Fly by Wire, By William Langewiesche

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The Independent Culture

"Have you any ideas?" asked Captain Sullenberger. "Actually not," replied co-pilot Skiles. So their Airbus A320 crash-landed on the Hudson River in the shadow of Manhattan's skyscrapers. "The fluency they exhibited at such a critical moment," writes Langewiesche, "helps to explain why their passengers survived."

The exchange appears towards the end of this brief, brilliant account of the astonishing survival of 155 passengers and crew, who were photographed standing on the plane's wings like penguins on an ice-floe.

Displaying the same investigative skill and narrative élan he utilised in American Ground, the best book on 9/11, Langewiesche explores the approach to this moment, from the flock of Canada geese that wrecked both engines to the expertise of Sullenberger, who used the A320's automated "fly-by-wire" system to ditch the plane with such success.