Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Chesley B. (Sully) Sullenberger III

Genuine heroes tend to shun the label, so it wasn't exactly surprising when Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger sought to downplay his flawless glide onto the Hudson River in January. "It just took some concentration," the soft-spoken pilot said of his remarkable, one-chance-to-get-it-right landing. Shortly after taking off from New York City's La Guardia Airport, US Airways Flight 1549, helmed by Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey B. Skiles, collided with a flock of birds, losing power in both engines. With just moments to act, Sullenberger guided the crippled Airbus A320 to a safe splashdown just off midtown Manhattan. The airline veteran and his flight crew preserved the lives of all 155 aboard, and he did something more. At a time when an economic meltdown and two intractable wars had shaken the nation's confidence, witnessing an unflappable man nail a difficult job under unimaginable pressure — and then brush it off — gave all of us a bit of a lift.

— Randy James