“We Need More Pilots Like Sully”: The Truth Is, More Pilots Than We Realize Are Like Sully—They’ve Simply Never Faced a Set of Circumstances Which Calls Upon Them to Prove It to the Extent that He Did
By Ken K. Gourdin
The movie Sully has rekindled interest in the events of January 15, 2009, when Captain Chesley Sullenburger landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson river after losing both engines to bird strikes shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. In response to commentary about a Youtube clip that contains Air Traffic Control audio of the exchange between Captain Sullenburger and the air traffic controller who attempted to guide him to a safe terrestrial landing, in which my interlocutor pleaded for more Captain Sullenburgers and lamented the prevalence of pilots who, in contrast to him, e.g., fly while intoxicated, I responded:
I share your admiration for Captain Sullenburger. He is a credit to his profession. However, I suspect that more than a few pilots could do what he did if similar circumstances were to confront them. It’s not the man or woman who makes the occasion; it’s the occasion that makes the man or woman. For more on this idea, see here:
As long as there have been pilots, and as long as there have been idiots, there have been idiot pilots (though, thankfully, the combination is pretty rare). And as long as there have been pilots, and as long as there has been alcohol, the potential has existed for pilots to fly while under the influence (though, thankfully, that, too, is rare).
You’ve heard the old sayings, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” and “Everything old is new again”? The only difference between “now” and “then” is that idiot pilots, and idiot intoxicated pilots, are much more likely to make the news now than they were then: News travels much faster and more efficiently now than it did in an era of three television networks (and before that, only radio and print).