I was the captain of this flight crew so I was there. This book is a hoax. In all of the areas I had personal knowledge of, the events are hyper-embellished, grossly exaggerated, with many of them invented and never occurring. The author has created the story he wishes had happened versus what actually occurred and this is a fictional story - and not a true account.
After this book came out, fifty-four pilots from Northwest and thirteen flight attendants all wrote letters of outrage, which were sent to the publisher. An incredibly strong letter from the former Pres/CEO of Northwest Airlines was also sent and that letter alone would be enough to debunk this book.
I offered to pay for polygraph exams for the author and myself AND travel to the author's home town for that purpose. Needless to say, nothing occurred.
This book parallels the James Frey book that made Oprah's book club and was later discovered to be a hoax. It's sad because anyone's story of recovery from alcoholism should be good enough to stand on its own without fiction and embellishment.
Great Book...But Some Questions Remain2010/1/29
As a pilot (though I don't fly for a living), I remember well the infamous incident of which Joe Balzer was a part. I remember wondering how they could do what they did. When they were sentenced, I remember thinking that they got what they deserved.
Listening to Joe's account of that tragic moment in the lives of three pilots and Joe's struggle to regain his life was at times painful and often moving. His experience in the criminal justice system was particularly wrenching, as was his up-again-down-again effort to remake his flying career.
Although Balzer's writing and narration are clearly heart-felt and very compelling, there was one thing that really troubled me about the book: his bitterness toward the airline and the other two members of the flight deck on that fateful day. When he hears that the captain regained his license and eventually his job (the captain in question eventually retired from the airline as a 747 captain), he is clearly angry. Does he have any idea what that captain went through in order to accomplish that...what HIS life changes might have been like?
The fact that Balzer can say almost nothing good about the captain, save one feeble effort near the end, and the fact that the first officer has never contacted him since the trial, makes me wonder if Joe isn't quite the kind of person we would want him to be as we hear his story.
In the end, I congratulate him for his courage and persistence, but I'm left with some lingering questions about the true dynamics of that flight crew...especially what Joe's role in it might really have been.
Seriously embellished fiction2012/10/20
A colleague loaned me his copy of this book. He didn't tell me what to expect, just suggested that it would be interesting. He was right, it's interesting, but not in a positive way. I'm glad I didn't pay for it. The author doesn't deserve to be paid for this work of fiction. It is so obviously embellished that it lacks credibility. The author appears to have been trying to write the script for a TV movie, rather than telling the story in an honest and factual way.
As a professional airline pilot and captain with a major airline, I have some concerns about the mindset of the author. One of the core values of those of us who are in command is that we accept the fact that we are capable of making errors in judgement. We accept responsibility for them when they occur, look for ways to prevent them, and never, ever try to lay the blame for them on someone else. The author lays most of the blame for his situation on his captain, instead of accepting responsibility for his actions as an adult who knew the rules and freely chose to ignore them. Not the "right stuff" that I'd be looking for in a professional aviator.
Redemption for alcoholics comes from accepting one's condition and admitting that the road to recovery can't be travelled alone. It only comes when one acknowledges and takes full responsibility for the harm they have caused. The author scratches the surface but leaves far too much behind. He is unconvincing to the point of lacking credibility.
I had heard about this story as well when it happened and was lucky enough to meet the Balzer family in 1998. The book blew me away- not so much an aviation story but one of perseverance, perspective, faith, and family. I truly enjoyed the story immensely. 5 Stars.
Doesn't Own Up To His Responsibility2013/4/27
Don't Buy the Book and here is why. I am a true crime buff and avid aviation fan but this guy takes no responsibility for his actions. In the book ne doesn't admit to being an alcoholic but says he has "allergies" to alcohol. He was a grown ass man, he could have left the bar at any time or he could have decided not to go and drink with that Captain. Also, when Kitty Hawk gave him a chance to fly again and the ability to log hours, he does nothing but bash them. Man up because people that work with you say you do nothing to help pilots who need help. I am sorry I bought the book and aided in Joe Balzer earning a profit from it.