Karen and I were talking about modern heroes vs. old-time heroes. One guy we agreed could fit in both categories is Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, III.
It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since Sully burst on the national scene in 2009. In case you have been living in a cave since then, Sully was the captain of US Airways Flight 1549 which left New York’s LaGuardia on January 15, 2009 fully intending to land a little later in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Unfortunately, the aircraft hit a flock of Canadian Geese which did a tremendous amount of damage to both engines mainly because they all wear hockey skates and carry hockey sticks.
The birds wiped out all power, yet Sully successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River right next to Manhattan.
When you listen to radio communication between the tower and the aircraft, it’s amazing how calm Sully was.
I would be running through the cabin screaming “We’re landing in the river!!!!”
Not Sully. He said calmly “We’re going to be in the Hudson.”
But let’s back up. He’s got 155 passengers on board. At 2800 feet, not very high off the ground, he hits the birds. He gets on the radio and says “We’ve lost thrust in both engines, we are turning back toward LaGuardia.”
Air Traffic Control says, “Cactus 1529, if we can get it, do you want to try to land runway 13.”
“We are unable. We might end up in the Hudson.”
“Cactus 1529 turn right 280, you can land runway 1 at Teterboro.”
“We can’t do it.”
“Ok, which runway would you like at Teterboro?”
“We’re going to be in the Hudson.”
Now think about it: Air Traffic Control gives him TWO chances to land at Teterboro in New Jersey, and rather than land in NEW JERSEY, he decides to land the plane in the Hudson River.
I wonder if he had time to poll the passengers. “Folks, listen up, we hit a bunch of geese, both engines are out, we have to land the plane without power. We can land in New Jersey, or in the icy waters of the Hudson River. Your choice.”
Passengers-All-At-Once: “THE HUDSON!!”
Also notice how Sully said “We’re going to be in the Hudson.”
He didn’t say, “Sorry, bud, I have to put her down in the Hudson.”
No, he said, “We’re going to be in the Hudson,” as if to say, “I don’t know what you are going to do this afternoon, but you’ll find me safe and sound in my airplane with 155 passengers singing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Airplane, Gently Down The Hudson.’ You better send around some hot dogs and Budweisers because these people are going to be hungry and thirsty.”
Still, the ATC guy wants to make sure: “I’m sorry, say again Cactus?
At this point, a pilot for another airline on the frequency said “I think he said he’s going in the Hudson.”
Sully said it was so dangerous partly because they couldn’t come in as gradual as he wanted because they didn’t have any thrust. They were descending like an elevator in a building dropping two floors per second.He had to choose the height at which he would raise the nose to balance forward speed for reduced rate of descent, and had to keep the nose up and keep the wings flat. Otherwise, either wing might catch first, initiating a violent cartwheel.
Well, he timed it right.
Here’s to you, Captain Sully Sullenberger!