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Book Review: Highest Duty

May 31, 2010
One of my favorite summer activities is to crack open a good book and read my heart out. I’m sure that this dates back to the gradeschool days of mandatory summer reading, when my mom would take us to the bookstore on the last day of school and allow us to stock up on both the requirements, and other titles that caught our eye. There is nothing I loved more than diving into a book on the beach or in the backyard, and nothing has changed a bit. Warm weather is book weather, and so I have decided to chronicle my reads here, both for my own record & in order to share a little bit of my reading finds with you all!

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters

The first book on my list this summer was Highest Duty: My Search For What Really Matters by  Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. I was both skeptical and curious when this book fell into my hands. After all, the flight that culminated with a landing on the Hudson lasted all of 6 minutes, how would this translate in to an entire book? I’m happy to report that this book far exceeded my expectations, and actually left me so emotional at points that I had to read certain parts in small doses. This book isn’t just about Sully’s experiences that day, and how he helped save the lives of 155 people. It is about how all of his experiences throught his life helped him do his job to the best of his ability. Sully doesn’t see himself as a hero, just as someone who was incredibly prepared. I found Sully’s outlook on life, family, & his career to be incredibly inspirational.

There is one area of the book that I found to be most important of all, and that is the fact that Sully is using his new fame to be an advocate for people working in the airline industry.

You see, I think that one of the main reasons that this book tugged at my heartstrings so strongly is that my boyfriend is a pilot for a commercial airline. Today, I spent a wonderful day with him starting with cinnamon rolls & sunscreen, continuing with a day at the beach, and culminating in a quick deep dish pizza excursion for dinner. While most people at this point would be discussing whether or not to go out or stay in for the rest of the evening, my boyfriend was ironing his shirt, tying his tie, and packing food for the morning. I walked him to the bus stop (always feeling so special standing next to a dapper man in uniform), kissed him goodbye, and continued walking to the movie theatre to catch a chick flick on my own. He’ll get back early tomorrow morning, with about 4 hours of sleep in the bank, just when i’m getting up and ready to start the day.

Pilots have very difficult lives, with no real way to settle into a routine or sleep schedule. They can be gone for 4 days in a row, getting up at 4am each morning, followed by a trip that involves extremely late nights. Unfortunately, rest laws leave much to be desired, and pilots are scheduled to work trips involving very little sleep (which can me made even worse by delays & cancellations). It’s no secret that many airlines are failing & losing money, but this isn’t something felt by the people sitting in corporate offices. This is something that is pushed down onto the pilots & crew, people who have college degrees,qualifications, & smarts that would rival the people sitting in the high rise buildings. The only difference is that a pilot can’t just get fed up and say,  “This company isn’t for me, i’m going to move on”, because seniority rules make that nearly impossible. Despite health benefits, travel benefits, pay, etc. being taken from them, almost embarrasingly so, they are forced to remain loyal to the companies that betray them, as leaving and starting with a new company would put them back at first year pay (despite years and years of experience). You could probably make just as much as a first year pilot working at a regional airline as you could at a fast food restaurant, which is insulting.

It frightens me to think about what will happen if this trend continues. Who will be flying the airplanes that carry our family and friends all over the world? Will someone with Sully’s qualifications & knowledge, with the ability to land an airplane on a RIVER, want to work in the airline industry? Or will they be turned off by the fact that they will spend most of their careers fighting for the respect that they so deserve?

The next time that you’re walking off your flight, remember to thank the guys or gals taking you half way across the country. Whether it’s this guy…

My very own Sully

or another pilot who i’m sure has some loved ones waiting for him/her at home. Don’t forget that when your flight is delayed, or flat out cancelled, it’s not the flight crew trying to make your life more difficult. It’s their job to get you to your destination safe & sound. In fact, i’ll guarantee that one of them is missing a date-night, a holiday, time with family, or even the birth of a child.

Anyways…stepping of my soap box now…i’d highly recommend this book!

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