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Flight 232

A Story of Disaster and Survival

Laurence Gonzales (Author, Sante Fe Institute)


"A richly detailed story that is equal parts heartbreaking, inspiring…and full of fascinating science…masterful." —San Francisco Chronicle

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.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • July 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35126-2
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 432 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Painstakingly researched… A white knuckle read, so vividly detailed that it’s like watching an accident in slow-motion and being unable to look away.” — Jennifer Latson, Boston Globe

“The definitive account…Flight 232 stands alone: for its absolutely riveting depiction of the flight’s last minutes and the horrendous aftermath; for its vivid and sympathetic portraits of many of those aboard the plane, the crew most particularly; and for its meticulous inquiry into the mechanical failure.” — Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“Astonishingly in-depth… Gonzales covers extensive territory, much of it with…obsessive detail and aplomb.” — Carson Vaughan, Chicago Tribune

“This might just be the best aviation book you’ll read this year.” — Jets

“Intense, gripping, alive with knowledge and compassion, Flight 232 is a new masterpiece of calamity and courage.” — Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Also by Laurence Gonzales All

  1. Book CoverDeep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why


  2. Book CoverEveryday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things


  3. Book CoverSurviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience


Related Books

  1. Book CoverThe Dynamics of Disaster

    "If you are an amateur weather geek, disaster wonk, or budding student of earth sciences, you will want to read this book." —Seattle TimesMore

  2. Book CoverFlight 232

    "A richly detailed story that is equal parts heartbreaking, inspiring…and full of fascinating science…masterful." —San Francisco ChronicleMore

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