A Lesson from a Truly Brave Pilot

Have you watched the movie “Sully”? Starred by the distinguished actor Tom Hanks with the background of an aged pilot and plane crashed in the water, the film is based on a true story of a pilot named Chesley Sullenberger. I pick this true story as a tremendous inspiration for all of us, especially for fathers who are in seek of the meaning of bravery and boldness.

Sullenberger was the pilot of Airbus 320 aircraft owned by US Airways airlines, United States (US). He had retired in 2010. A year earlier, the man who was familiarly called Sully had done an extraordinary action that not only saved the lives of 150 passengers, but also thousands of New York City people.

A real nonesuch and worth-imitating to anyone. It’s all about COURAGE, FAITH, COMPOSURE, and PROFESSIONALISM. How a man was faced with a precarious condition with the consequences of choice: survive or die all together. He only had a matter of SECONDS to make one crucial and right decision. And he did it! Remarkably, he did not feel great at having done something great. One thing he thought of was as something he should have done.

Here’s the heroic story! What people then called it famously: The Miracle on Hudson.

January 15, 2009, at noon at 14:50. The air froze because it was still winter. Sully just lifted his plane into New York City sky, leaving La Guardia Airport for Charlotte in North Carolina. In the quiet afternoon he flew the aircraft with the flight number 1549 with a calm undertaking as well. Of course. The silver-haired man who was 57 years old at that time had been working for the US Airways for 29 years. Hours of flying had been already high, 19,000 hours. In addition to being the pilot, he was a prompt and accurate evacuation instructor in emergency situations.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, the serenity of the afternoon turned into a terrible drama. Plane just took off for 90 seconds, sounded a shocking blast. Apparently, a bunch of wild geese flying in the sky crashed the plane and into the machines. The aftermath came out fatal, both the aircraft engines were gone off. Imagine, a 50-ton plane was at 3,200 feet (1,000 m) with an engine turned off! The fate of all the passengers was critically in the hands of the pilot.

TROUBLE MAKER: A bunch of geese around LaGuardia Airport (photo credit: vanityfair.com)

This is where the brave mental power speaks. Calmly, Sully took over the steering wheel from the co-pilot. While trying to control the silent plane so as not to swoop down to earth, the formerly fighter pilot mapped the situation at an altitude, looking for the best place to make an emergency landing.

Really not so many choices. The position of the plane was just above New York City. Sully saw the Teterboro Airfield, but he was not sure he could reach it, because the height of the plane was now 1,600 feet. Spacious grounds? Not visible. Landing in the middle of town? Impossible. The city was very crowded, it would precisely cause more victims. After hunting for time remaining in seconds, Sully finally made a now-or-never decision: an emergency landing on the Hudson River, which separates New York and New Jersey states.

The plane was gliding toward the wide river. The most thrilling moment arrived. The boundary between life and death was so clear. If it had landed imperfectly in the water, the plane would have slammed and fell to pieces. But, can you believe, the aircraft landed smoothly on the water at the speed of 200 km/ hour.

A successful emergency landing. However, the problem was not yet over. The emergency landing button on water was forgotten to be activated, so all the slots in the plane were not closed. As a consequence, water burst into the plane. Yes, the plane were going to sink in the middle of a wide river and the freezing water as ice. Luckily, a coordination had been arranged. The Police and rescue teams soon arrived at the scene. Rescue ships and commercial boats sailing on the Hudson River were deployed to evacuate passengers.

As all the passengers had been successfully evacuated, Sullenberger was still inside the nearly drowned aircraft. He still took time twice down the aisle to make sure no passengers were left behind. After that he just came out to be evacuated.

DRAMATIC MOMENT: Evacuation of passengers on Hudson’s freezing water (photo credit: perezhilton.com)

No doubt, that heroic action invited everyone’s sympathy. The Mayor of New York (then), Michael Bloomberg, congratulated on him in person. Not less, President George Bush (then) and Barack Obama (who was inaugurated a week after the incident) also made a phone call to him giving an appreciation.

I’m sure it was not a praise Sully sought for. He was just thinking of doing something he was responsible for. And he could have done it so ‘ordinary’. In fact, while everyone was talking about his prowess, he only said, “I just need to call somebody to cancel an appointment I can not fulfill tonight”.


Featured photo credit: airspacemag.com

News Reporter
A husband. A dad. A bank worker. Loves to share in writing about the art of being a dad for the kids.

10 thoughts on “A Lesson from a Truly Brave Pilot

  1. One of my favorite Tom Hanks movies! Could not imagine what was going through Sully’s mind as all of this was going on. And then to be placed under fire for saving everyone? Crazy.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have never seen the movie but enjoyed your description of it. I guess I will seek it out from Netflix for todays “kids asleep, mom switching off from cartoon channel” movie night.

    So you are comparing fatherhood with flying airplane in crisis cituation. 😀 I should show it to my husband, so he would know he is been also very brave!

  3. Oh wow. I truly enjoyed this comparison that you made. I tried to picture everything as you were saying it. Great read.

  4. Thanks for this beautiful account. Can’t say I’ve seen the movie or heard before of the real-life events. But I picture such a brave man and lucky people. I honestly wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

  5. I love the film. Very brave and inspirational. Love Tom Hanks too, thank you for sharing this article. I am really looking up people who shares good things through writing.

  6. Great read and such a great film! What a truely remarkable person. Definitely inspirational to say the least! Look forward to seeing more of your posts.

  7. I have not seen the movie but after your story about it, it’s on my list of movies to see. Thank you for the lovely story.
    D xo | Live Dream Create-D

  8. It was indeed a miracle; Just as Ariel said, can really imagine what was going through Sully’s mind. I saw the documentary and was amazed by his bravery

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