Just took off from the New York airport LaGuardia, more exactly three minutes after releasing the ground, a flock of geese hit the two engines of the plane corresponding to the US Airways Flight 1549. The pilot in command of the route he intended to reach Charlotte, North Carolina, was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who had 30 years of experience in the matter, and his companion Jeff Skiles, whom he had first seen three days ago.
It was just after three in the afternoon on January 15, 2009 when those piloting the Airbus A320 informed the control tower of the situation they were experiencing on the ship where 150 passengers and five crew members were traveling. The takeoff had reached a height of 850 meters and from there the skyscrapers of New York and its river, the Hudson, which would later become a makeshift landing strip.
The first option as soon as the birds immobilized the engines was to return to LaGuardia; the next, go to the airport Teterboro that it was close; but almost at 15.30 Sullenberger reported over the radio that the Hudson was a possible duty station. The pilot, who had 20,000 flight hours between his experience as a commercial professional and in the Air Force, warned passengers: “Brace for impact.” And he acted.
There were hundreds of ordinary citizens who saw how the plane of US Airways came closer and closer to the river that separates New York from New Jersey; they became witnesses to what was later called a miracle. But it is no less the fact that in the unconscious of the locals seeing an aircraft flying so closely over the city led to one of the worst memories for the tragedy that had taken place seven years earlier in Manhattan: the terrorist attack of 9-11.
This event represented something else entirely. It was a splashdown intended to save the lives of all the people on board. And he achieve it. Because, Sullenberger he was decorated as an American hero by the majority of the population, although for a time some disputed his decision, which they described as “controversial”. But he already had the recognition of the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who had described his work as “masterful”.
Likewise, the 57-year-old professional received a call from the then president George W. Bush, who congratulated him, and was also recognized by Barack Obama, whose move to the White House was just five days after landing on the Hudson. The Democrat even invited Sully at his inauguration ceremony.
The pilot retired from the trade the following year and began lecturing about the cinematographic experience he led. and that ended up on the big screen. Is that Clint Eastwood decided to make a movie out of his book Sully: Feat on the Hudson, where the role of the captain was played by the prestigious actor Tom Hanks.
During the shooting of the film, in which Sullenberger was present, the protagonist of Castaway he asked, “How long did it take you to get over the shock of the accident and everything that came after?” Without hesitation, the commander replied: “I’ll let you know when that happens. We are still working on it.”
The splashdown in the frozen river whose temperature was around -6 ° marked Sully’s life forever. His routine later focused on giving international conferences on what happened and he even published two other books more related to the subject. One of them was My search for what really matters, and another was best-seller Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America’s Leaders.
At 70 years old, and a few days shy of his 71st birthday, the pilot who was rated by two former presidents of U.S like a hero, In addition to having the keys to New York, he accumulated a fortune of two million dollars and, together with his wife, Lorrie, became a grandfather.
Currently, it has a strong activity on social networks. On Twitter it has 128 thousand followers, while on Instagram it has 90.9 thousand. There, he openly supported the candidacy of Joe Biden, who appointed him as the country’s representative before the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Far from being away from flying, Sully He still publishes photos and reflections on the activity on his profiles. A few months ago, he shared a postcard from a plane and wrote: “There is nothing like watching the sunset from above the clouds.”
It is also his way of connecting with his community that gave him the title of hero and author of one of the most important “miracles” in the country’s contemporary aviation history. In fact, in the days leading up to the 13th anniversary of the splashdown on the Hudson, Sullenberger He asked his followers to share their testimonials. On his Twitter account, he invited them: “As we were reflecting on this year, it occurred to Lorrie and I that we would love to hear from those who were affected in any way: what memories do you have and what story did you take away from your experience?
The former pilot later shared in his stories some of the moving accounts of the witnesses of the event. One of them, for example, recounted: “I was four years old when the crew of Flight 1549 landed the plane spectacularly in the Hudson River. (…) In fifth grade, we had to decide who was a hero to us. We were given some people as options. One of them was you. (…) What I saw on January 15, 2009 was, at some point, the basis of my interest in aviation. I want to thank you for that, for being the best hero and role model in the whole world!”
In their social profiles, you can see how Sully he dedicates himself completely to his family – to his wife Lorrie and his two daughters-, to the task that corresponds to him now in his position that was appointed by Biden and his role as the representative model that he is in the universe of airplanes and whose mark will be forever marked in the waters of the most important river in New York.