The much-anticipated memoir of "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot Chesley Sullenberger has landed in stores -- and Sully, once again, has hit the talk-show circuit.
Sully's autobiography, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters," hit stores on Tuesday. He was on the "Today" show in the morning, hit "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" last night and made an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show this morning.
Sullenberger first became a hero when less than two minutes after he took off from LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 15, a bird strike blew out both engines of US Airways Flight 1549.
While Sully's spectacular landing in the icy Hudson River catapulted him into the public spotlight, his autobiography tells the story of a man whose humble beginnings helped prepare him to exude the heroism that earned him fame -- and probably a bestseller -- on that fateful winter day.
He wrote in his book that he never thought he was going to die, that he was confident he could make a survivable emergency landing and that desperate images of his wife and daughters never appeared in his mind in the moments before his plane hit the water.
"We were so busy. It was the most dire emergency of my career. It was one of extreme workload, beyond extreme time compression," Sully told NBC's Matt Lauer on the "Today Show." "We had only seconds to decide and minutes to find a course of action and execute it. There wasn't time for anything extraneous."
Less than a quarter of the 340-page memoir is dedicated to the extraordinary events of Jan. 15. In those pages, Sully describes how he'll always remember studying crashes in the Air Force where pilots simply waited too long to ditch their planes, fearful they'd be reprimanded for losing multi-million-dollar jets, reports the Mercury News.
"I could have worried that my decision to ditch the plane would be questioned by superiors or investigators," Sully told the paper. "But I chose not to. I was able to make a mental shift in priorities."
In the book, Sully primarily talks about his efforts to be a true family man, how difficult it was for him to spend so many hours working away from home and the challenge of maintaining heart amid all the economic uncertainty that stood ominously before him.
"It was a time of great uncertainty, with two wars and the world economy falling apart. On a lot of fronts, people felt confused and fearful," Sully wrote. "They heard about Flight 1549 and it was unlike most stories. It enabled them to reassure themselves that all the ideals that we believe in are true, even if they're not always evident."
Like most Americans, Sully was worried about money. His salary had been sliced in half, as was the fate of thousands of airline workers, and his pension practically disappeared. The 58-year-old aviation veteran was confronted with the idea of having to find work outside the industry where he'd spent the last three decades and selling his house.
Fortunately, none of that is going to happen. The former fighter pilot is ensconced in fanship; his Facebook page has 635,000 friends and counting. Some of them may even be wearing "Sully is my Homeboy" T-shirts, which is being sold for $28.25 apiece on Zazzle.com. And now, he's up for the Mustached American of the Year award. (Vote now!)
Sully and his wife, Lorrie, were both shocked by how long the publicity lasted in the aftermath of the miracle landing on the Hudson. Months later, they realized maybe there was more money to be made by telling his story in the form of a book.
"We thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we had to take advantage of as soon as possible," the pilot told the Mercury News.
"Highest Duty" is the first in a more than $3 million two-book contract, according to the paper. In addition, Sully reportedly earns $60,000 to $90,000 per speaking engagement as part of a separate deal with the Washington Speakers Bureau.
How does Sully plan to use his newfound celebrity? The father of two hopes to become a "mouthpiece" for airline safety, reports the Mercury News, and his autobiography takes an important step to doing just that.
The book paints a disturbing picture of the state of the airline industry – an environment in which cost-cutting is too often valued over quality labor and safety and the dangers of which passengers are woefully unaware.
The book, published by HarperCollins, is available at most stores in hardcover, paperback and eBook.