A fascinating simulation of the brief flight of an Airbus airliner from takeoff on Runway 4 at LaGuardia International to "landing" southbound minutes later in the ice-cold Hudson River on January 15, 2009. Complete with ATC radio transmissions and subtitles.
This is a testament to the U.S. Air Force and professional airline pilots. Long before flying commercially, Captain Sullenberger had cut his teeth flying military jets. Only the best pilots get to fly those babies, because they are very expensive. The U.S. Air Force trained Sullenberger well, and promoted him to the rank of captain (O-3).
After leaving the military in 1980, US Airways snatched him up. Boy did they pick themselves a good one. As an instrument rated private pilot myself I can truly appreciate the skill and professionalism Captain Sullenberger exhibited in command of Flight 1549. When the plane struck the birds, both pilots were startled but quickly regained their composure. First Officer Skiles was flying the plane at the time when Sullenberger, the senior of the two, took over announcing "my aircraft" in the terse language of aviation. Skiles acknowledged, "your aircraft" and immediately went about trying to get the engines restarted.
No doubt Sullenberger was multitasking, flying the airplane and imagining scenarios and how to respond, especially in the worst case should he never get thrust back. Meanwhile, Skiles was busy at work following a checklist to restart the engines. Sullenberger concluded wisely that without engine thrust Teterboro was too big a risk to take. He couldn't land anywhere but on a runway because the densely populated NYC metro area didn't afford enough distance anywhere else.
Except for the river. Sullenberger pulled a rabbit out of his hat and executed a textbook water landing in a large jet airliner that was never meant to do so, keeping the aircraft intact and upright, and his crew and passengers alive. Passengers responded to his leadership and followed his directions to exit the plane. Not one soul aboard died.
In the days to follow, people hailed Captain Sullenberger as a hero. That's one word I've dropped from my lexicon because its meaning has been diluted to the point where it now means "someone who did something good for someone else". Captain Sullenberger is far more than that. I praise him a consummate professional, skilled at his job and resourceful and calm under pressure. He is also a role model for aviators everywhere, both armed forces and civilians.
I cannot find the words to express my own admiration here, so I will settle for saluting Captain Sullenberger with these words:
"You delivered an exemplary performance as pilot in command on that fateful day, Captain. Our nation is proud of you."
Hopefully to him they would mean far more than "You're a hero."