Twenty-five years after the catastrophe, a dramatic and extraordinarily rare 360-degree view of the crash of a fully loaded jumbo jet.
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 of 296 passengers lived. No one has ever attempted the complete reconstruction of a crash of this magnitude. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of survivors, crew, and airport and rescue personnel, Laurence Gonzales, a commercial pilot himself, captures, minute-by-minute, the harrowing journey of pilots flying a plane with no controls and flight attendants keeping their calm in the face of certain death. He plumbs the hearts and minds of passengers as they pray, bargain with God, plot their strategies for survival, and sacrifice themselves to save others.
Ultimately he takes us, step-by-step, through the gripping scientific detective work in super-secret labs to dive into the heart of a flaw smaller than a grain of rice that shows what brought the aircraft down. An unforgettable drama of the triumph of heroism over tragedy and human ingenuity over technological breakdown, Flight 232 is a masterpiece in the tradition of the greatest aviation stories ever told.
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I've had my feelings about Flight 232 tucked away for almost 26 years and this read was very therapeutic for me. I am a Flight Attendant for United and in 1989 I was based in Denver flying reserve. I had worked flight 232 100’s of times prior and worked it one week after the crash... because I was the most junior one on the crew I got the honor of sitting in the jumpseat that was occupied by Rene LeBeau, the only member of the crew to perish that awful day. I then went out on maternity leave right after that and never really “dealt” with all my feelings about this crash. Although I was suffering a form of PTSD I’m sure it was nothing compared to the individuals that experienced and lived through the event itself and hearing the survivor’s stories helped me put my experience into a manageable perspective. I think the author did a fantastic job of retelling the events without sensationalism and with the utmost respect for ALL the sufferers of this horrible accident, including the people on the ground involved prior to the crash and those involved in rescue efforts and post accident “clean-up”. I found that the author repeated some of the survivors stories but I understood he did this to show events that were happening simultaneously, thus giving the reader a better understanding of the timeline of events. I’m still emotionally moved but I can now view the horrendous video of the crash itself without crying. Thank you Laurence Gonzales for writing this book.