Right guy in the right place at the right time

Friday, January 16, 2009

It couldn't have happened to a better guy.

Not that Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, 57, deserved misfortune, we mean that a better guy couldn't have been at the controls when his Airbus A320 apparently hit a flock of birds and lost power in both engines shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, N.C.

It's not just that he has more than 40 years of flying experience, and is a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot used to dealing with tense situations.

It's not even that he has been an instructor or an Airline Pilots Association safety chairman. Or that he's taken part in several Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations, or operates his own safety consulting business.

Those are all important, but perhaps not as important as one minor detail as he guided his powerless airliner earthward over New York.

Besides all of his other qualifications, Sullenberger is a certified glider pilot, according to the New York Times.

Whatever the determining factor, somehow, "Sully" found the wisdom and skill to bring his passengers and crew safely down in the Hudson River, rather than fighting a losing struggle to return to LaGuardia or try to make another airport in the distance.

After the water landing, which one passenger described as no worse than a rear-end automobile collision, Sully repeatedly walked the aisle of the airliner to make sure everyone was safely outside.

Sullenberger certainly deserves his new moniker: Hero of the Hudson.

Until a little more than a year ago, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger would be facing forced retirement at the mandatory age of 60 in only three years.

Keeping step with other countries, the United States recently revised those rules to allow fit airline pilots to stay on the job until 65.

If it keeps more pilots like "Sully" in command, that's a good thing.

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  • I would guess that if anyone, and they will, ask him about his heroism, he will phoo-phoo the praise, and simply say he did what he was trained to do, fly airplanes as well, and as safely as he can. Of course, that doesn't prevent us from admiring a pilot (the only one I believe) who could set a commercial aircraft down, on water, without breaking the plane, and loosing most, if not all, his passengers.

    Perchance, Capt. Sullenberger landed on the hand of God? Commercial airliners are not known for floating longer than a few seconds, with the doors open. Just a thought.

    In Messiah, His Shalom, and protection. Arley

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Fri, Jan 16, 2009, at 3:12 PM
  • The whole US Airways accident is a remarkable story of skill, training and incredibly good luck. That the pilots, with no engine power, were able to coax the Airbus 320 across midtown Manhattan, make a no-power, low altitude turn and ditch the plane in the river instead of, say, 52nd Street, is the stuff of which adventure movies are made.

    That the aircraft remained intact and afloat is a tribute to the European consortium that designed and built the 'Bus and the men in the two front seats at the flight controls.

    An accident in which, against impossible odds, a flight crew puts a mortally damaged large aircraft on the ground, with survivors, happens very rarely. The last one to come to mind is the 1989 United Airlines crash at Sioux City, Iowa in which, with one engine destroyed and no working hydraulics to operate the control surfaces, the crew wrestled the heavy jumbo jet to an airfield and put it down. To be sure, it was a much less happy ending than this week's. The DC-10 was destroyed and 112 people died, but thanks to some extraordinary flying under the command of another very seasoned pilot who was nearing retirement, 186 survived.

    -- Posted by dherman on Sat, Jan 17, 2009, at 6:16 PM
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