Journalist William Langewiesche found himself mired in controversy last fall when news reports on his book “Fly by Wire” suggested he thought the safe landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was less about Chesley Sullenberger III’s extraordinary flying than the plane’s autopilot.
A reviewer wrote in The New York Times that the book “does bang a few light dents into Sully’s hero aura.”
An experienced pilot and international editor for Vanity Fair, Langewiesche said he wasn’t knocking the skill of Sully (who has remained modest about his safe landing of the plane) — he just wanted to give due credit to the “fly-by-wire” automation used in the Airbus 320 and its creator Bernard Ziegler for making safe flying nearly foolproof. The technology allows computers to take over in event of pilot error.
“Like it or not,” Langewiesche wrote, “Ziegler reached out across the years and cradled them all the way to the water.”
Sully has said Langewiesche gave too much credit to machine over man.