Hero Pilot Unwavering Under Pressure

(AP PHOTO)
Just about everyone already knows that Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his less acclaimed, but equally skilled, first officer Jeff Skiles are genuine American heroes. They are the guys, after all, who safely ditched US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River and barely got the passengers wet.

But, have you heard the air traffic control tapes from the water landing? They are almost beyond belief. Here you have Sully and Skiles strapped in the cockpit of a powerless plane, in the crowded New York skies, with no reachable runways and 155 lives in their hands. It is one of the most challenging and chilling scenarios any pilot could ever face. And how does Sully respond?

His voice is confident and unwavering -- an emotional flat line -- as he calmly tells the air traffic controller, "We're gonna be in the Hudson." He says this is the same manner the rest of us might announce we're going to the movies or out for lunch. There is no panic, no confusion, no heavy-breathing, nothing that matches the life or death dilemma he faced.

Pilots are schooled to be cool. And there is no question Sully's background as a military aviator and glider pilot helped him develop the kind of skills he needed to save the day. But, his performance in crunch time sets a new standard.

We don't hear co-pilot Skiles on the tapes and that's impressive too. He was obviously focused on HIS job in the crisis – reading the instruments and keeping Sully fully informed on the plane's position, speed, altitude, and angle of descent. Make no mistake, there were two ultra cool jockeys in that jet.

So, if you haven't yet had a chance, take a few minutes and listen to the tapes. And I bet you'll get that same good feeling you experienced when you first heard about the Miracle on the Hudson.
  • Bob Orr

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