Tom Hanks, as iconic as he is, is probably the first face that pops into your head when you think of Sully Sullenberger. It’s a story that captured the minds of the world as they listened to the series of events and actions that occurred on that extraordinary day. Hollywood capitalised on this awe inspiring story, and hastened to cast none other than Tom Hanks to play the cool and collected pilot. So who was Sully? And what happened?
Sully Sullenberger, born Chelsey Burnett Sullenberger III in 1951. During his childhood,Sullenberger built model planes and aircraft carriers, so it was clear that he had a budding interest in aviation from a young age. This was hardly surprising as there was an Air Force base near his house. He was unusually smart, and consistently scored in the 99th percentile in every academic category. At age twelve, his IQ was deemed high enough that he was allowed to join Mensa International. Keen to pursue his interest in aviation, he learnt to fly an Aeronca Champion 7DC. This private training influenced his aviation career for the rest of his life.
In 1973 Sully was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy, and was selected with around a dozen other freshmen for a cadet glider program, and a year later he was an instructor pilot. Upon graduation he received the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship award as the class’s top flyer. Sully trained in a T-37 Tweet, T-37 Talon and the F-4 Phantom II. He then graduated to the F-4 Phantom II. Following this, Sulley was employed by Pacific Southwest Airlines (formerly US Airways), and had a steady career.
One of the most iconic moments from Sully’s career is the emergency landing of flight 1549.As the captain of Us Airways Flight 1549, Sulley was preparing for a fairly routine flight. He captained an Airbus A320 which was taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City.Shortly after takeoff, the plane struck a flock of canada geese. This caused the plane to lose power in both engines. Using his immense brain power and years of experience,Sully and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles determined that they were unable to reach either LaGuardia orTeterboro Airport. Thinking as fast as he could, Sullenberger piloted the plane to an emergency water landing on the Hudson River. Due to his quick thinking and immense skill and training, all 155 people on board the flight survived, and the potential for crashing in a densely populated area was avoided. He was noted for his cool and calm demeanor,although it is documented that he experienced PTSD and sleepless nights. He came under a lot of scrutiny and criticism for his actions in risking a water landing, but the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that Sully made the correct decision in landing on the river instead of attempting to return to LaGuardia. Sully has since been immortalised in the aviation hall of fame for life, along with the likes of the wright brothers and Amelia Earhart.