Why Sully succeeds

If you read Capt Chesley Sullenberger’s just-published book “Highest Duty”, you will understand that the success of his Hudson River ditching was no fluke.

Sullenberger is a thoughtful man. Everything he does is considered. He identifies objectives and works resolutely toward them, checking his progress as he goes. It’s the way he approaches life and flying.

If that makes him sound like a cold fish, you’ll find it’s not so. His quiet love of flying and his clear recognition of what’s important in life – and what’s not – shine through the unfussy prose and the downplayed narrative of events. He treats people, colleagues and family alike, with respect.

He knows he is good at what he does and is proud of that, but he also knows he’s good because he has worked hard at it. He may enjoy flying, but he takes the task seriously.

Being a really good aircraft commander and pilot is not something many people can achieve, so if you want to know what it takes, check here.

A few days ago, at the Guildhall in the City of London, just before the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators’ awards banquet, I asked Capt Sullenberger briefly to describe what it was like when his Airbus A320′s engines were stopped by a massive birdstrike (see video).



Listen to the detail of what he says, and you’ll understand why this ditching worked and everybody survived. It was no accident.

Later that evening Capt Sullengberger, accompanied by two of his cabin crew on the day of the ditching, Donna Dent and Sheila Dail, accepted the Guild’s Master’s Medal on behalf of the Crew of Flight 1549.

You can find out what the cabin crew had to say about their experience of the event in my next blog entry.

2 Responses to Why Sully succeeds

  1. Dr Boyd Falconer 3 December, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    A truly remarkable aviation event. Captain Sullenberger is an exceptional aviator and leader. Your brief interview gives a great snapshot of Sully’s professional motivation, his analytical style, and his leadership – thanks David!

    Capt Sullenberger’s decision to land the aircraft on the Hudson is based on sound judgement and deep expertise.. then flawlessly executed by his team. Flight 1549 will be a rich case study resource for years to come. My heartiest congratulations to the entire crew!

  2. Stephanie Juste 6 April, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    The incident on the Hudson was such a treasure trove of life’s lressons. From science, to religion, to sociology to entertainment (several times passengers tried to be funny).
    here was a group of people who decided to LIVE. What a wonderful story.