In the world of aviation, pilots are only half-joking when they say flying is about “airspeed, altitude and brains”–and that aviators “must have at least 2” of those qualifiers to live and fly again. One pilot who possessed all 3 of those traits on a fateful day back in 2009 was U.S. Airways’ Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III.
“The film will recount how Sullenberger, a former Air Force fighter pilot, successfully set US Airways Flight 1549 and its 155 passengers down onto the icy, 65-foot-deep waters by Manhattan with no casualties. The feat was hailed as “a miracle on the Hudson.” Per the studio announcement, the film also promises to explore behind-the-scenes drama that could have cost Sullenberger his reputation and his wings….
“Eastwood will work from a script by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.”
You can read the entire news clip here.
To common airline travelers and television viewers, they watched Captain Sully’s actions with an eye towards a miraculous water landing in Manhattan’s Hudson River. For pilots, we saw so much more. We saw the split-second decisions that needed to be made in successive, rapid-fire fashion. Decisions that kept possibilities and opportunities available as options for an aircrew that was losing precious altitude and time with every second. As aviators, we saw an immediate transfer of aircraft control from the copilot to Captain Sullenberger–who was sitting in the left seat and now at the airplane’s controls, flying and talking–to Air Traffic Controllers, his copilot and even the passengers to brace for impact.
When it comes to aircraft emergencies, there are moments when it’s acceptable to have the more junior pilot (copilot) fly the aircraft while the older head(s) on the flight deck decide what appropriate actions must be taken to handle the in-flight malfunction or problem. At other times, when the circumstances are the most dire and time constraining, the senior pilot, the captain or aircraft commander, must fly the aircraft and exhibit their A-game skills formulated over thousands of flying hours and years of experience to allow for the best odds of survival. Pilots following this true story about the “Miracle on the Hudson” know that the copilot was performing checklist items and backing up Sully from the right seat the entire time. They watched an aircrew–a team really–perform and interact like a well-oiled machine–the direct result of a profession that prides itself on preparation for all possibilities…always attempting to make the unexpected emergency more expected through rote checklists procedures, in-depth systems knowledge and continued simulator training.
What non-pilots see in the U.S. Airways’ “Cactus 1549” flight…
What pilots see…
I was initially concerned an entire 2-hour movie would be made on these few, but harrowing, minutes. However, with Sully’s vast aviation experience, and a flying background that includes time in the Air Force, I expect we may see a few other emergencies and malfunctions that set the scene for his outstanding performance into the Hudson. We’ll see.
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