Community Comment

FRIDAY, JAN. 16, 2009, 6:09 A.M.

A certifiable hero in some quarters…

Sullenberger (The Spokesman-Review)
Sullenberger (The Spokesman-Review)

Good morning, Netizens...

Let us all stand and pay tribute to this man, Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger III, a 57 year-old former fighter pilot from Danville, California who, until yesterday afternoon, was just an anonymous pilot for US Airlines. The news wires are still sizzling after yesterday's forced ditching of US Airlines Flight 1549 into the frigid Hudson River after what is described as a flock of birds flew into both jet engines intakes, disintegrating the jet engines and bringing the plane down.

Lesser men, including some fighter pilots, one presumes, probably would have been found wanting in this situation, but Captain Sullenberger brought his jet airliner down with no loss of life. He pancaked the jet into the river and then made certain all the passengers got out of the plane safely.

The story in the New York Times states that Sullenberg is a certified glider pilot. Of course, yesterday he was turning an Airbus A320 into a glider, something that one normally would never dream of doing. How did he do it? One presumes very carefully.

His consummate skill, the years of experience he possesses and his pilot's instincts, are one thing, but the fact that dead-stick landings such as Sullenberger completed safely yesterday afternoon, defy the odds against survival. The statistics against surviving in an aircraft after a bird strike strongly go against you walking away to face another day. If you enter the water with the nose of the aircraft in an attitude-down position, the plane can disintegrate when it hits the water. The pilot brought the plane in nose-up, and thus made himself a place in history.

All the news media seem to agree, that Captain Sullenberger did a superlative job of knowing how to safely bring his plane down, without loss of human life, and then, once everyone was safely taken out of the plane, he tried to appear nonplussed at why so many were singing his praises.

Can we state he was a hero? For the passengers onboard Flight 1549 he certainly was. Now watch the NTSB ( try to place the blame for yesterday's near-brush with disaster on “pilot error”. Stranger things have happened before.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.