earned in my job as a church janitor.
I have logbooks going back decades, covering thousands of flights. And in my first logbook, my very first entry was April 3, 1967, when Mr. Cook took me up for thirty minutes. We flew in a tandem two-seater, an Aeronca 7DC. It was a very basic propeller airplane, built in the late 1940s. It didn't even have a radio. I had the controls in my hands from pretty much the first moment.
I sat in front, Mr. Cook sat in back with his own set of controls, and he did what pilots call "following you through." That meant he'd keep his hands hovering over his stick so he could instantly take command if I went astray with my stick. He shadowed my movements, shouting directions over the noise of the engine. As so many pilots did in the early years, he used a cardboard megaphone to aim the sound of his voice right in my ear. He spoke only when he needed to, and he rarely gave a compliment. Still, in the weeks that followed, I sensed that he thought I was catching on, and had the right instincts. I studied flying at home every night, too, taking a correspondence course that prepared me for the private pilot license written exam. Mr. Cook saw I was devoted.
Sometimes I'd arrive for a lesson and he wouldn't be there. So I'd drive into town because I knew exactly where to find him: drinking coffee at the local Dairy Queen. He'd finish his coffee, toss a tip on the table, and we'd go back to his strip.
He gave me sixteen lessons over the next couple of months, each averaging thirty minutes in the air. By June 3, my total flying time added up to seven hours and twenty-five minutes. That day, he took me up for a flight, and after ten minutes of flying around, he tapped me on the shoulder.
"All right," he said. "Bring it in for a landing and taxi over to the hangar." I did as I was told, and when we got there, he hopped out of the plane. "OK," he said. "Take it up and land three times by yourself."
He didn't wish me luck. That wasn't his way. I'm not saying he was gruff or unfeeling. It's just that he was very matter-of-fact about things. He had obviously decided: The kid's ready. Let him go. He expected I wouldn't fall out of the sky. I'd be OK.
These days, a boy couldn't get into the air alone so quickly. Airplanes are more complex. There are all sorts of requirements and insurance issues that have to be taken care of before someone flies solo. The air traffic control system is more complicated. And instructors may be more protective, worried and wary, too.
But that day, in the North Texas countryside, I didn't have to deal with air traffic control or complicated regulations. It was just me and the plane, and Mr. Cook, who was watching me from the ground.
Because the wind was coming from the north, I had to go to the opposite end of the runway so I could take off in that direction. That wasn't the usual direction, but I got my bearings and prepared to go.
The strip was lower at the south end and sloped uphill toward the north. And even though Mr. Cook had just mowed his grass strip, it wasn't as smooth as a paved runway or a putting green.
Alone at the end of an airstrip for the first time in my life, I checked the ignition and the oil pressure. I made sure the engine, rudder, elevator, and ailerons were working properly. I went through everything on my checklist. And as my hand tightened on the control stick, I took a breath, released the brakes, and began my takeoff. Mr. Cook had told me that I'd be leaving the ground more quickly than I was used to. The reason? The plane was now lighter with him not in it.
When this type of airplane heads down a runway and is ready to fly, it just lifts off. But when a new pilot is ready to fly alone, someone has to say so. That someone was the laconic Mr. Cook, nodding there on the sidelines as I rose into the air while he grew smaller and smaller in the field below me. I was grateful to him.
Climbing to eight hundred feet above the ground, and then circling the field, I felt an exhilarating freedom. I also felt a certain mastery. After listening, watching, asking questions, and studying hard, I had achieved something. Here I was, alone in the air.
I don't think I was smiling about my good fortune. I was too busy concentrating to allow myself to smile. And I knew Mr. Cook was watching me from under his baseball cap, h is head tilted upward. I wanted to look good for him, to do everything right. I didn't want him to have a long list of things to critique me about when I landed.
As I flew, it was as if I could hear his voice. Use the rudder to keep the controls coordinated. Even though he wasn't there in the airplane, his words were still with me.
I was too busy to do any sightseeing. I flew over a little pond, and the town of Sherman was off to my left. But my goal was not to enjoy the view. My goal was to do this well enough so that Mr. Cook would let me do it again.
He had instructed me to make the usual rectangular pattern around t he landing strip, which took a bout three minutes in flight, so I could practice touching the runway, lifting back into the air, and then coming back around to do it again. I had to do this three times before coming in for a final landing.
My entire first solo experience was only nine minutes or so, but I knew it was a crucial first step. I'd done my reading: In 1903, Orville Wright's first flight had traveled a distance of forty yards, had risen twenty feet in the air, and had lasted just twelve seconds.
Mr. Cook greeted me when it was all over, and as I shut down the engine, he said I'd done what he'd asked. There was no "atta boy," but I knew I'd passed the test. He told me he'd be busy crop dusting in his other plane much of the summer, and so I might as well just keep taking his Aeronca up to practice on my own. We agreed that I could return every few days to hone my skills, alone in the sky, for six dollars per hour.
Now, at age fifty-eight, I have 19,700 hours of flying time under my belt. But I can trace my professional experience back to that afternoon. It was a turning point. Though I had less than eight hours in the air, Mr. Cook had given me confidence. He had given me permission to discover that I could get a plane safely into the air and then safely back to the ground. That first solo flight served as confirmation that this would be my livelihood, and my life.
I didn't completely focus on it at the time, but I realize now that my entrance into the world of piloting was very traditional. This is how people had learned to fly since the beginning: an older, veteran pilot teaching the basics to a youngster from a grass strip under an open sky.
I look back and appreciate very much that I was a lucky young man. It was a wonderful start.

No one else in my high school was interested in being a pilot, so I was alone in my pursuit. I had friends, but a lot of the other kids saw me as this shy, studious, serious boy always reading flight manuals and heading out to the airstrip. I was not easily outgoing. I was more comfortable in a cockpit.
In some ways, I grew up fast on that airstrip, learning things that helped me see the possibilities in life, and the great risks.
One day, when I got out to Mr. Cook's hangar, I noticed a Piper Tri-Pacer, painted white with red trim, crumpled on the field at the north end of the runway. Mr. Cook told me the story. A friend of his was bringing the Tri-Pacer in for a landing, approaching the airstrip, and he had to cross over U.S. 82. He didn't realize until it was too late that there were twenty-foot-high power lines stretched along the highway. He pulled up the nose of the plane to clear the wires, but that action caused him to slow down and lose lift. His plane slammed down nose-first into the ground, and he died instantly.
No one had come yet to collect the wrecked plane, and so there it still sat at the end of the airstrip. I walked a quarter mile up to it and looked inside at the blood-splattered cockpit. In those days, airplanes had only lap belts, not shoulder harnesses, and I figured that his head must have hit the instrument panel with great violence. I tried to visualize how it all might have happened-his effort to avoid the power lines, his loss of speed, the awful impact. I forced myself to look in the cockpit, to study it. It would have been easier to look away, but I didn't.
It was a pretty sobering moment for a sixteen-year-old, and it made quite an impression on me. I realized that flying a plane meant not making mistakes. You had to maintain control of everything. You had to look out for the wires, the birds, the trees, the fog, while monitoring everything in the cockpit. You had to be vigilant and alert. It was equally important to know what was possible and what was not. One simple mistake could mean death.
I processed all this, but that sad scene didn't give me pause. I vowed to learn all there was to know to minimize the risks.
I knew I never wanted to be a hot dog-that could get me killed-but I did make my own fun. I'd tell my parents and younger sister to step outside our home at an appointed time, and then I'd fly over and waggle the wings up and down to say hello to them. We lived in such a sparsely populated area that regulations allowed me to fly as low as five hundred feet above the house. My family couldn't exactly see my face, but they could see me waving at them.
By October 1968, after seventy hours in the air, I was ready to try for a private pilot certificate, which required a "check ride" with an FAA examiner. I passed, which allowed me to fly with a passenger.
I thought the honor of first passenger ought to go to my mother, and my logbook shows I took her for a ride on October 29, 1968, the day after I got my certificate. I put a simple little star next to the flight data in the logbook; a small acknowledgment of a special moment. It was the 1960s equivalent of an e-mailed smiley face.
My mom didn't seem nervous that day, just proud. As I helped her into the back seat and strapped her in, I described the sounds she would hear, what we'd see, how her stomach might feel. The upside of my being so serious, I guess, is that I struck people as responsible and able. I wasn't a flouter of rules. And so my mom had confidence in me. She just sat back, her life in my hands, with no urge to be a back-seat driver. She let me chauffeur her around in the sky, and when we landed, she hugged me.
The possibility of having passengers opened up a new world, and after I took my sister, my d ad, and my grandparents for a ride, I found the courage to ask someone else. Her name was Carole, and she was a cute, slender girl with brown hair and glasses. We went to Denison High together, and we were also in our church choir. I had a crush on her, and I liked to think she had noticed me, too. There are girls who are good-looking and know it, and have the luxury of getting by on their beauty. Carole was attractive, yet she didn't carry herself like those girls. Even though she wasn't overtly outgoing, she had an open, friendly manner that just drew people in.
No girl had ever expressed much interest in my experiences as a pilot. This was long before the movie Top Gun, and in any case, I wasn't Tom Cruise. Besides, flying was an abstract thing. No one saw me doing it. It's not like I caught winning touchdown passes and had my picture in the local paper. Everything I did was out of view and high in the sky. If I mentioned flying to girls, they never seemed hugely impressed. It sometimes felt like they were bored with the conversation. Or maybe I wasn't able to find the right words to convey the majesty of it.
In any case, I decided to see if I could interest Carole. She was quiet- similar to me in that way-and so it was often difficult keeping conversations going with her. When I asked her if she'd like to go flying with me, I had no expectations. Even if she wanted to go, I figured her parents wouldn't allow it. But she asked them, and they agreed to let her go on a forty-five-minute trip across the Arkansas and Poteau rivers to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
This was my effort at a date, and I was pretty thrilled that it was going to happen. Looking back, it's remarkable that her mom and dad said yes. In essence, they were allowing a boy, not yet eighteen years old, to take their underage daughter across state lines. In a light airplane, no less.
And so we went. It was a clear, cold day with smooth air and good visibility. You could see for miles in any direction. Airplanes are noisy, so it's hard to converse. I'd yell, "That's the Red River down there," and she'd yell back, "What?" and I'd repeat myself. But I was so happy to have her aboard.
We flew in a Cessna 150 I'd rented for two hours. This was a very small airplane, with room only for two people, sitting side by side. The whole cabin was just three feet wide, and so my right leg was touching her left leg. There was no other way to do it.
Picture me, seventeen years old, with this pretty girl next to me, her leg touching mine for two hours, my arm rubbing against her arm. I could smell her perfume, or maybe it was her shampoo. Once in a while she'd lean over me to look at the sights out my window, her hair brushing against my arm. It was a new experience for me, realizing that flying could be such a sensual experience.
Was it hard for me to concentrate on the controls? No. I guess that was just another example of how a pilot has to learn to compartmentalize. I was completely aware of Carole, but I was also on task and responsible. I wanted to woo her, but my most important job was to keep her safe.
Not much came of our relationship, but that flight-sitting so close to her, shouting out landmarks of the Texas countryside, taking her to lunch at the Fort Smith airport-well, it's just a sweet, warm memory.
A pilot can have thousands of takeoffs and landings, most of them unremarkable. Certain ones, though, he never forgets.

The last time I was out at L. T. Cook's airstrip was in the late 1970s. I had lost touch with him in the early eighties, and I later learned he had cancer, and had several tumors removed from his neck and jaw. Some people speculated that his illness was a result of all the crop-dusting chemicals he sprayed every day. He died in 2001.
After my emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, I got thousands of e-mails and letters from people expressing gratitude for what my crew and I did to save all 155 people on board. In one stack of mail, I was thrilled to discover a note from M r. Cook's widow, whom I hadn't heard from in years. Her words lifted my spirits. "L.T. wouldn't be surprised," she wrote, "but he certainly would be pleased and proud."
In many ways, all my mentors, heroes, and loved ones-those who taught me and encouraged me and saw the possibilities in me-were with me in the cockpit of Flight 1549. We had lost both engines. It was a dire situation, but there were lessons people had instilled in me that served me well. Mr. Cook's lessons were a part of what guided me on that five-minute flight. He was the consummate stick-and-rudder man, and that day over New York was certainly a stick-and-rudder day.
I've done a lot of thinking since then about all the special people who mattered to me, about the hundreds of books on flying that I've studied, about the tragedies I've witnessed again and again as a military pilot, about the adventures and setbacks in my airline career, about the romance of flying, and about the long-ago memories.
I've come to realize that my journey to the Hudson River didn't begin at LaGuardia Airport. It began decades before, in my childhood home, on Mr. Cook's grass airfield, in the skies over North Texas, in the California home I now share with my wife, Lorrie, and our two daughters, and on all the jets I've flown toward the horizon.
Flight 1549 wasn't just a five-minute journey. My entire life led me safely to that river.
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Table of Contents

1 A Flight You'd Never Forget 1

2 A Pilot's Life 20

3 Those Who Came Before Me 46

4 "Measure Twice, Cut Once" 60

5 The Gift of Girls 79

6 Fast, Neat, Average 105

7 Long-term Optimist, Short-term Realist 128

8 This Is the Captain Speaking 158

9 Showing Up for Life 181

10 Anything Is Possible 203

11 Managing the Situation 220

12 The View from Above 235

13 Sudden, Complete, Symmetrical 251

14 Gravity 270

15 One Hundred Fifty-five 292

16 Stories Heard, Lives Touched 316

17 A Wild Ride 333

18 Home 351

19 The Question 371

Acknowledgments 387

Appendix A Flight Path of Flight 1549, January 15, 2009 393

Appendix B National Transportation Safety Board Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript Excerpt 395

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 93 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 14, 2009

    Daily Devotion to Duty

    I think that Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's book reads well. Very well, indeed. Were it solely about the five minute flight over New York City in January, 2009, it would have a lot of padding in its 300+ pages - but fortunately, and obviously (to those who know the author), it's not just about the world-famous events of the amazing ditching on the Hudson River - it goes far, far beyond that.

    Highest Duty is a portrait of an American life. Sully takes us on a tour encompassing his small-town upbringing, discussing his parents' instillation of strong, consistent values, discussing his early love affair with aviation, telling personal and touching stories of his family and his remarkable wife and partner Lorrie, covering his life-long focus on improving safety and reliability in aviation, and reviewing his observations about our nation's commercial aviation industry.

    While one might reasonably wonder whether a formerly anonymous commercial pilot would have a compelling story to tell - a story that goes beyond the brief flight over the Hudson River - the engaging pages of Highest Duty make it clear that Sully's story is engaging, gripping, and filled with lessons for us all.

    15 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    Fabulous book!

    This book is so elegantly written that I couldn't put it down. I became engrossed on the very first page. It is a story about Sully's love of aviation from the time he was 5 years old. You can feel the genuine love that he has for his family, his job, and all the passengers that he has flown to their destinations. The way it is written, makes you feel as though you are right there on the plane as it is going down into the Hudson. It's definately a MUST READ!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The True Life of a Dedicated Pilot

    I found Sully's book quite stimulating and thought provoking. It is true story of a truly dedicated individual who was willing to sacrifice his life for his passengers. I was quite impressed with his dedication. We should have more people like him inour everyday life. It would make this a bnetter place to live. I love adventure stories, especially about aviation. I read another airline aviation book resently with the same quality and dedication. God Bless you Sully and your family

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Play by play of the Hudson River rescue and a testament to America at its best.

    Loved the story and appreciated learning that many of our top flight captains were "top guns" in their day. There were biographical surprises throughout the book about this man's life. Every time the story gets a little long, there's a great chapter thrown in. An educational and inspirational read. Not a barn burner.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    Highest Duty - The Life of Capt. Sullenberger

    This book doesn't only tell about what happened on U.S. Airways Flight 1549 when a flock of birds decided to fly into the Airbus' flight path. Capt. Sullenberger weaves his own life experiences into how he was able to handle the situation of accelerating for take-off and then the engines stop - what to do? Any landing would go through densely populated areas and tremendous loss of life, both from the passengers and crew of Flight 1549 and people on the ground. His knowledge of the Hudson, it's ferry boats between New York and New Jersey on the Hudson compared to lack of resources back near La Guardia Airport where he took off saved the day. And his airmanship skills from when he first flew at age 12 through the Air Force Academy and studying mistakes other pilots had made in other crashed, such as not ejecting in a timely manner and dying while trying in vain to save a multi-million aircraft - this book was a real page turner.

    Capt. Sullenberger did not write of only what happened that day on January 15, 2009. He wove his life experiences from a youth, through marriage and children, through that fateful day, and beyond to present. That writing style was perfect for this story, a story that could have turned out so differently if not for the experience of it's pilot.

    The style of writing, weaving details of Capt. Sullenberger's life with the events of January 15 was a riveting style of writing, one that is seldom seen these days. I give this book my highest rating for writing style, non-fiction, and the theme of prioritizing your goals, discarding less important things to concentrate on more important things first, such as staying alive.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2009

    My Highest Regard to Captain Sully

    It's as if cur beloved Captain was put on this earth for a purpose and trained well for it his entire life! Hopefully the people on that plane will nov ALL go on to fulfill their highest purpaose!! Well written and awe inspiring!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    great book, interesting character

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, CAPTAIN SULLENBERGER is an interesting man and since we are a year apart in age, it makes the reading that much more enjoyable. HIGHLY recommend, easy read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Very Highly Recommended!!

    Very Highly Recommended - you must read this book!! Read this book faster than any I have ever read. It was very hard to put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Inspirational.

    Inspirational.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    Very inspiring!

    As an accident survivor and one who has PTSD I found inspiration to face my challanges.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    You are able to see the life of a pilot and some detail on the landing of Flight 1549 on the Hudson. Loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    Inspiring Story and a Great Read!!!

    Highest Duty is a memoir of the life of Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger. He writes about valuable life lessons he learned from his parents, his first flight instructor, his time in the Air Force, and from his wife and daughters. Highest Duty is at its best when Sullenberger describes in detail the events of the ditching of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. However, most of the book is about significant events in his life that he says helped him land Flight 1549 safely. Sullenberger denies the title of a "hero" and reserves that for those who voluntarily put their lives into danger to save others. He is also careful to give credit to his whole crew for their quick thinking and resourcefulness. Highest Duty is a great book that engages the reader and provides valuable lessons, such as the importance of preparation and integrity. This book would be especially interesting to other pilots and a good read for anyone who is interested.

    -Chase, OSU Comp Student Spring 2011

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic Read!

    This is one great book about one great man who happens to be a pilot.
    Top-Notch writing. Read This, you will not be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Great Book!

    Good reading. Nice to know the background of Mr. Sullenberger.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Great Read

    I loved this book because it not only told about the crash in the Hudson by Sully and his crew, but Sully's life story. You will be amazed how lucky the people on this flight were to have Sully as the pilot. His whole flying career is covered in the book; as well as his life story. If you're only wanting to know about the 5 minutes of terror they experienced, then this book isn't the one to read. But if you're interested in how Sully's knowledge and experience of flying brought them down safely, then read. I bought it right before a trip to the beach and couldn't stop reading it until it was finished. Truly this is an amazing man. You will be inspired by the way he has lived his life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good autobiography

    While I was hoping for more description of the events of Flight 1549 that made him a household name, I thought Capatain "Sully" did a very good job describing his life and the reasons why his life experience made him handle the flight the way he did. His humility and deferrance to family is never forgotten - by himself or by the reader.

    What I also like about this particluar autobiography is that you can tell this is HIS story - not one that a ghostwriter or agent thought should be told because it sounds "better." An enjoyable read and very much worth the price of the e-book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Better than tv

    Very good makes you take a better look at life in general and how quick it could end

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    Thought provoking and inspiring.

    I learned much about the crash that I did not know before.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2010

    Highest Duty by Chesley B. Sullenberger III with Jeffrey Zaslow inspires and teaches

    "Sully" Sullenberger declines the accolade of "hero." Instead he inspires and teaches his reader by sharing the story of his life in which his love of flying dovetailed perfectly with his love of learning the details of how to fly. In large part, he credits his successful emergency landing of his commercial plane in the Hudson River in January of 2009 to a lifelong attention to the details of flying moment to moment. He also made it part of his training to study the details of failed flights in order to better understand how accidents might be avoided in the future. For this reader, he is a pilot's pilot, calm under the pressure and responsibility that every flight represents because he has prepared as well as possible for the job he has to do. Of course, accidents happen and will again, but as Sullenberger's story illustrates, we can prepare for success by paying attention to what matters in whatever task we are engaged.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2010

    This was one of the best books I have read this year. "Sully" gave us the inside story, right from the cockpit, and it was an amazing story. But what I loved even more was the "rest of the story". He was so open about his life, h

    depression, and I had not expected that. I gave the book as a gift to a family member who had just been through a major depression and he said that even though he found it hard to focus on many things, once he picked up this book he could not put it down till it was done. I would recommend the book to anyone. He is truly an American hero, and lets us know that sometimes our training, our practice and our dedication to our "jobs" are all that is needed to make a huge difference in people's lives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 93 Customer Reviews

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