Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Chesley B. Sullenberger

Minutes after Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger and his crew became airborne in his Airbus and started the climb out of New York City's La Guardia Airport on Jan. 15, 2009, he was faced with a situation that all pilots hope will never happen: he lost power to both engines.

When this happens the best a pilot can do is keep his or her head and hope the earth will present him with a surface that will make it possible for his aircraft and passengers to survive. If he is not high enough to circle back to the airport, he has very few choices. Captain Sullenberger was a very lucky pilot. He was also a very good pilot, for so quickly putting together a plan — landing on the smooth surface of the Hudson River, bordering the west side of Manhattan — and for making it work. As I have seen through my career and as we saw with Captain Sullenberger, thinking ahead and preparing for worst-case scenarios can save your life and many others.

Having landed his plane, Captain Sullenberger, 58, had sufficient poise to walk through the plane twice, checking that all 155 passengers and crew were safe. I don't know Captain "Sully," and I have only spoken to him briefly, but I am sure that he feels as I do about what he was able to do in a plane: Duty! It was his job. And it sure is nice to be able to stand up in front of people and tell them what happened.

General Yeager was on the cover of TIME in 1949 for breaking the sound barrier