Chesley Burnett ‘Sully’ Sullenberger III is an unlikely name for a superhero, but that’s what he is. Captain Sullenberger was in command of his US Airways A320 aircraft as it was climbing out of La Guardia airport when disaster struck. We can’t be sure of the cause at this point, but it is clear that Captain Sullenberger’s aircraft suffered a catastrophic loss of power that required him to try and return to the field for an emergency landing. It became certain to him and his First Officer that they weren’t going to make it back to the runway, and they quickly decided to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River. The river was their only choice, as crash landing in the middle of New York’s densely populated skyscrapers most certainly would not have turned out so well.
Captain Sullenberger made the right choice, and he and his crew responded using the countless hours of training they had received in preparation for just such an emergency. The Flight Attendants prepared the cabin and passengers for a crash landing. The First Officer quickly and precisely assisted his Captain in executing a perfect forced landing in a river. That was the first time in 45 years that an airliner had crash-landed in the water, and every passenger and crewmen on board had made it out alive.
This is an era where many in the general population think of airline pilots as better-dressed bus drivers who simply manage an autopilot. I hope this story makes people consider just how hard pilots have to work every day to always be ready for an emergency. It’s a profession that deserves much more respect than it typically receives lately. I’m so glad this crew is getting the “hero” treatment. What an honor it is to fly those amazing machines with such trust placed in you by so many people. Maybe more people will recognize that now – I know the passengers on Flight 1549 do.