Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Langewiesche flies again

William Langewiesche is one of our very best journalists (as well as a superb prose stylist), especially on matters of aviation. He knows whereof he writes; he was for a long time a "freight dog," flying cargo in drafty, crapped-out, barely airworthy airplanes from one godforsaken airfield to another, and the experience leached the treacly romance of aviation out of him. He sees blind hero-worship of pilots for what it is.

Today in the New York Times, Dwight Garner reviews Langewiesche's newest book, Fly By Wire, a revisitation of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger's storied landing of that Airbus 320 in the Hudson without loss of life.

It was a professional performance by a superb pilot, Langewiesche declares, but he also argues that the Frenchman Bernard Ziegler, who long ago devised the fly-by-wire system that really guided the Airbus to the river, may have been the greater hero -- if "hero" is the proper term for someone who executes the job he was painstakingly trained to do.

Garner sums up the book as "prickly and uneven but plainspoken."

That's good enough for me. I'm off to Barnes & Noble to get a copy.

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