Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who deftly guided U.S. Airways Flight 1549 into a crash-landing on the Hudson River, first told his harrowing account to 60 Minutes in the report “Saving Flight 1549,” posted in the video player above.
Now, the new film “Sully,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks, tells a different part of story: the aftermath of Sully’s instant celebrity and the investigation into the near-miss tragedy of Jan. 15, 2009.
While the nation celebrated the “Miracle on the Hudson,” the National Transportation Safety Board began to question the decision-making of Sully and his first officer, Jeff Skiles, in hearings dramatized by Eastwood’s film. Could the plane have returned to LaGuardia, the New York City airport it departed from, or made it to Jersey’s nearby Teterboro? Was a water-landing the best choice?
“My professional reputation was absolutely at risk,” Sully told Charlie Rose in an unaired excerpt of an. ”As was Jeff Skiles’, until and unless [the NTSB] had validated all the decisions that we made in those 208 seconds.”
Two-hundred and eight seconds. That’s all Sully and his crew had after a bird strike caused his Airbus A320’s engines to fail and his rapidly descending plane touched down on the frigid waters of the Hudson.
“Taking into account reaction time, it was not possible to make it back to a runway,” Sully told Rose. “The only place in the entire area that would support the landing of a large airliner successfully was the Hudson River.”
Sully’s quick decision ultimately saved the lives of the 155 people onboard the aircraft. And, in May 2010, the NTSB investigation concluded that it “provided the highest probability that the accident would be survivable.”