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Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 203 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393240023
ISBN-10: 0393240029
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2014: Twenty five years ago this month, a United Airlines flight from Denver to Chicago burst into a fireball and crashed in a cornfield outside of Sioux City, Iowa. It was one of the worst plane disasters in history--but it could have been worse. Of the 296 people on board, 184 survived. In his very long and gripping Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, journalist Laurence Gonzales takes us through the moments before and after the crash (as best remembered by those survivors and observers on the ground). He also goes back through records, scientific documents, and his own experience as a pilot and aviation reporter to piece together what went wrong with the jetliner that was as majestic (and, ultimately, doomed) as the Titanic. (The last third of the narrative delves into the tiny, microscopic flaw that likely brought the plane down.) As you might expect, there was plenty of terror on Flight 232, but what is surprising is how much inspiring behavior Gonzales discovered there as well--flight attendants who truly did put the passengers’ needs first, crew members whose quick thinking probably made the crash less devastating than it would have been, not to mention the plain dumb luck in evidence, as well--at least one woman moved out of first class at the last minute. Her original seat was eviscerated; she survived. This is a hard book to read because it addresses some of our worst fears and some we’d never even thought of (apparently, the blue water in the toilets on planes can leak out, freeze and get stuck, as ice, to the outside of the plane). But it is also a story of survival, a tale of science, of heroism and of faith. --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

Gonzales (Surviving Survival, 2012) revisits the crash of United Flight 232 in this gripping narrative that includes numerous survivor accounts as well as insight from those in the Sioux City control tower, rescue personnel, and specialists who worked for months to determine the cause. In particular, the survivor stories recounted here in painstaking detail remain no less riveting now than when they were reported 25 years ago. Through numerous interviews and research, Gonzales places readers as close to the accident as possible, from the cockpit to the main cabin, revealing the catastrophic failure of the single part that destroyed not only one of the three engines but, more critically, the entire hydraulic system. There are heroes aplenty, from those who did their jobs beyond all measure to the many who lent a lifesaving hand at risk of their own survival. Emotion rather than thoughtful post-crash analysis carries the book, but Gonzales does make clear how the lack of seat requirements for infants and children, which remains the same today, cost lives. A powerful, unforgettable look at a devastating accident. --Colleen Mondor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (July 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393240029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393240023
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Talvi TOP 100 REVIEWER on July 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Flight 232 is an extremely well researched, compelling, and especially harrowing story of the ill fated United Airlines Flight 232 in 1989. The reason that flight merits an entire book has to do with the sheer amount of survivors on what should have been a non survivable catastrophic engine failure situation. As well, it was a watershed event leading to the development of many modern safety practices as well as crash response procedures and investigation. It's also notable for laws that did not (and perhaps should have) been changed about airline safety.

Author Gonzales, a commercial pilot, uses meticulous research to give a very complete story of the crash. From passengers to crew, hospital workers to ground support, manufacturer reps, radar operators to crash investigators, all provide a very large picture of the airline industry at the end of the 1980s. Inside these 400 packed pages, Gonzales will give us the scope of the issues the plane encountered, the harrowing tales of escape and death, survivor remorse, PTSD not only from the survivors but also the workers and volunteers who had to handle the morgues and hospitals, to those who were near the airport when the plane crashed and ran to help. The stories are tragic, uplifting, horrifying, intriguing, daunting, and most especially emotive. I don't think anyone reading this book could be left unaffected.

Most will likely read for the human aspect of the crash. But very detailed descriptions of the metal fatigue issue (from how the metal is made, manufactured, etc.) as well as complex flying technical and physics are also included.
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Format: Hardcover
As one of the nurses that was called upon to assist in the emergency of flight 232 I worked in ER on the day of the crash. Reading this book brought back so many memories and helped fill out parts I didn't know about. I was very proud of how my hospital, and the entire community came together and remember being so upset over the terrible events these people went through and how terrible for their families. The book did get a little too technical for me in the middle, I was more interested in the human aspect of it, but it is still a good read, especially if you lived through it like I did by being one of the emergency responders.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The plot line is well developed, and the individual stories well told. However, Gonzales names so many names so frequently that it is tough to keep track of who is who. A cast of characters at the head of each chapter would have been very helpful. The book also lacks visual aids that would be very helpful, such as a seating chart and maps showing how the crash unfolded, and detailed graphs of the engine. I find it difficult to believe that many of those visual aids could not have been found in the NTSB's report on the crash. If those charts, graphs and maps had been included, I would have given the book 5 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
Flying on a commercial aircraft is statistically pretty safe. But when incidents occur they tend to get ugly in a hurry. On July 19, 1989 Flight 232 was flying from Denver to Chicago.which was the 15,503rd flight for the massive titanium fan hub in engine #2, located in the tail of the DC-10. Despite inspections a manufacturing defect was undiscovered and grew approx 1/300,000th of an inch on each flight. Cruising at 37,000 feet the hub gave way and the massive fan sheared the shaft which held it in place. The passengers heard a loud noise and the engine exploded, sending shrapnel and flying debris throughout the tail structure of the aircraft. What happened after this explosion was incredible and unprecedented.
Modern aircraft all have hydraulically operated controls, and the required backup system is also required to have a backup. In the event of failure of one hydraulic system the other takes over to allow control of the aircraft. In the event the back up fails a third system will allow control of the aircraft. On this aircraft the exploding engine severed the lines of all three hydraulic systems and drained all the hydraulic operating fluid, rendering the aircraft controls inoperable and frozen in position. That the aircraft stayed in the air at all was due to quick action by the pilot, who can't explain why he manipulated the throttles in the manner he did to stabilize the aircraft.
Calling a Mayday the pilot was repeatedly asked, even twenty minutes into the emergency if he was sure there was no hydraulic pressure. Engineers and mechanics knew that flight 232 was doomed and could not believe that it was still in the air. That it was in the air was the result of a herculean effort by the flight crew and an off duty instructor on DC10s.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm from Iowa. At the time of the disaster, we lived less than 80 miles from the crash site. The incident is quite literally seared into my memory. The author, Laurence Gonzales, writes with such clarity, his words are so vivid, I relive that day with every page-- but from the perspective of a passenger on the plane. The sensation is incredibly disturbing, yet the book is impossible to put down.
The author's knowledge, understanding, respect and compassion for everyone involved in this event, which is both a tragedy and a miracle, are evident in every single word he writes.
Be warned. Not for bedtime reading.
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