Sully

Most of you know that Chesley Burnett Sullenberger is a bonified hero. You probably also know that he’s a local (Danville) hero. Because of that, you may have ventured out to the big screen (not your new 70 incher that hardly fits in your living room) to check him out, bigger than life!

Well, no matter the size of the viewing screen, Sully is a hero. Like everyone else, I saw all the hoopla on the news when it happened back on January 15, 2009.  There is not much more to say about those few minutes but WOW…and then we go back to doing what we do every day waiting for the next big news story. 

I am so glad that Clint Eastwood and Malpaso Productions chose to bring this movie to the viewing audience, because it truly took far more than a few minutes on TV to tell the story of our hero, the passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 and the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Let’s start with Sully the man. He seems like a quiet man who truly knows who he is, even before his fame. He received his Bachelor’s Degree at the United States Air Force Academy.  He also later earned two Masters Degrees. What you may not know is that by the time he was twelve years old he was in the 99th percentile and qualified for Mensa (genius IQ) not in one subject but in all academic categories.

I don’t mention this to glorify, or embarrass him. I mention it so you can truly appreciate what brilliance it took to make the decisions he made that day in the time he had, mere seconds. What it took to evaluate, create a plan and execute that plan in time to save those 155 people on that flight was nothing short of amazing. That is what Sully, the movie revealed to us. 

Little did he know that he would later have to defend his evaluation, plan and perfect execution of that plan? I love the quote from the movie, “It’s been a long time since New York had news this good, especially with an airplane in it!” He managed to miss flying into the buildings and even missed the George Washington Bridge by a mere 900 feet as he wrestled the Airbus A320, whose engines failed when they ran into a flock of Canadian Geese shortly after take-off.

He and his First Officer, Jeff Skiles, successfully landed their plane in the Hudson River in the heart of New York City within three minutes of the incident.  I’m not a big city girl, but you just have to stand in awe of the residents of this city. While the plane was still on its short trajectory, ferry boat pilots saw and headed into the midst of the fray.  They surely didn’t know what the situation would be when they got there, but they were on their way. The evacuation was sheer beauty. There were people helping people, clearing the plane, caring for each other, standing strong on the wings of that plane or sliding down into rafts in freezing cold water. And then there was Sully going back twice into a water filled cabin to check that every passenger and crew member had been evacuated while stopping to grab blankets from the overhead bins for those waiting to be rescued.

Sully has a long history of advocacy for airline safety and continues this today. 

While the real star of the story is Sully, I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud the brilliance of Tom Hanks. I believe the casting choice was impeccable.

Don’t miss this slice of history. Watch it.  Buy it!  Let me know what you think at chastings@rockcliff.com