Sully: The Heroic Pilot Who Landed on the Hudson River
On January 15, 2009, a US Airways flight took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City, heading for Charlotte, North Carolina. But just three minutes into the flight, the plane hit a flock of birds, disabling both engines. The pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, faced a life-or-death decision: where to land the plane with 155 people on board?
He quickly realized that none of the nearby airports were reachable, and that the only option was to ditch the plane on the Hudson River. He calmly announced to the passengers and crew: “Brace for impact”. Then he skillfully glided the Airbus A320 onto the frigid water, avoiding any major injuries or fatalities.
The landing was dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson”, and Sully became a national hero. He was praised by President Barack Obama, awarded medals and honors, and featured on numerous media outlets. He also wrote a bestselling memoir, titled Highest Duty, which was later adapted into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks as Sully.
But Sully’s story was not without challenges. He had to face an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which questioned his decision to land on the river instead of trying to return to the airport. The NTSB claimed that simulations showed that he could have made it back safely, and that he endangered the lives of everyone on board. Sully defended his actions, saying that he relied on his 42 years of experience as a pilot, and that the simulations did not account for the human factor or the real-life conditions.
Eventually, the NTSB cleared Sully of any wrongdoing, and acknowledged that he made the right call. Sully retired from flying in 2010, but continued to be an advocate for aviation safety and education. He also became a motivational speaker and a philanthropist, supporting causes such as veterans, wildlife, and environmental issues.
Sully is widely regarded as one of the most heroic and humble pilots in history. He demonstrated courage, skill, and leadership in a moment of crisis, and saved the lives of 155 people. He is an inspiration to many people around the world, who admire his professionalism, integrity, and humanity.
Here are some interesting facts about Sully and his miraculous landing:
Sully was born in Denison, Texas, in 1951. He learned to fly at the age of 16, and joined the Air Force Academy in 1969. He flew fighter jets for the Air Force until 1980, when he became a commercial pilot for US Airways.
Sully is married to Lorrie Sullenberger, a fitness instructor and author. They have two daughters, Kate and Kelly. They live in Danville, California.
Sully is an avid reader and enjoys history, biographies, and fiction. He also likes to play golf, hike, and ski.
The plane that Sully landed on the Hudson was an Airbus A320-214, with the registration number N106US. It was built in 1999 and had flown over 16,000 hours before the incident. It was later recovered from the river and transported to a museum in North Carolina, where it is on display.
The bird strike that caused the engine failure was caused by a flock of Canada geese, which can weigh up to 14 pounds each. The impact damaged the fan blades and the compressor sections of both engines, reducing their thrust to almost zero.
The landing on the river was witnessed by thousands of people on both sides of the river, as well as on boats and helicopters. Many of them captured the event on their phones and cameras, and shared the images and videos online. The media coverage was extensive and global, making Sully an instant celebrity.
The passengers and crew of Flight 1549 were rescued by various boats that arrived at the scene within minutes. They were taken to nearby hospitals and hotels, where they received medical attention and counseling. None of them suffered serious injuries, although some had hypothermia, bruises, cuts, and broken bones.
Sully received many awards and honors for his heroism, including the Master’s Medal from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, the French Legion of Honour, and the Key to the City of New York. He also met with President Barack Obama at the White House, who praised him for his “grace under pressure”.
The movie Sully, which was released in 2016, was based on Sully’s memoir and the NTSB investigation. It was directed by Clint Eastwood and starred Tom Hanks as Sully, Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles (the co-pilot), and Laura Linney as Lorrie Sullenberger. The movie was a critical and commercial success, earning over $240 million worldwide.
Sully retired from flying in 2010, but remained active in the aviation industry as a consultant, instructor, speaker, and author. He also founded Safety Reliability Methods Inc., a company that provides safety management services to various organizations. He has written two more books: Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America’s Leaders (2012) and Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters (2016).